Numbers are random but time is the same. The same but different. Seats and talking. The same but different. Going on, down the road, the same house painted blue, pink, orange, green, and burnt sienna. And give. For the next day. Everything she has always known is but a cycle of numbers.
Except today, Chein-A Doll needs to find her physics textbook.
“You don’t even take physics,” Everyone laughs. “Why do you need to go back and look for what you know you don’t even have? That doesn’t make any sense. Don’t you get it? So why are you looking for it?”
“…I don’t know,” Chein-A Doll gives the only response she can muster.
It’s on a shelf she’s never seen before, of a subject she’s never considered, in a pattern and texture she’s never touched. For reasons she cannot fathom, she reaches to retrieve it.
“You have a voice?” Chein-A Doll stares. She waits, as if it will continue if she leaves it alone. “Where is it coming from?”
“Well, you don’t know me,” It responds. “I think it’s pretty obvious why you don’t know where my voice is coming from.”
Chein-A Doll raises an eyebrow. “Well, I don’t really care that much. We were—”
“What? How could you not care?”
“I just don’t. You’re here. You can talk. It’s convenient. You’re the number one resource I’m supposed to use for the bio project.”
“I’m a physics textbook.”
“No, it’s not!” The book insists. Chein-A Doll squints, scrutinizing its cover, and then suddenly—ohh, she knows that color! Purple. “Shouldn’t you ask why this is happening? How am I able to talk? Why am I your resource? There are reasons for everything that happens. You don’t just take whatever you’re assigned and accept it.”
“I wasn’t assigned to you. I chose you.”
“I don’t know. Another girl chose you, but then she threw you away.”
“That’s why it smelled like old potatoes back there!”
“Yep.” Chein-A Doll stands there awkwardly. “Uh. What’s your name again?”
Chein-A Doll coughs a little in surprise. “What the hell?”
“No one can pronounce. It’s fine, just call me Subatomic.”
Chein-A Doll ponders the name, and unexpectedly smiles. “You know, that actually works pretty well.”
“We need perfection!”
Chein-A Doll chews slowly on the pizza. Oily. Ew. Expensive. Ew. Cheese. Omnomnomnomnom. “Okay, sure, whatever.”
“You don’t understand! We need it!”
“We don’t have to keep thinking about the fact that we need it!”
“Obviously we do, because you don’t think that we need it! Let me rephrase—I need it.”
“That should be obvious.”
“So what’s the reason?”
“We just have to. I just have to. Don’t question it.”
Chein-A Doll pouts. “Hypocrite.”
Great study, great people, defining what we think we all know. Rooting definitions to truth, truth that we don’t think is truth, truth that sounds wrong but is right. Only great people understand what great people say.
Great people could be making this all up.
“We barely got anything done today,” Chein-A Doll frowns.
“Actually, I just ate a really good bookmark.” When Chein-A Doll frowns more, Subatomic articulates, “Yummmm.”
“You have no other books to carry right now?”
“Then carry me.”
“Why not? You don’t have any other books on you.”
Carrying Subatomic around is one of the strangest experiences she has ever had. Never do textbooks actively demand to be carried. Never are textbooks able to talk about anything in particular, though whatever Subatomic has in store, it speaks a little of science. A little of stability in the mess of chaos.
“Hey,” Chein-A Doll pauses one day, greeting Subatomic on the top shelf of her locker. She extracts the textbook with care, staring at its cover.
“You’re…” Chein-A Doll can’t believe it. “I can see it now. That’s a hexagon pattern you have.”
Purple. Hexagons. A line of curls. Pages of cursive. Chein-A Doll wonders why she couldn’t discern them before, but they are present and have always been. And now they are shapes that she can see, understand, know, listen to, like or dislike as she pleases. It is a clarity that she has never quite met before.
“I’ve noticed the textbooks you’ve been carrying around are different.”
“Different, how so?”
“Different from the ones before, I mean. They were…well, I don’t mean to be mean, but—”
“They were ugly, weren’t they?”
“A bit. In my opinion, though. And yours, clearly.”
Chein-A Doll nods. “I figured out that the textbooks that I choose to carry are my choice. I carry them. They don’t carry me.”
“Well, of course. I can’t carry you, I don’t have any arms.”
And she can open Subatomic and burst into laughter, like nothing else. Or open it and slam it shut immediately. Sometimes they will care, sometimes they won’t.
They take a walk one day. First, they walk through a film of pure evil, and they want to talk away, but they stay. When they are out, they run (well, Chein-A Doll runs. Subatomic has no legs, remember?). Subatomic has a bookmark on nearly every page. They buy more anyway. They discuss pretty textbooks. Chein-A Doll realizes she is split in half, and Subatomic doesn’t mind.
The walk lasts more than one day. They memorize the past, but just about caning in Congress and Theodore Roosevelt’s big stick. They talk. Talk talk talk. So much jibberish but they think they’re great people so only they understand. They can fill out the balance of see-saw, because Chein-A Doll will only sit on one side while Subatomic wants to be lain down on the other. There is something weird about Chein-A Doll. And Subatomic. The weird is different, but because they accept, it is the same.
Sameness is not so bad when it is based on difference.
“Would you say that I’m your favorite textbook?”