[From the journals of Dr. Jessup Crawley. March 4, 2034]

She throws the laws of physics out of focus. Equations unspool before me on the huge glass drawing board separating my office from the rest of the institute, but she walks by and my lifetime of mathematics is wiped clean. I could no sooner calculate Hardt's Chronotheorem than the tip on a check, so effortlessly does she unhinge my world. This will happen anywhere between 6 and 14 times per day, with a mean of 7.1. If God has a favorite number, 7.1 is surely it. 7.1 times a day I forget to breathe. Except for weekends when I am mercifully allowed to catch my breath.

Her name is Anaïs from engineering. She is 31 years old, from Aix-en-Provence, makes 65,000 euros annually, prefers tepid water to cold, and her blood type is A+, which is exactly the grade I would assign to anything involving her physiognomy. These are the meager facts I’ve been able to collect from her staff file—except for the part about the water, which I stumbled upon when we both went to refill our cups from the cooler next to the nanolab. Most people push the blue tab for chilled water, unless of course they’re making tea or instant coffee when they’ll push the red tab. But she chose the oft neglected gray tab in the center, dispensing lukewarm water. As soon as she walked away I emptied my cup, pressed the gray tab, and took a sip. I was sad to discover our taste in water temperature was not something we have in common.

I’ve never gone in much for movies, especially in the past few years with the insurgence of VR. It would be hypocritical to say that technology has weakened the art form, but there’s something about total immersion that I find nauseating—an almost Pavlovian response to putting on an oculus. That being said, I do remember this old film whose leading man would subtly ask his coworkers questions about the leading woman, with whom he was infatuated. It was artful, nonchalant, and effective. He soon had enough data on the woman to engage her in conversation that would eventually lead them to kissing on a bridge somewhere. I employed this strategy myself on three separate occasions, each one failing miserably. The first time I asked Dr. Goebler if he knew her. He did not. Next I asked a woman in her department where she’d gone to school. She didn’t know but offered to find out. I immediately became flustered and mumbled ‘no thanks’. Finally I asked Alp, a custodian, how much garbage he would typically find in her bin—an insanely awkward question, I know. Fortunately, Alp is from the Turkish Republic and speaks not a word of English or French. I’ve decided to discontinue this track of research.

Let the record show that my time spent thinking about Anaïs comprises a very small portion of my workday. I do in fact manage to remain on task. Equations are balanced, projects implemented, nanodrones dispatched. It is only those few brief moments when—

^rap ^rap ^rap

Holy shit.

^rap ^rap ^rap

Anaïs from engineering looks at me through the forest of calculations splashed across my glass wall. My hand, holding a marker, freezes mid-differential. She’s so close. I could draw a matrix around her face, framing it forever as the one true axiom of mathematical perfection.

[ ]

But that would be weird. Don’t be weird.

[        ]

Our eyes meet. My heart stops, again. All my data is irrevocably and beautifully corrupted. She points to the door, asking to be let in.

[                ]

Jessup. Jessup, open the goddamn door.

[                           ]

I open the door.

[                        “hi”                 ]