Coffee Filters and CryptographyA Story by E. L. Foley
This is a previous version of Coffee Filters and Cryptography.
with buildings sketched on them had been taped up all over the red
brick walls of the apartment. The draft from the windows that
wouldn't quite close fluttered them faintly, like soft giggling.
When he was struck by the mood--visited by a muse, he liked to
say--he had to draw, there
were no two ways about it, and it didn't matter whether he had any
paper in the house. And so the coffee filters.
liked the slightly rough texture, the roundness, the pleats like a
sunburst around each sketch. And when the muse came, he didn't need
coffee anyway--it was power, like the caffeine from a thousand cups,
coursing through his veins. His best work--all his work, in
fact--was done during those flashes of inspiration. That's why he
wouldn't let them medicate him. No point, if he'd lose the drive to
make art, his livelihood.
the muses were quiescent, and he paced the wide planked floors with
nothing in particular on his mind. He
watched her, curled up in the blue velvet wing chair, watching him.
They had met at that gallery that always smelled a bit like hummus at
the opening of one of his shows a few weeks ago, and she had been in
and out of his apartment, his bed, and his life since. Her eyes were
astute, made him think of owls. The way her coppery hair rested
against the curve of her cheek was perfect--he had drawn it over and
over, on real paper. And she looked quite appealing in his Art
Institute sweatshirt. Quite appealing indeed. The rumor of a smile
was beginning to form on her narrow lips, and he knew where that was
headed, or rather hoped he knew where that was headed. Back to bed.
But moments drifted past like cumulus clouds and still she said nothing, and so he shifted the path of his pacing closer. No reaction--she still followed him with her owl eyes.
There were numbers behind her eyes. He couldn't see them, but he knew. She worked like he did, when the muse came, but it was all equations. Pages and pages of equation--taped on the walls of her house, he had been delighted to find. Cryptography, something for the government. She was all puzzles and numbers and energy and he loved the way she watched him like he was another puzzle, someone to be decoded.
Her equations were beautiful, more beautiful than she was. When she spoke them, or wrote them out in that light, looping script, or described them in intimate detail, whispering their properties and usages into his ear as she lay next to him on crisp cotton sheets.
she was leaving Washington tomorrow, going somewhere to meet with
some military consultants. He would miss her and her numbers, and
was starting to already, but didn't know how to ask. Didn't know
quite what it was he wanted to ask. When she got back to D.C., would
she call him? Would this, whatever it was between them, continue?
He had never been particularly good at holding onto people, but this
one, he wanted to keep around. Were they dating? He supposed that
was the word. More appropriate than anything else.
And, more importantly, was she happy? She seemed to be, even when she wasn't caught in the delicate frenzy of calculation, but how can anyone be certain of anyone else's emotion?
“Pallas?” He broke the silence with his nickname for her.
“Do you know when you're getting back?” He was self-conscious, and his nervousness rippled through the air like perturbations on the surface of a pond.
“No, not yet,” her voice was quiet and steady, holding a hint of amusement.
“Will you call me when you come back?”
soon as I return,” she replied with a smile that seemed to softly
fill her entire person.
She stood gracefully, and took his hand, leading him to the bedroom.
© 2010 E. L. Foley
E. L. Foley
AboutCurrently studying Physics, my other pursuits are largely done in the time stolen from lab reports, badly botched circuit building, and endless problems. I knit, write (obviously, though I'm not very.. more..