Hope

Your rating: None
4
Average: 4 (12 votes)

On the blackboard behind Professor Clara Brown was the phrase: “There are only two possibilities: yes or no". She was administering a quiz to her freshman physics class. There were only True and False questions, but experience taught her that freshmen like to get “creative”. For instance, “True or False: Mass and weight and the same” would get responses like, “Yes, in Earth gravity”: not only technically incorrect, but demonstrating an astonishing need to show off.
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no”. True, philosophically speaking. Things are, or they aren’t. And then came Bohr and Heisenberg — who said there are infinite possibilities, simultaneously co-existing, which, when observed might collapse into a distinct “yes” or “no”. Not to be outdone, Kurt Gödel, that relentless and crazy Austrian, then showed that even in abstract logic systems, detached from physical reality, things can be, but can never be proven they are. Or can be proven they are, but aren’t.
Human minds find reassurance in absolutes. He loves me, he loves me not. Will he, won’t he? Will you marry me, or break my heart? Not Clara’s. Her mind was trained in the reality of simultaneous possibilities, and presently it wandered to her laboratory, deep within the bowels of the university, where few undergraduates dared dwell, and the room with the foreboding sign: “DANGER: Superposition room. Authorized admittance only”.
That room housed Clara’s pride and joy: a chamber where she could maintain the superposition of multiple quantum states, indefinitely. What was previously only possible in controlled experiments in gargantuan particle accelerators was made practical. Usable. Through ingenuity and hard work she not only managed to maintain quantum coherence for practical timescales but also scaled it up to the size of an average adult. It was a magnificent achievement. Tongues were wagging about a Nobel. Professor Brown was at the top of her game and at the top of the world.
Professor Brown might have been pleased, but Clara was despondent. Professor Brown had accomplished everything. Clara was a woman of almost forty who, in her pursuit of scientific achievement forgot she wasn’t just a brilliant scientist: she was also human. A human that yearned for a connection with other humans, even love. And by now, it was nearly too late. Everyone had wives or girlfriends— and even if they hadn’t — no suitable partner presented himself in twenty years, since she was a carefree undergraduate at Stanford.
But then there was Patrick.
Patrick was a Research Assistant in the adjacent lab: also around his forties, with sand-blond hair and magnetic blue eyes. He’d flirt with her. At least she thought he did. Furtive glances across the cafeteria during lunch time; an occasional “drop-in” to see how she was doing; chats around the coffee-machine; “accidental” brushes against her arm.
Clara was intrigued by him. And more than a little attracted. One day Patrick dropped by, and she made a move. True to her form as a socially awkward genius, she approached him rationally, calmly, and clearly.
“Hello, Patrick,” she said, “I am attracted to you. Would you like to go out for drinks?”
“I…” Patrick was a little taken aback and mumbled, “I am attracted to you as well,” he managed to blurt, “but I’m married. Things aren’t going so well. I’d love to go out, but I need to try and make my marriage work.”
Clara understood, and quelled the fire that was beginning to burn within her. She re-focused on work.
Months passed, and Patrick became closer; he confided in Clara that his marriage was fraying. The more his marriage unraveled, the closer the two became — closer: but still not close enough.
She asked him out again. He asked for some time to think and choose where his heart truly lies. And so Clara waited.
“Choose”, she mused.
During surgery, brain surgeons would often use electrodes to excite the motor cortex, to ensure they’re not cutting into something important. Unsurprisingly, something happened: an arm moved, an eye blinked. But what was fascinating was not that the arm moved or that the eye blinked. It was that when asked “why did you move your arm?” patients answered: “because I wanted to move my arm.”
The actions, choices, and decisions of humans are posited to be merely the superposition of multiple quantum brain-states: each brain-state would be equivalent to a thought, or a decision. Once that superposition undergoes decoherence — an errant neuron fires one way rather than the other — an arm would move upwards instead of downwards. “Free will”, as romantics call it, is merely the hindsight rationalization of what already happened.
Clara awaited his answer. She knew that a “no” would shatter her into thousands of pieces, but the potential of love excited her. The hope of a future together was exhilarating.
Finally, the day has come: “Have you decided, Patrick?”, she asked.
Patrick agonized: “Not yet, I love you Clara, but I also love my wife. I don’t want to hurt her. I need more time.”
“So there’s still hope?” Clara asked.
“There’s still hope” he admitted.
Clara paused for what seemed like an eternity.
“Have I ever shown you the superposition room?” Clara asked.
“The superposition room? You would never let anyone in there!”
“Well, you and I have been friends long enough. You should see what the fuss is about.”
Patrick wasn’t going to let the opportunity of a lifetime slip past his fingers, he waited excitedly by the door as Clara unlocked it and showed him in.
The chamber was there, eager, in a starkly empty room.
“Go on,” Clara motioned, “look inside.”
Patrick was giddy, few people had gazed upon this wonder, let alone seen inside it.
He walked in.
He hadn’t decided. Hope. As long as he didn’t decide, there was still hope.
And hope was all that she had left. Between the possibility of rejection and eternal hope, what else was she to choose?
Clara flipped the switch.

About the Author: 
Nir is an Israeli writer and stand up comedian who spent a lot of time in the US and currently resides in Berlin. He can be found at www.nirsoffer.com, www.facebook.com/thenireast and www.facebook.com/theberlinoffensive - he also sometimes has fun writing for The Antwerp Oyster (www.theantwerpoyster.com)