The Quantum Theory Of The Market
This short story is the basis for my novel
Notes For A Theory Of The Chaos At The Heart Of Things
I was a crypt, but now I’m a quant. Well first I was a physicist. I did some work on string theory back in grad school when it was just a silly dream. I did it because of the math. String theory was a highly abstract notion that would not succumb to any kind of mathematical model. And that intrigued me. Actually it pissed me off. Math is like a weapon. You use it to destroy your adversary by infiltrating his world, getting inside his head and learning his secrets so you can overwhelm him.
But now I am a quant. I’ve been down on Wall Street for a long time now. At first it was a pisser, but then it got old. You win a bet, you’re a hero, they carry you around on their shoulders. You lose a bet, you’re an abject fool, they tack your ass with kick-me post-its. Eventually it starts to get to you. You start yelling at the kids, yelling at your wife. Pretty soon you don’t have any kids. Your wife took them. And split with your ex-partner, Howie. Way it goes.
Back in the day, I started messing around with computers (like everybody else and his brother) and I realized I could use them to take the guesswork and the stress out of the market. I could identify tiny price movements, momentary lags and inefficiencies in the flow of information. And I could place highly informed bets on them in the market. You make a penny each on a hundred million trades, that’s a million bucks. But it got to where it was just another day at the office, just another job. I missed the excitement. No more six run homers. No more 150 yard touchdown passes. I started to wonder what my life was all about, and I am not normally given to introspection. As I say, I am a quant. I don’t know shit from shinola about the meaning of life, nor do I care to, normally.
Then about a year ago I was out at Brookhaven National Laboratory out on the Island. I grew up in Bellport, and I go out to Brookhaven when I’m home to see my insufferable fuck of a Dad. Can you imagine I went into codebreaking just to please him? Jesus. I did. But it turned out that codebreaking had a certain mathlike appeal. You hold a puzzle in your head. You eat sleep and breathe it, you chip away at it, you dissolve it slowly like an acid over ore leaching out the truth, you begin to see it everywhere, how it mirrors the world in its complexity and its hiddenness. You have to see the infinitesimal details and you have to see the big picture at the same time. A leaf falls to the ground, an epiphany goes off in your mind. It consumes you, the patterns, the irregularities. You throw it all out and you start again. You get crazy, intense, focused. You go a little mad. I loved it. But there was no money in it. So I got a job on the Street.
Anyway I was out at Brookhaven and I was watching that new atom smasher they’ve got out there. Two atoms hurtle at each other at the speed of light. They collide with each other with almost infinite force. Which is amazing. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what happens when they do. You watch a spray of particles in a cloud chamber as it is digitized on a computer screen. The particles collide and split, recombine, disappear, reappear. It looks like chaos until the High Priests of Subatomic Particles interpret the steaming entrails of the beast. You begin to understand how it all hangs together, how it all makes sense. How each particle affects all the others and is affected by them, the forces at work.
And it suddenly hit me: it’s just like the stock market. A hundred million trades all colliding in the computers that grow like demon brains on the trading floors, feeding off the life force of the traders who wait on them. Where is the theory that brings order to the chaos? What are the forces that explain it all mathematically, scientifically. Oh yeah. And hockey. Did I mention hockey? It’s the same with hockey. I’m a big Islander fan. Back in the 80’s the Islanders were touched by God. Not many people know that, mostly just me and Bobby.
So here’s the deal. And you are sworn to secrecy. Sorry. Gotta be. Now any twelve year old who is well versed in quantum theory (like my kid Bobby) knows about virtual particles, which exist on the Planck scale of the unimaginably small and the unimaginably brief. This is where phantom particles wink in and out of existence in pairs. They are born, they collide, they annihilate each other in unimaginably brief spaces of time. You can’t see them. You can’t catch them. But you can prove they exist. And you can measure the telltale energy they leave behind. Oh yes you can.
And I thought to myself, and this is the genius part, I mean this is where I amaze myself, honestly, because this is not the kind of thing you just think up at a moment’s notice while you’re ordering a soy no whip café mocha at Starbucks. This is something I had been preparing to think for my whole life as a scientist. This is something that had been crawling around in the muck of my consciousness fighting to stand up on its feet and get my attention for god only knows how long.
What is it that goes on in those computers on the trading floors on the Planck scale? What is it that winks in and out of existence in those unimaginably brief spaces between the very smallest ticks of time that God has hammered into the structure of Being? Virtual trades? Quantum price fluctuations? Is there a quantum world of stock market trades that we can’t see, that we can’t catch, but we can prove it exists, a world that leaves a telltale sign in dollars and cents? You’re goddamn right there is. Oh yes. And I have done the math.
I tried to explain all this to my Dad. He knows how to keep a secret. He was a codebreaker in the Army. He was my hero. I had been to Brookhaven again. I spent the day sitting at the computer screen watching the tracks of antiprotons and tau particles spiral down to their deaths, sniffing around for Higgs Boson, the alchemist of Physics who turns energy into matter, and watching for the errant neutrino, lonely wanderer who lives on the boundary between the two.
“Dad,” I said pacing around the tv room. “I think I’m onto something really big. Something revolutionary.” I looked out the window like I always do. I am very aware of my surroundings. A car doesn’t go by my window unchecked. He looked up at me from the barca lounge. His eyes had that soft lived-in look, but his lips were tight. He was maybe going to say something, but he couldn’t seem to make up his mind, so I continued. “I’m into a whole new thing, Dad. A new field. This could blow the whole Street right out of the water.” I started to laugh. I couldn’t help myself.
“Where’s Bobby?” he said. “I thought I was going to see Bobby today.”
“Yeah, I don’t know, he had a thing.”
“I don’t know, soccer, hockey, who the hell knows, I can’t keep up with that kid.”
“How many chances you think I got left to see him?” He tried to get comfortable in the lounger. He never seemed to fit in that thing no matter how hard he tried.
“Dad, dad, come on,” I said. He’d been dying for years, as long I as I could remember, since before Bobby was born. I really didn’t want to get into an actuarial argument concerning his life expectancy.
“Well I’m only saying….”
“I know what you’re saying, Dad”
“So when am I going to see him?”
“No, Dad, come on, look at this. I have not shown this to anyone.”
“Have you got him or don’t you got him?”
“No she’s got him this weekend.” I held out to him a black one-inch binder. He didn’t bother to reach for it.
“What is it? Pictures?”
I opened it and put it ever so gently in his lap. “It’s a proof. When was the last time you saw an honest to god one of these?” A proof. A perfect machine of thought. You reach up and scrawl something on the firmament and God looks down and says, yeah, that’s right.
“When was the last time I saw pictures of Bobby?”
But I could see his hands reaching for the page before he realized he was doing it. He did that. He read with his fingers, slowly, thoroughly, a word at a time, a line at a time, a thought at a time, with the first two fingers of his right hand. Then his lips began to move and he exhaled a deep growl of a sigh. “Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Looks very interesting. Some other time.” He slammed the binder shut.
“Fine, fine,” I said. “What the hell do you care. I could rule the world with this.”
“Can’t even rule his wife and he wants to rule the world.”
“Don’t start with me, Dad.”
“She lives in sin, Gideon.”
“Because you weren’t strong!”
“You know they have laws for people like that. She can drive me crazy as a bedbug but I’m not going to jail over her crap. I am not.”
“Never happened to me.”
“Because she died. If she had lived, she would have been out of here so fast you wouldn’t know which way she went.”
“She is not ‘She!’ She is your mother.”
“And always will be!”
“Gimme the binder. I’m sick of this”
“There’s a mistake on the first page.”
“You find it you’re so smart.”
“In your goddamn definitions. Your premises are fucked up beyond all recognition.”
“Gimme that.” I grabbed it out of his shaky hands. I did not give him the satisfaction of opening the cover to search for a mistake, to find it in my fury, to my chagrin and his everlasting satisfaction. I threw it against the door.
“Hey, easy on the house, buster. I happen to own this house.”
“I will buy this house and burn it to the ground. And everyone will say what is up with Gideon and his old man. I thought they had a wonderful relationship.”
“Who the hell are you kidding.”
“Fine.” I slammed the door on the way out. Which felt good. Actually the whole thing felt good. Good to clear the air. Good to get the old blood feud out in the open instead of allowing it to fester in the wound of our relationship. Until I remembered the mistake.
I hunkered down in the basement at home with three cases of Red Bull and three of Jolt Cola. I blocked up the window wells and I turned on the black light. I played Pink Floyd full blast so no one could eavesdrop on my thoughts. And I poured over the proof like Napoleon with his maps of Russia, exploring every feature of the terrain from here to Moscow. I couldn’t find a damn thing wrong. Not a goddamn thing. I typed it up again neat and pretty. I typed it up twice and compared the two copies for scrivener’s errors. What a bastard he was, faking me out like that.
So I went to see Mindy. Mindy Mindy Mindy. Wife of my life. Fist for a heart. Clenched so tight the blood cannot flow. I drove up to her new place with her new guy where she had started her new life. I rang the new doorbell. She greeted me with the same old face, flat and taut like a hand. I could feel the slap and the sting.
“About the money,” I said.
“I don’t want to hear about the money,” she said. “I want to see it in my bank account. Line item, deposit, wire transfer, wad of cash in a plain brown wrapper delivered in the dead of night. I don’t care. I just don’t want to hear about it.”
“Can I come in? Is he home?”
“No he’s not home. He works for a living. He has a job. He’s a trader. A mensch. Remember? Like you used to be? Remember? Your partner? Him?”
“No no, Min Min. Listen. Let me come in. I have something to show you.”
“Not out here. Too many cars, too many pedestrians. I don’t like the traffic pattern. You know what I mean.”
“Don’t do that, Giddy. Don’t start up with that stuff. No one is following you.”
“What about that guy right there?” I pointed surreptitiously. “He’s walking a poodle. Am I supposed to buy that? No one has a poodle in real life. It’s ridiculous.”
“Yes they do, Giddy. Everybody has a poodle. They’re very popular again.” She looked at me with those suffering-a-fool eyes of hers.
“You’re going to piss me off, Mindy, and I am going to walk away from here and you are not going to see where the money is. Is that what you want? You’re not going to see what I have done with my life. And you will be oh so sorry.”
“What have you done?” She went back on her heels a bit as she leaned against the front door, oak thick and white with a new satin finish. I thought I detected a hopeful something relax across her face before it went tight again. Her eye traveled briefly down the length of my chest and then a bit further. I know it did.
“I wrote this new piece of software, a whole new thing. Based on this proof.” I held it up. I proffered it. “And I am not exaggerating when I tell you I have got guys breathing down my neck, going through my garbage, intercepting my wireless connection. I am what’s happening, baby. I am it. I am now. I am the cat’s pajamas.”
She actually suppressed a small laugh. She went soft in the shoulders and rode the door back till it was wide open. “Yeah I’ll just bet you are.” I felt the presence of her small bristling body as we walked into the kitchen. God I missed that. She was wired, every inch of her. When she was good she was like superconductivity, all electricity and no resistance. When she was really good there were no words.
“Look. Look at this.” I opened the binder on the kitchen table so it was upside down if you were looking in from the window over the sink that had a view of the street. She rolled a thin needle of a joint from a bag of weed she kept in a tobacco pouch. As I waited for her, my eyes fell on the page where I could admire the blocky congruent patterns of symbols painted on the page in black ink and I could see the flow of imagery growing more and more compact and meaningful, gathering intellectual speed as my eye traveled down the first page of many pages, each with its own secret momentum, its own whispering intensity of meaning, its own increasing tempo and complexity as the many threads of argument knitted themselves together in a flourish on the final uncanny page. I admired the bold declarative formulae of that first page glistening in the yellow kitchen light.
“It’s upside down,” she said with the joint stuck square between her lips.
“So come around this way.”
“Giddy, what is this?” I sat in the chair. She leaned in behind me. She exhaled and let the joint trail away between her fingertips. Wisps of hair fell on my neck. I heard her breath, her concentration. “A paper? You wrote a paper? For a journal? So what? You came here to show me your homework? Did you get an A+ with extra credit? Do you think I care?” She handed me the joint like I better be careful little boy if I didn’t want to wake up drooling at the end of the line in Far Rockaway.
“No no, Mindy, no. Listen to me.” I sucked in a healthy lungful and waited out the maddening itch inside my chest. As I exhaled, I began to explain to her in slow and ornate detail how a field of energy always contains a minimum amount of energy from the unending supply of virtual particles winking in and out of existence, arising out of nothingness and annihilating each other back into empty death in perfect pairs, how there really is no vacuum in the vacuum; there’s a quantum foam. It’s a byproduct, I explained, of all the real particles that exist in space and time.
“I know this, Gid. I’m not an idiot. I have listened to this a hundred times.”
Another hit of her weed, and I explained to her, no wait, see there’s more, a whole new twist, that there is a field of information in the computers on the Street, and how it always contains a minimum amount of information, virtual stocks winking in and out of existence, arising and annihilating each other in pairs, how this field of information is never empty, never sleeps, how it is a hidden product of the vast chaos of stock market trades that flow through the system day in and day out. By the end I was speaking rather fast, a brilliant coppery surface of words with many hammered facets glinting across the space between us.
“I don’t understand a word of this Giddy, but I can tell one thing for sure. You are out of your massive meticulous mind.”
“No Mindy.” I stood up into the current of sparking red hair that shocked the back of my neck and brushed her neck.
“No, Giddy, no. None of that shit.” When she started using words like that I knew I was on the right track.
“What,” I said getting a thigh between hers, “you don’t want me to read your meter, ma’am? You got a lot of juice running through your wires, missus, you could short the fuck out and catch fire in the walls. Fire in the walls is very very serious. These are very hot, ma’am.” I put my palms on her newly married tits. “See? No insulation.” Her nipples poked my palms underneath her t-shirt.
“These tits are not your tits to handle anymore,” she said. “Not to mention this mouth is not your mouth. And I would not want you to think about what goes on down there. It is liable to upset you, Giddy.”
I ripped the t-shirt right off her body and pinned her up against the refrigerator. All kinds of crap spilled down from beneath the refrigerator magnets that encrusted the door of the fridge.
“No, you fucker, no.” Which meant yes you fucker yes. If there’s anybody I know in this world of darkness and misapprehension it’s my ex. She tore at my Islanders jersey, which distracted me for a moment because no one fucks with my Islanders jersey. Which she knew perfectly well in her ninja soul. She somehow must have grabbed the binder off the table because she smacked me with it flat into my face, which made my nose open like a faucet.
“Oh fuck, Mindy! Don’t you have the brains you were born with? I only have one copy. Jesus.” I ran to the sink and grabbed a towel to stuff up my nose as I examined the binder for damage. I daubed at it delicately to keep the spattered blood from obscuring the text. She took the opportunity to scratch the side of my face with her jagged bitten nails.
“Ok, now I’m ready,” she said. She spilled her tits out of her bra and shoved them in my bleeding face. She dug at the snap on her jeans and peeled them down to her knees. “Come on, what’s a little blood between you and me?” She ripped the towel away from my face and more blood spattered on the binder.
“Mindy, fuck, no!”
“Come on, Giddy. What’s the big deal? This is good. This is real.”
I grabbed a fistful of her hair spitting blood as I kissed her crimson and rose, my tongue thick with warm blood. She smacked my nose with the heel of her palm and I bellowed like a mammal going down on the savannah. Blood seeped into my eyes, clotting my eyelashes and saturating my eyelids. She grabbed my notebook and ran down the hall to the bedroom. I staggered after her and leapt on her as she lay back on the bed.
“Fuck me now you crazy bastard.”
“Give me that. Give it to me.” I tore the notebook out of her hand and sank to the floor at the foot of the bed. I slathered my face across the bedspread to staunch the flow of blood. “Leave. It. Alone.” I struggled to catch my breath so I could speak. “Come on, Gid, you space shot! Tell me things I never knew about the quantum foam and quarks and all that shit, it turns me on, lover. Hurry because I think I hear his Beemer pulling in the driveway. ‘Oh what’s this, it’s Gideon my ex-partner fucking the daylights out of my brand new bride. I cannot comprehend this strange turn of events.’ GIDEON NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”
And so I think I did. Eventually.
I didn’t know I was weeping until I heard me crying in this strange constricted voice and something pressed against my neck beneath my chin, a thumb of anguish.
“Don’t you goddamn laugh at me. There are secrets!” I heard my voice rip out of me. I stifled it into a hissing whisper. “This is not what’s real. You are not what’s real. Two people copulating, that is just a byproduct! This page. These words. This ink. Is not real! The real fucking is going on so far down, the real copulation…” I lowered my voice, I softened it to a secret sound so that I could hear and be heard on that tiny quantum level where the truth is whispered in a darkness so profound that light is created there. “… is everywhere, in everything.” I grabbed the flesh between her legs and squeezed. “You are not interesting to me. Not interesting at all. Compared to the billions I will take out of the market when I catch myself a pair of particles annihilating each other, merging themselves right out of existence like we used to do in our coldwater flat twice a day and three times on Sunday…“ I laughed. I cried. I may have done both at the same time. I don’t really remember after that for awhile. It was just me being brilliant for Mindy. Like I always loved to be. I thought I heard her cry out. I wasn’t really listening.
The next thing I remember she put her hand on my wounded face. It stank of her. And me. We curled up on the bloodsoaked bed and slept.
I thought, there’s so much good in all of this, so much growth, so much love, whoever thought this place where my head is at right now could be so creative and so right.
I went down to the bookstore where the old gent runs that tiny little shop, snow white hair and wow does he know his shit. Howie and I were history buffs. I read everything. Howie was a bit more constrained. The door was right across the street from the Water Street side entrance to the Old Stone Monolith where he worked the livelong day. It had a revolving door. How many times had I entered that door, chili dog in one hand, cannolli in the other, and my phone went off and I just went right on around and did a three-sixty and I was back on the floor before the old gent had a chance to look up. I knew Howie would be in because The Times had a review of a new book about Francis Drake circumnavigating the globe. Howie was a sucker for that Elizabethan stuff. Henry the Navigator was Howie’s idea of a good time. And Mindy. It turned out she was his idea of a good time too.
I was over in the physics section where I found some piece of crap film homage to MechaGodzilla. vs. Mothra and it suddenly occurred to me that MechaGodzilla is a lot like beta decay in the unstable isotopes of uranium and several of the transuranic elements that have relevance to nuclear fission and Mothra is whoa, wait a minute, Mothra has a lot of similarities, wait wait I gotta get out my notebook here and take a few notes because Mothra has a great many similarities to the deuterium tritium vector that is used in nuclear fusion, the so-called thermonuclear reaction. There was no way this was just a coincidence, no way on earth. How did this keep happening to me, and who was up to what? I was scribbling madly, and in came Howie with a kraut dog and a can of soda and his phone went off and I said, “Turn it off, Howie,” and I held up the black notebook that now had a thin scummy layer of human blood making fascinating patterns on its fake leather skin. Like tea leaves or something. Mental note, I gotta get a book about tea leaves and see if this means anything. Howie looked at me like he has seen a ghost. “Neutral territory, Howie. If I wanted a dark alley, would I come here?”
“Don’t go off on me, G-Man. I have no patience for this. I won her fair and square. You said so yourself.” Howie has a weakness or maybe I should characterize it as a genetic deficiency which prevents him from understanding irony.
I put the book down and opened it to the title page. He went stony still. He shuddered just a tad. The kraut dog and the can of soda fell away from his hands.
“This is it?” he asked. His fat fingers fluttered over the page. He reached for the corner to turn to the first page of text.
“Ah ah ah!” I slapped his hand away. “No touching the merchandise.”
“Hey. I break it I buy it.”
You can’t afford it, Howie. In your wildest dreams you can’t.”
He grabbed me by the lapels of my jean jacket and shoved me up against the poetry section. Something very large fell over and hit me on the head.
“If you ever. Touch her again. So help me.”
“I didn’t touch her, Howie. She touched me. Right on the bridge of my nose. I bled profusely for that woman.” I knew he would not sense the irony in that statement, but I couldn’t resist it.
“All over my bedroom, G-Man. I had to throw everything out.”
“How are you, Howie? You look a little tired, little tense.”
“G, wanna tell me something, honestly, bullshit aside?”
“Who is this chick I married? I thought she was a sexy little firecracker. You always gave off, ‘Hey I got me a sexy little firecracker, don’t I?’ Didn’t you? You did, you know you did. You lied to me, G-Man. She is not a sexy little firecracker, is she? Is she?” He pushed my spine deep into a row of anthologies. “No, she isn’t. She’s like a thing, a whachamacallit?”
You knew. Of course you knew. You insidious little fuck.”
“Howie, sometimes you don’t really know what you’ve got till you lose it. You know?”
He was about to really haul off and whack me. The old gent was trying to ignore us, but he couldn’t really do that much longer. His hand was on the phone next to the wrapping paper he manipulated with such ease and assurance during the Christmas season.
“Howie, I can intercept the virtual trades on the quantum level in the trading networks.”
You can what?”
“On the Unix servers in the trading floors. I can intercept the trades that don’t exist and I can buy and sell them and make a fortune. I can execute a virtual trade before the phantom buys and sells annihilate each other in the quantum foam. I can. I can. Listen to me, Howie.”
I giggled nervously. Then I laughed uproariously. Then I shrieked and shook with fear at the thought of what I had accomplished, that I had peeked behind God’s veil.
“G-Man, what the hell are you saying? Is that what you’ve got in the book here?”
He turned the page before I could stop him. He places his meaty palms on the page and stained its unerring perfection with the sweat and stink he wiped from his brow. He looked at it for a long moment, absorbing it, drinking it as if it were an unexpected wine in a nondescript restaurant. He crinkled up the corner of the page and turned it. He sighed a deep sigh. He turned a few more pages ever more quickly.
“Stop that, stop, are you kidding me?” I said. “You can’t begin to know what you’re looking at. You have to study it and get inside its head. You have to let it speak to you. Stop grabbing at it.” He had pawed it like a teenager going after a pair of pink tits. Jesus. Sometimes he really disappointed me. He went back to page one. He began to read, no he began to look, to see. I could see him letting it all run through him like the pages of an old Playboy magazine, how it undressed itself, slow, sexy, pose by pose, page by page, till his mind was hard as a rock and ready to come.
But I couldn’t help myself.
“Was it you or was it her?” I asked him as he gently caressed the page, flipping it over like he was peeling back the sheets on a sleeping girl.
“What do you want me to say, Gid?”
“Start with the truth and then embellish it.”
“You want to be mad at me, I’ll say it was me. You want to be mad at her, I’ll say it was her.”
“I want it to be like a dream where suddenly everybody wakes up.”
“I don’t get it, G-Man. This makes no sense. This looks like garbage to me.” He held up the binder, made a face and waved it around like it was a stinky piece of fish. “Are you serious?”
The next thing I knew I was pounding his head with his phone. And then there was some kind of misunderstanding with the cops. Like was I within my rights. Where was my binder. How did I get the cop’s gun out of his holster. A whole lot of questions. You could spend your whole life trying to untangle a mess like that. That’s what lawyers are for. God cursed them, but they serve a function. It’s all part of His plan. And nothing is clearcut in a court of law. It’s all a miasma of cause and effect. That’s why He invented bail. And I say Amen. And I know me and Howie still have a lot of shit to work through, but I think he is starting to see that now, and that makes me glad because I am so committed to the process and all the hard work I have put in is starting to pay off. And that feels real good.
I went to see Bobby. Bobby would understand.
He was coming off the ice with his team. He pulled off his mask. He smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up.
“You guys look like the Islanders of old,” I said.
“Dad, chill with the Islanders, please.”
“Bobby, you never saw those guys. They were like gods. They gave off light. They played hockey on the quantum level.
“And what was that, Dad?”
“They could travel down all possible paths of the future and see which one led to the goal and then they would take that path. They were uncanny.”
But he wouldn’t look me in the eye. I was getting this funny sense of resistance from Bobby. Something was going on between the words. We sat in my car in front of his mother’s house, but he didn’t go in.
“What is it, kid? Is it girls?” I waited for an answer. “Is it school?”
“No Dad, it isn’t anything.”
“Hey Bobby. You haven’t even asked me. You want to see it. I think it’s done. Just got to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”
“Yeah, you want to see it?”
“Out here in the car?”
I turned on the radio. Aerosmith was telling me how they were crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby. It was pitch dark. I slid the binder out from under the seat. I put it in his lap. I took a pen light out of my shirt pocket, clicked it on and gave it to him.
“I trust you, Bobby. I trust you with my life.”
“No Dad, what if they torture me?”
“You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” Jesus, sometimes I am a royal idiot. “You’re a good kid, Bobby. Sharp as a tack. I’ll read you a piece of it. This is will blow your little science mind.”
“No, Dad, no. I don’t want to know anything about it. It’s too dangerous.”
“Bobby, this is for you. I did this for you. It’s for your future. You and your Mom’s. You are the only one who can understand it. Everybody else, it’s over their heads. They have no faith, so they won’t make the effort."
”Dad, let go of my arm. That hurts like hell.”
I never heard him use that word before. Kids grow up fast.
“Dad, stop shouting. Stop shouting at me.”
I think I heard him say that, but I wasn’t sure because of all the commotion. Someone was snapping the fuck out, and I eventually figured out it was me. But not before I punched a hole in the dashboard and shattered the glass on the driverside window. And not before I started to smash the steering wheel with the binder.
I had him in a bear hug. Somebody was crying, him or me. I couldn’t quite tell. Then everything got very clear. I could hear every sound, I could understand the meaning of every gesture. It was like a miracle.
“You assaulted him, Dad, in a bookstore. You could go to jail for that. And you went to see Mom. You can’t do that you stupid fuck. You are scaring the shit out of everybody. Mom is going to get a court order. I am not going to be able to see you anymore. And Grandpa said he is going to buy a gun. Dad, you have got to stop. You have got to stop with this shit. You are sick and you have got to stop. And I don’t care anymore. I am sick of playing this game. So just fucking stop it, stop it, stop it. Please Dad please.”
Yes yes yes. I heard every word. Engraved in my mind. I took a long moment. I wrote it all down verbatim on a piece of paper in the back of the mangled binder. I have an excellent memory. I wrote it all down so I could go over it later in the privacy of my own head. I love that kid. And we are working out our relationship. We really are. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you really make an effort to open up what’s inside you and work on things. All this hard work is changing my whole world. I know it is. What can I say? I would do anything for that kid. If I could just figure out what he is talking about. Because I think it’s code. And I am willing to do the math.