Written by: Rosemary Wakelin
Jacques found Bernard’s mega-modern penthouse, outfitted with all the latest gear, seriously awesome. “You own all this?” he said, half-expecting a Kardashian to stroll in with full entourage in tow.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Bernard said with a half-smile.
Jacques headed straight for the ginormous curved television screen and imagined watching World Cup soccer on it. His reflection stared back, all wide eyes and gaping mouth. “Are you like some famous movie producer or something?”
Bernard chuckled. “Nothing that exciting; just a mere physicist. Coffee?”
Jacques nodded, wandered over to the full wall of unblemished glass. Nothing but zillions of tiny flickering lights lay beyond it. He stared, mesmerised, excited, his short breaths fogging up the glass. Yep, seriously awesome.
“I knew a physicist once,” he said. And he thought of his uncle from long ago. Something sharp pinched his chest, felt the artificial air begin biting his skin. “He taught me all sorts of cool stuff.”
Bernard handed Jacques his coffee. Jacques wrapped his hands around the large mug, sucked the warmth from it and wondered where his mum was. “Trust Bernard,” she had told him via Bernard’s car phone. “He’s a good man.”
“Like what exactly?” Bernard’s manner had curiously changed, more sombre, almost sad.
“Stuff about the world. I was only small but I like really loved it. We’d test out so many crazy theories about electricity and magnets and…. ” Jacques stopped, noticed his own saddened tone. “He sort of got me, you know? Possibly the only person that ever did.”
“And your dad?”
Jacques shrugged. “I just frustrate him, make him angry or both… tells me that I should be a real man, work a solid, eight-hour job, not waste my time with airy-fairy physics nonsense like my uncle had.”
Jacques thought about his almost fifty-year-old father, how he got up at five every morning, punched holes into train tickets with his painted on smile. So precise, so regimental; black was black and white was white.
No room for greys like him.
“And then my uncle went and died.”
The air in the room became heavy, much colder weighing down hard on Jacques already slumped shoulders. Jacques sought refuge in a nearby chair. It immediately grew footrests and yanked his body into a reclining position.
Bernard sat across from him looking quietly concerned. “And your love for physics?”
“Died with him.”
“You have such a natural talent for the subject.”
“So use it … enter the physics competition… win it. If not for yourself, at least for your uncle.”
“My uncle?” Jacques forced a short laugh. “My uncle left me when I needed him the most.”
“He died, Jacques, it wasn’t his fault.”
So why did Jacques constantly believe it was? He searched Bernard’s oddly familiar face, felt irritation prickle him. Why did Bernard even care? “Who are you really, Bernard?”
Jacques mother finally appeared wearing a fitted, white suit and a totally alien expression. “Someone important,” she whispered, “someone you once knew… very well.”