Chapter 1: The Physicist
Janne didn’t know why his advisor wanted to meet in a place where a thesis doesn’t usually gets examined. He stared at the name of the establishment and it stated, “The Watering Hole”. He heaved a sigh as he lifted his hand towards the handle of the fiber-glass door.
“For the thesis...” he repeatedly whispered to himself as he entered the pub. He stopped himself from storming away when the smell of alcohol came rushing into his nostrils. The place didn’t feel right for Janne. It reeked of alcohol, and alcohol rhymed with trouble. As the old quotation says, “If it rhymes, it must be true.”
He needed to get away from there. Now.
He roamed his charcoal eyes around the bar, searching for the man he needed to meet, but instead of finding his advisor, he noticed the band playing at the moment. The music finally came into his ears.
Beautiful stranger, here you are in my arms and I know
That beautiful strangers only come along to do me wrong
And I hope, beautiful stranger, here you are in my arms
But I think it’s finally, finally, finally, finally, finally safe
For me to fall
He didn’t have anything against the music; it was actually soothing to hear. The distinctive voice of the girl who had curly black hair, dark brown eyes beneath the glasses, and a deep tan, made Janne think why he was checking out the girl in the first place. Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was just the scent of alcohol entering his system. He shrugged and walked towards a stool and settled there.
I grab your hand and then we ran to the car
Singing in the street and playing air guitar
Stuck between my teeth just like a candy bar
And I wonder if it goes too far to say
I’ve never recognized a purer face
You stopped me in my tracks and put me right in my place
Used to think that loving meant a painful chase
But you’re right here now and I think you’ll stay
The bartender seemed to notice Janne’s presence and was about to approach him, when a couple barged in and ordered a drink. Janne released a sigh of relief knowing that he was not forced to socialize at that moment. He just wanted to meet his advisor to check his thesis, listen to the advisor’s remarks and go home, cuddle with his cat, and face his computer until 3 am.
Socializing was not really his thing.
Oh, we’re dancin’ in my living room, and up come my fists
And I say I’m only playing, but the truth is this
I’ve never seen a mouth that I would kill to kiss
And I’m terrified, but the truth is this
He fished out his phone from his pocket and typed a message to his advisor.
To: Sir Yoso
Good evening, sir. I’m here at our rendezvous point. Where are you?
Seconds passed and he hasn’t gotten a reply. He leaned his head on the counter and looked like a sleepyhead.
“I want to get out of here...” he whispered to himself.
Minutes later, the reply finally came. He quickly viewed the message:
From Sir Yoso:
Hello Janne! I’m so sorry but I already left a while ago because of diarrhea. ;)
The winking emoji in the message didn’t help the frustration Janne felt. It just made him confused and irritated. Did his advisor purposely leave him there in the pub knowing that Janne hated that kind of place?
Janne rolled his eyes.
“He is so dead to me.” he muttered and returned his phone in his pocket. Janne flinched when he felt someone sat beside him. Since his advisor cannot meet him tonight, there was no reason for him to stay at all, but when he unconsciously darted a glance beside him, dark brown eyes beneath the glasses stared back at him. He choked back a squeal. It was the vocalist of the band playing earlier. His brain instantly argued at the fact that he was about to squeal at the sight of the girl and why the girl even sat beside him. His brain’s conclusion was to run away but his thoughts were halted when the girl spoke,
“You look new here.”
“I don’t actually go here at all.” Janne replied. Small talks. Small talks were not really Janne’s thing. He fought the urge to run away. The girl nodded and placed the rim of the glass on her mouth.
“Yeah right, you don’t look like a person who normally stops by here.” She mumbled and gulped her drink. Janne stopped himself from rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows. How long can this conversation go? Why was this girl talking to him?
Janne didn’t reply.
“Well, if you’re not comfortable here, let’s get out of here. Strangers are worth a chat.” the girl stated while placing her glass on the counter and staring straight to Janne’s eyes. Janne awkwardly averted his eyes. “Is this girl hitting on me?” He thought.
“Actually, I was about to leave,” he said and saw from his peripheral vision. The girl didn’t move and continued to stare at him. Janne sighed. “Okay. A little bit of socializing just to end the night”, he thought.
“Fine.” he replied. The girl smiled and they both stood up. They walked beside each other but neither of them uttered a word. Janne just followed the girl’s lead, wondering why he let himself be dragged into this.
While on the way, Janne observed the person he was with. The girl was wearing a white graphic shirt with the picture of a hand strumming the guitar, the word TALENT was written in black ink just above her chest. Her black jeans and black boots also added volume to the simplicity of her appearance but the way she moved hinted that she was a performer. Maybe it was the amount of confidence she was projecting, or it was just because Janne saw her earlier playing with the band that resulted in these kinds of assumptions. He thought that she was cool. Nevertheless, Janne still felt weird about this girl’s presence.
After walking for a few minutes, away from the pub, they finally stopped. Janne observed the surroundings and noticed that they were in a park. The girl went towards the swing and rode it. Janne followed and settled beside her. No one talked for a couple of minutes. Only the wind, the grass, and the creaking of the swing filled the silence between them.
“Hey,” they muttered in unison. They gaped at each other and giggled.
“Sneakers, jeans, and a jacket.” The girl said, looking at Janne from head to toe. “I thought you were just a tall, slim, boyish girl back then that’s why I approached you. You even have a ponytail.”
“I get that a lot these days.“Janne said, not even looking surprised or offended.
The girl squinted her eyes and asked, “Are you gay?”
Janne quickly shook his head and said, “No! I am just not within the margin of this society’s stereotypes.”
The girl smirked and nodded her head a few times. “I see, smart dude.”
“So-” the girl said as she played with the swing, “why you were in the pub? You meeting somebody?”
“Yes. I was looking for my thesis advisor.” Janne said, “But, he already left a while ago.”
“Oh? A pub is not a place to examine one’s thesis but okay. So you’re still a student?” The girl asked.
“Technically yes, I’m in grad school,” Janne replied. The girl nodded a few times before asking again, “Care to tell me what your thesis is all about?”
Janne waved his hand and said, “Just physics stuff.” Janne barely noticed the twinkle that flashed through the girl’s dark brown eyes when he said the word ‘physics.’ “So much for thinking that she’s hitting on me, I guess,” he thought.
“So you are physicist, huh? Tell me something interesting.” the girl said with a huge smile. Janne gave her his usual smug smirk and said, “Did you know that the term used to describe what happens to matter when it enters a black hole is called spaghettification?”
The girl chuckled and said, “Astrophysics’ terminologies are weird. Sometimes I think the researchers don’t exert effort to think about the terms, like what’s the opposite of a black hole? Oh, I know! We name it...White hole!”
“Dude,” Janne said, chortling, “This is nice. Never thought that someone I’d met in a pub can know a few things about science.”
“Well, this doesn’t usually happen.” the girl said and added, “Glad I met you tonight.”
Janne was taken back because of the statement. He continued to rock the swing as he cleared his throat. His feeling of weirdness regarding his conversation with this girl was growing minute by minute.
“Well, same.” he replied, suddenly remembering something, “But still, why approach me if you thought I was a girl? Did you perhaps pity me?”
“Dude, no.” the girl cut him off, giggling. “You’re getting the wrong idea.” she said. Janne frowned and asked, “What do you mean?”
“It’s not like I approached you because I thought that as a fellow woman, you needed company.” the girl said. “I don’t label myself much but I’m into girls. You get what I mean, smart dude.”
“Oh.” Janne replied, running out of words to say. He had his own beliefs and he stopped himself from talking about them with a girl he just met a few minutes ago. It was not like him to hold his words but he didn’t want to be rude.
He smirked. “Well, you could’ve flirted with other girls. It didn’t have to be me, right?” Janne said. The girl rolled her eyes and giggled.
“Don’t get so full of yourself, smart dude.” The girl said and then rocked her swing.
“Anyway, going back to black hole..” the girl mumbled, “Since I think no one ever knew what happens with the matter being sucked inside the black hole, I have a theory that the matter is being transported in a different universe, like a parallel universe.”
That’s bullshit, Janne thought and said, “You do know about white holes, right?”
The girl rolled her eyes. “But still, black holes are regions of space where so much mass was packed together so densely, ---it’s like a singularity. And what did the Big Bang Theory say about the creation of the world?”
Another bullshit, Janne thought.
“But that’s just the surface of things, okay. In general relativity, Black holes and white holes are connected. Think of it as portals but with the added effect of turning everything that enters into spaghetti. In the first place, black holes and the pea –sized singularity from the big bang are pretty different things.” Janne explained.
“That’s still hypothetical.” the girl stated.
“Yes, but my point still stands.” Janne replied firmly. He was not the type to be convinced easily by other’s opinions. What he thought was right was well, right, and this attitude of Janne was one of the reasons why people tend to shut him down in conversations.
The girl’s dark brown orbs stared at him for seconds and then she nodded. She looked at the night sky before moving her head towards Janne. She smiled.
“I don’t like arguments so let’s just leave it at that, okay?” The girl stood up from the swing as she uttered those words. “I knew you were leaving when I invited you to chat earlier. Nice meeting you, smart dude.”
She offered her hand towards Janne, “Thank you for the chat.”
Janne reached out to her hand, “My pleasure.”
In cue, they both walked the opposite ways. The girl returned to the bar and Janne went out to look for a jeepney and go home. As he crossed his arms on his chest and stared at the streets, he thought about the girl’s name. Why didn’t he ask for it? He just shrugged and wore his headset. The weeb songs started to play. It was not like the girl and Janne would meet each other again.
When he got down from the jeepney, he started to walk down the road. He was living in the village of Mariones, and one thing that he loved about the place was that it was a serene neighborhood. No one was feisty for trivial topics and just living their own lives as it was. Janne checked his wristwatch and he saw that it was already 7:00 pm. As if in a cue, his stomach started to growl and he stopped by a nearby Ramen stall. He fished out his tablet from his drawstring bag and scrolled in his previously prepared manga.
All of a sudden, someone from their group conversation in a certain messaging app made the conversation head pop up on screen. Janne temporarily stopped from reading and checked the message:
Hey, you guys wanna play?
Janne put down his chopsticks and typed an answer.
Later. I’m not yet home.
From The Thot:
Oh. What are you doing late at night @/Knowbody, ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)?
Janne finished his Ramen after a couple of minutes and went home. It had been a year ever since he graduated from college, and he had been working. But, his old habit of playing games, watching anime, and reading manga didn’t change at all. Same old weeb, same old weeb.
Janne smiled when something fluffy touched his ankle. He looked downwards and saw his cat nudging him as if saying Welcome home, Master!
“Hello to you too Jojo,” he said as he reached for the cat and carried it to the couch. He cuddled with it for some minutes and then moved to his computer. The group conversation was still active and he sent a message that he was now ready to play.
Janne flashed his smug smirk face.
That’s what he said.
However, a ring from his phone stopped him in his tracks. He reached out for it without even looking at the phone screen.
“Hello?” Janne said.
“Oh Janne! So sorry for earlier,” it was Mr. Yoso. Janne rolled his eyes and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Well, I know someone that can help you with your thesis.” His advisor said, “An engineer will be taking the same master’s degree and will have the same classes as you are. Sounds convenient, right?”
Janne turned his swivel chair away from the computer and leaned on it.
“So the engineer’s taking physics too? And you think that person can help me? Have you forgotten how terrible I am at socializing?” Janne hissed. He heard a laugh from the other line.
“Let’s see. I think Cade is capable of getting along with you. See you at the University.” His advisor said, and ended the call. Janne returned his phone on his computer table and stared at it.
“Cade, huh?” Janne said and moved to his computer. “I’m not gonna think about that dude now. I have a dungeon to solo.”