It ends at the beginning.
She had been lost in her cavernous unconscious– her hazel eyes, shielded by a mop of unkempt auburn curls, focusing and unfocusing in rhythmic succession on the still glossy, but most assuredly second hand, cover of Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics, one of two required text for this course. It was the particular cover art that had so thoroughly entranced her: light particles– filtered through a prism, dispersed to reveal the brilliant colors concealed and guarded en route through spacetime until the precice moment of the photograph. Gone in an instant. Captured and reproduced ad infinitum.
Roy G Biv. Roy G Biv. Roy G Biv Roy. G. B… Tash had been compulsively repeating this mnemonic–remembered from the before times (before the mangled spine, before the funeral, before the myriad psychologists and psychiatrists with their ever feeble attempts to fix her broken brain) when the world made sense to her, and there was a rhyme or chant for everything important– until it become pardoxically meaningless yet talismanic, a protective incantation. The Words bellowed from the eclectic, but painstakingly curated, tweed/plaid/horned rimmed combination, also known as Dr. Avery Danforth, Ph. D. (the honorific was never missing from even the most casual of correspondence), standing at the antiquated blackboard. However, they seemed to gain physical form as the waves approached– gaining shape and mass, as if they had been beamed down like in the cheese sci-fi show her father use to watch, The Words reached deep down with brutish strength to yank her mind back to the blinding surface. Back to consciousness. Back into being.
“It ends at the beginning…” continued Dr. Danforth (Ph. D ), author of the other, considerably more expensive, yet laughingly thin, required text for Intro to Theoretical Physics, “is the guiding principle to everything from thermodynamics to dark matter to multiverse understanding. There was nothing. Vacuum. Emptiness. Then everything. That everything continued to coalesce and expand to form the Universe. Eventually it will expand to it’s breaking point, entropy, and contract back into the singularity from which it was spawned. Then once again– nothing. It ends at the beginning.”
What does that even mean, she wondered. After being surrounded by the seemingly nonsensical lectures for weeks on end, she forgot where she was for a moment and let out a small groan.
Dr. Danforth paused. “Do you have something to add?”
Crap. She hadn’t meant to disturb the class this time, usually hiding her derision and exhaustion behind her mass of curls, but she hadn’t slept the night before and was therefore less… elegant.
“No, sir,” she mustered, sitting up as straight as her spine would allow. “Though I suppose everything coming from nothing and ending up back to nothing makes you wonder what the point of it all is.”
“The point? Of… it all?” He gestured around in a wide sweeping of tweed-clad arms and smirked. “This isn’t a class about existentialism, Tash. This is Theoretical Physics. If you want to worry about your role in it all, it may be best to pursue a theological set of lessons, or speak to a therapist.”
She bared her teeth in the semblance of a smile and, satisfied that he had won this particular interaction, he continued lecturing. Only a few more minutes until she could get back home to her safe space, where nothing needed her attention and she could focus on breathing through recovery. One breath at a time, her mother always said. Roy G Biv, Roy G Biv, Roy G Biv.
Tash Roy-G-Biv’d all the way home and, upon entering, shut the door and leaned her back against it. She pressed against the door with some strength as if to hold up the barrier against all the wolves that were theoretically, existentially, theologically howling outside.
She breathed. Breathed again. She undid her bra, dropped it on the floor, and breathed again, for real this time. Tash dropped the rest of her clothes on the floor. “Out of nothing, into nothing,” she muttered, kicking her clothes aside as she made her way to the shower.
She turned the water on, leaving the light switched off. There was enough light coming in through the small shower window, and anyway she didn’t mind showering in the dim light. For a moment she felt lightheaded from steam and sleeplessness and she feared she might faint—who would find her if she fell in the shower and did not wake up?—but then she regained strength and lathered up her hands with soap. She washed away sweat and angst, telling each part of her body as she scrubbed: “You exist. You exist.”
Tash shampooed her hair, running her hands through obstinate curls, and for the first time in days (weeks?) she began to feel a bit like herself. She quickly rinsed, turned off the water, and sat—dripping, naked—on the edge of the tub. “I’m me,” she said out loud to herself, but her voice rose at the end, as if it were more question than statement. She tried again, this time deliberately putting a period at the end: “I’m me.” She kept rehearsing it as she made her way to the bed, and she was just on the edge of believing it as her eyes closed and Tash was asleep.