The Other Language
Random House
Francesca Marciano
“Quantum Theory”

“Quantum Theory” is from Francesca Marciano’s collection THE OTHER LANGUAGE (Pantheon).  Marciano is a novelist, documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, known for films such as Don’t Tell (2005, Academy Award Nominee), and Me and You (2012).   Her three novels in English include: Rules of the Wild, Casa Rossa, and The End of Manners.


Marciano said this about her piece: I always wanted to write a story about the power of physical attraction. Roughly, this was my original idea: two people meet one night at a party, they sit next to each other for a few minutes with drinks in hand–nothing happens other than some flirting. They meet again years later, by pure chance. They both realize that the attraction that sparked between them at the time has become an intermittent signal, quietly blinking somewhere in the recesses of their brains, waiting to be picked up again.


The unspent energy that has accumulated over the years between them ends up manifesting itself in the form of an explosion–in the story, it’s a car accident from which they come away miraculously unscathed. I set the story in the African bush, basing it on an experience I had while living in Kenya. One night, returning from a party with a couple of friends–after a few tequilas–we rolled off a bridge and crashed in a gully. There was something magical about the crash; I still remember vividly the fresh smell of snapped eucalyptus branches, the lovely sound of crickets in the African night, and the joy of actually still being alive and in one piece.


I wanted my two characters to meet once more, in a completely different setting a few years later, as in the closing act of their platonic affair. I wasn’t sure where that would be until I remembered a particular day when I was walking in the West Village in New York City. It was snowing.


I liked the juxtaposition of climates, temperature, colors, and smells with those of the first half of the story. The quantum physics of their physical attraction has softened, its molecules changed: no longer an explosion, but the knowledge that they have quietly loved one another all these years, even from afar. Without claiming each other. As the protagonist thinks at the end, love has many faces.

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