The Science of Love

September 28, 2016

“The universe constantly expands. People are not moving through space. They are moving in space, because space itself is always moving. It has been moving and expanding ever since that big bang some 14 billion years ago. As a result, the universe has no center because everything is moving away from everything else. We always said that we were the center of our world, Ellie. You are about to go to Vanderbilt, and I am about to go off to the Stanford. What if there is no center? Is there enough to hold us together?”
Carl let out a sigh of exasperation as he threw his hands behind and looked back up at the stars. We were lying in the back of his rusty old pickup truck, and looking up at the night sky, the truck itself sitting in a field of tall dark grass out past my family’s farm. Carl and I have known each other since kindergarten, and have rivaled in academics ever since. Both top students, we would always try to outdo each other. Carl, the scientist he is, wants to major in astrophysics at Stanford. I had also gotten very good grades in all of my science classes, but I am more interested in the social sciences, and am planning to major in sociology.
I sat upright and said slowly and sternly, “Yes. You are going to Stanford. And yes, I am staying here in Tennessee and going to Vanderbilt. And yes, maybe the universe has no center, but what it does have is gravity, and that is what will keep us together. No matter how far apart we are, we will gravitate towards each other. I don’t understand how you can’t see that.” I lay back at the same time that I pounded the car with my clenched fist. “Do you not have faith in us?” I asked quietly.
“Those stars kind of look like they’re in the shape of a llama. Look! Hey! Do you remember that one time when we went to the zoo, and that llama spit on you, and you were so upset, but then I bought you ice cream and you immediately perked up? Good times.”
“Carl, stop trying to change the subject, I’m really serious. Why don’t you have faith in us?” I asked with a sound of desperation. I began to play nervously with my fingers, and I could feel the muscles in my face become tense.
“Stop that, Ellie! I hate when your eyebrows furrow like that. It makes you look like an angry squirrel or something, and you know how much I hate squirrels.” He then proceeded to make very chipmunk-like squirrel noises and tickle me all over. We both laughed so hard that tears streamed down our face. Once we calmed down, everything was silent. He and I were both hesitant to start talking again.
I finally broke the ice when I felt an ant crawling up my arm, and I simply stated, “I hate bugs.” After another moment of silence I felt more tears well up in my eyes, but they were not from laughing. With a huge lump in my throat, I muttered, “Answer my question,” my voice cracking as I did so.
“People change,” he said. “We are going to be light years away from each other, we are going to meet new people, and make new memories. We are going to change. Period. I do believe in us, but I think that this obstacle is telling us to stop. We will grow farther and farther apart until we have nothing in common holding us together. Our relationship is a universe, and we have no center. Constantly expanding farther out. And gravity is not going to pull us back to each other, it will only keep us grounded where we are: Tennessee, California.
I could no longer breathe out of my nose, and through short hyperventilating breaths I asked him to take me home. Memories of the past four years raced through my mind as we drove up back to the house. Without a word, I got out of the truck and slammed the door. Memories still replaying in my head. The population of the world hit 7 billion on October 31st, 2011. Today, on July 2nd, 2016, the population of my heart hit zero.

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