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Chapter Thirty One

March 23, 1998

Berkeley, California

“While physics aims to discover universal laws, its theories lie in explicit domains of applicability. Loosely speaking, the laws of classical physics accurately describe systems whose important length scales are greater than the atomic scale and whose motions are much slower than the speed of light. Outside of this domain, observations do not match their predictions. Albert Einstein contributed the framework of special relativity, which replaced notions of absolute time and space with spacetime and allowed an accurate description of systems whose components have speeds approaching the speed of light. Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, and others introduced quantum mechanics, a probabilistic notion of particles and interactions that allowed an accurate description of atomic and subatomic scales. Later, quantum field theory unified quantum mechanics and special relativity. General relativity allowed for a dynamical, curved spacetime, with which highly massive systems and the large-scale structure of the universe can be well-described. General relativity has not yet been unified with the other fundamental descriptions; several candidate theories of quantum gravity are being developed.”

I am sitting in the lecture hall and I swear to God that all I can hear is ‘Bueller...Bueller...Bueller…”

My Introductory Physics professor is the most boring individual in the world. The history of the science has never particularly interested me. It’s the future I’ve always cared about.

“If you’ll open to page 304 of your textbook…”

A massive cohesive shuffling noise fills the room as everyone flips their textbook at the same time. As I flip mine, I’m distracted by the uncomfortable clenching fist in my stomach. I gnaw the end of my pencil.

“In Indian philosophy, Kanada was the first to systematically develop a theory of atomism around 200 BCE though some authors have allotted him an earlier era in the 6th century BCE. It was further elaborated by the Buddhist atomists Dharmakirti and Dignāga during the 1st millennium CE.”

My eyes grow heavy. Between Mr. Rather-Watch-Paint-Dry and Professor Telos, my equally uptight psychology teacher, my trip had almost gotten me kicked out of both of their classes. Begging and tears hadn’t cut it; I have only just finished the extra work both assholes had given me to keep me in the program. Now I’m back to a life of mind-numbing Monday and Wednesday mornings with back-to-back male monotones.

“During the period of time known as the Dark Ages (5th to 15th centuries), much scientific progress occurred in the Muslim world. The scientific research of the Islamic scientists is often overlooked due to the conflict of the Crusades and "it's possible, too, that many scholars in the Renaissance later downplayed or even disguised their connection to the Middle East for both political and religious reasons."

My stomach clenches more and I belch. Acid fills my mouth and I sit up straight. If there’s anything Professor Stick Up the Ass hates more than people skipping class, it’s people leaving class for a bathroom run. I swallow down the first sour mouthful.

He’s still talking, but I don’t hear a word. The acid does not like going back down. My mouth fills again to the point that I know if I don’t leave, I will throw up all over my desk. I slide out of my seat, trying to stay crouched down.

“Ms. Standiford? Going somewhere?”

I tense. I know everyone’s eyes are on me. I glance back, but I can’t open my mouth. Part of me wants to run up and throw up on him.

Instead, I turn and head out the door. It is a short sprint to the bathroom. I barely make it to the stall before the vomit is splashing out over everything. I don’t have a chance to catch my breath before I am bringing up a second round. The bagel I ate for breakfast swims around in the chunky contents. The thought brings up even more.

I am dying.

“Why aren’t you in class?”

My third least favorite person in the world, Fiona, stands in the doorway scowling. I press my face into the pillow.

“I’m sick?”

“Sick? What kind of sick?”

“The bubonic plague.”

“That sounds disgusting.”


“Well you can’t stay here. I need the room.”

I lift my head just a fraction. “Excuse me?”

“I need the room,” she says, stressing the word. She gives me a look.

It’s hard for me to believe that goggles-Mcgee has a need for our room. It’s even harder for me to believe that she would kick a sick person out of their room.

“This takes priority.”

Okay, so maybe it isn’t so hard to believe.

I ignore her for a full five minutes, but she still doesn’t leave.

“You’re serious?”


It takes all my energy to get out of bed. Should I have had even one more ounce, I would have bitch slapped her. I grab my pillow and blanket and shuffle past her. She smirks.

“You look like hell. I’d try some eyeshadow.”

“I’d try some contacts,” I snap.

She gasps, but I’m out of hearing range by the time she thinks of a comeback. I head to the common area. A few guys play ping-pong at the ratty old table in the corner, but they pay no attention to me. The couch by the TV is limp and smelly, but it’s the only choice I have. I toss my pillow down and crawl onto it.

The TV is tuned to MTV. I yawn, snuggling up. My eyes are so heavy. I just need sleep…

Everybody, yeah
Rock your body, yeah
Everybody, yeah
Rock your body right
Backstreet's back, alright

My eyes fly open. I watch the video play on the screen. From the ping pong table I can hear the doofus guys jokingly singing along in a mock tone. Nick’s face appears in a close-up and I sigh.

I think about his number.

I’ve called once, but couldn’t get through the overseas mumbo-jumbo. I haven’t tried since.

As the video ends, my stomach clenches again. It comes on too fast to get up. I grab the potted plant off of the end table by the couch and puke up nothing but bile. Food doesn’t stay down.

“Dude, what party did you go to last night?” one of the guys ask me.

I don’t answer. I breathe through my mouth; the smell will make me throw up again. I know this well.

I am an expert puker.

I’m also not ignorant.

Even without taking three tests, there is no doubt.

I am pregnant.