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Thursday, Mar. 31, 2005 - 5:05 a.m.

She appears sporadically in his dreams, but he does not call her when he wakes. He is not sure which distance is further - an image in a dream or a voice on the telephone.

He and she currently exist in a detente - an artificial cordiality to ease tensions. The word detente was hers, as are many of the other words he remembers from her sentences.

They had started out watching a play as friends, though it was the friendship itself that quickly became theatrical, with an unspoken attraction that neither dared to disturb.

It was all bad timing, with her extraneous boyfriend, and he himself going to work in Europe for a few years. But then he read that physicists did not believe in the linearity of time. All pasts and futures are contained in a single dense dot - and so he let out all the unsaid things contained in the bubble, one of which was hope.

Months later, scientists peering through massive radio-telescopes had reported that the universe was lighter than it was supposed to be - half of its mass was missing. It did not surprise him to read about that discovery because somehow, he had always known that to be true.

She had read the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which taught her that since life was unrepeatable, there was a lightness and freedom from responsibility. But he came to the opposite conclusion - that because life is lived only once, we have to choose carefully to avoid the meaningless things.

He visited Paris alone, which was the setting of the movie that the two of them were supposed to but never watched. He walked along the Seine River where the movie's two characters also walked and then parted - it was a film about incompletion. He had visited Paris alone, but he refuses to watch the movie like that. To this day, he has not seen the film yet.

Back in Singapore on a break, he thinks that there are many ways to quantify distance: she lives twenty-two kilometres away; her voice will appear after his finger crosses the distance of eight buttons on the telephone. But he does not call her because the distance between them is not a straight line; it is a twisted string of unfinished travel.

When he takes the MRT train, he sees the back of a woman who reminds him of her. He knows that this woman cannot be her, but he will not steal a glance at her face to confirm the cognizance of his error.

Enter Julia. He attends an art exhibition on fractals - intricate geometric patterns derived from the mathematical equations of the Julia Sets. Some of the framed prints look like fern leaves while others look like spirals within spirals of lacework. Different Julia Sets describe many things in nature - the branching patterns of real ferns, the growth of seashells, and the limits of stars. The Julia Set is the idea of pure scale, an iterative ordering of perfection.

The curator explains that the patterns are constructed from individual numerical points plotted across two axes - one for real numbers, and the other for imaginary ones. When the curator leaves, he opens his arms fully, and the cross that is his body mimics the perpendicular intersection of the real and imaginary axes. He wonders which is the Julia Set that defines the placement of his eyes, and the limits of his limbs.

He realizes that to everything is a Julia Set and two axes. One part of him is real, and the other part is imaginary, like the square root of negative one. It is something fully existent, but only not in his dimension, because he has not invented the langauge to speak of it yet.

He thinks that to everything is a Julia Set and two axes: him, the missing mass of the universe, and her. There are many numbers - transcendant and unutterable, that describe the absence of suns, a missing moon, and a solar system that should have been there.

Then there are other numbers, forming the single Julia Set that narrates the unfaltering shape of her eyes, and the quietness of her thoughts. She is a construction of magical numbers, a set of answers to a mathematical question. She is the Julia Set, a description of perfection whereby one part is real, and where the other part - is forgivably imaginary.


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