This painting comes from chapter 14 of my second novel, The Adventures of Infinity and Negativa. At the end of the previous chapter, the main character, Nuru, has just drowned in the Caribbean Ocean, off the coast of Honduras while attending a 24-hour, underground music beach party. The title characters, Infinity and Negativa are twin fantasy mathematical sisters who reside in Nuru’s head. The twins, who always start off every chapter, experience, debate, and riff their own scenes based on Nuru’s reality. In this painting, only their silhouettes are shown. Infinity has the waist-long dreadlocks and Negativa wears an Afro.
“Where are we?” Negativa asked.
Infinity slowed down her random spinning along three axes. “We’re in the quantum matrix of choices.”
Negativa frowned. “Quantum? As in ‘How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics’?”
Infinity chuckled, which increased her spinning. “No, although that pi mnemonic does use the word ‘quantum.’”
Negativa shrugged her shoulders in confusion.
“Each word in that sentence contains the same number of letters, representing the first fifteen numbers in pi: 3.14159265358979.”
“Enough with the mumbo-jumbo. Just take me back to Sunjam.”
Infinity raised her hand and illuminated the twelve pathways leading back to the beach party. “You have all these variations to choose from.”
“What are the outcomes?”
Infinity wagged her finger. “We’re not allowed to know the outcome before we take the pathway.”
“That’s a load of crap.” Negativa narrowed her eyes. “How do humans decide?”
Infinity’s spinning angular velocity sped up as she lost control. “You want to know human opinion?”
“I know they’re a bunch of fuckwits, but how do they go about choosing a pathway?”
“Well, some are so controlled they make very few of their own choices, others avoid choosing their own pathways at all costs. A few analyze patterns, then decide, while many analyze then pray for divine intervention to help guide them.”
“In other words, they’re irrational. Just as I’ve always thought.” Negativa cocked an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips. “I’m taking this pathway.” She slid back to the beach.
Infinity stopped spinning and followed her sister.
Nuru’s eyes bulged open and she spat up puke. Homero turned her on her side. Ocean water and vomit stung the back of her throat.
“Welcome back to the land of the living.” He rubbed between her shoulder blades until she finished coughing.
The small crowd applauded. Through the spaces between various pairs of legs, the ocean, which had swallowed her whole, mocked her distress with its tranquil lapping against the shore. She put her head between her knees, more to hide her face than to breathe easier.
“What’s going on?”
Nuru’s head snapped up. The ferocity of Strug’s expression, directed at Homero, softened when he switched his attention to her. She reached up to embrace him. He bent down to hug her.
Strug whispered, “It’s OK, baby.”
“I’ll take you back to the hammock and bring you some food.”
Her heart seized. “No, don’t leave me. Let’s go together.” She stood on shaky legs. Strug’s strong arm secured her.
“Take good care of our girl,” Homero said to Strug.
Strug’s arm flexed around her torso. “I got this.” He parted the crowd, divided the beats within the music, and made room for her to exist.
With slacken jaw and unfocused eyes, Nuru put one foot in front of the other within the protective bubble. The presence of her pendant comforted her. The surrounding commotion blurred by at a hundred kilometers per second as she drifted through it. Strug guided her to sit down and handed her a plato tipico.
His hands enveloped the sides of her face. “I’m going right over there to get lemonade. You can watch me the whole time, OK?”
She nodded. He kissed her forehead and joined the drink line.
“Aw that was sweet,” Lauren cooed, startling Nuru. “Damn girl, what the hell happened to you?” She sat down and picked debris out of Nuru’s hair. “Can I have some fries? Thanks.” She stuffed a few into her mouth.
“You…did…this…to…me.” Nuru’s words dragged out.
“Tried to kill me. What did you mix in with that herb?”
Lauren screamed laughing. “Girl, if I wanted you dead, you wouldn’t be sitting here alive.”
Nuru broke a small piece of grilled meat and wrapped it into a torn piece of tortilla and nibbled.
“You definitely look like you’ve returned from the dead, though.” She helped herself to more fries. “Y’know that man of yours is something else.”
Hotness rushed through Nuru. Rapid blinking cleared the fog. “Is that what this shit’s about? You want my man?”
“Hmpf! Y’know I’ve learned the hard way that men are a dime a dozen. Money, on the other hand, that’s what makes things happen.”
“I don’t owe you anything.”
“That’s what you keep saying, but I don’t remember ever turning you away in your times of need.”
“So much for that. I ended up dropping out of college anyway.”
“All the education you need, you learned on the pole. We both did.”
Nuru shot a glance to Strug, who’d struck up a conversation with the other people in the drink line, then back to Lauren. “There aren’t any poles on this island.”
“Everything’s a pole. Haven’t you learned that by now, Miss College Dropout? There’s always pussy for sell.” She seductively circled a crisp French fry around her mouth before biting it in half and winking at Nuru.
Strug returned to the table with three large plastic cups of lemonade.
“Thanks. Just what the doctor ordered.” Lauren reached for a cup, gulped half of it down, and then stood up. “Well, I’m off to go with the flow. Catch you later.” She patted Nuru on the head and blew Strug a kiss.