We toured the city, looking for summer work as a cashier, a waiter, a groundskeeper, anything. I saw parts of Rochester that I had never seen before. After four hours of driving around and searching, filling out application forms against the hood of the camper-van, sitting in parking lots, eating soft ice cream, and tossing a ball back and forth while he waited for the manager, Roy began to talk to me like he did when we were children. We had Brighton, and once gain, we were waiting for the manager.


He pulled out one of his favorite books. Leaning against the van, he asked, “Have you ever heard of the fourth dimension?”


I shook my head.


It had to do with your perception of time, he explained. “You know how pictures, photos are two-dimensional and the world”–he flung his arms out–“life, is three-dimensional. You’ve heard of that?”


I said I had.


“There’s a fourth dimension, which is time. Space and time are linked together indissolubly.”


I blew my bangs off my forehead, leaned away from the heat of the engine. “Indissolubly?”


“Like this.” He hooked his forefingers together. “They can never be separated. If a place changes, then you know that time has passed, right? So if time changes, space must change as well.”


I stared at him.


“You don’t get it?” he asked, petulant, almost forlorn. It was as if my noncomprehension was a personal slight. He hooked his fingers together again and repeated it, “Indissolubly.” He was quoting his favorite scientist, Hermann Weyl, but I didn’t know that yet.


I remember the sound of his voice rising, cracking on the last syllable, his face growing flushed in the heat and the excitement, nails bitten to the quick, two fingers linked together. “Indissolubly.” After he died, I would imitate him. I would stand in our fort and roll the words on my tongue, the soft roundness of it, its opaque meaning. I believed that somehow it was the word that linked him to me, that stitched his fate to mine.


In our young, young years together, Amanda taught me the basic tenets of Algebra. I remember her praising me for following the simplest structures. I was maybe six or seven, and even now I remember vividly how it felt to bask in the recognition of my older sister.


Another time, after Mini was born, Amanda explained the concept of rotational inertia to me as we were talking about how Mini felt much lighter to hold as she learned to carry her own weight in another’s arms. Or was it that she felt heavier as she learned to move around a bunch? Sadly, I have long since forgotten what I’d been taught, but fortunately a lovely and warm memory of the day of my impromptu lesson remains with me.

From Name All the Animals by Alison Smith (2)

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