She felt numb and it had nothing to do with cold. Her hands shook as she held her pen, scribbling fluid lines of black ink onto the crisp pages of the marble book. She took a sip of coffee, relished in the hot liquid as it passed down her throat, damning the radiators for their incessant clanking. Dad was right; it was too hard to concentrate in there. She rubbed her eyes and continued to write. Pretty soon all the numbers and letters just melted together like snow and she couldn't tell one piece from the next.
She didn't know what she was doing, or why. She felt lost, utterly and completely, as she turned the page, filling up the book with endless sheets of elliptic curves and modular forms. The lines blurred, the equations meshed, and her eyes began to water. She didn't realize she was crying until a tear stained the page. She heard a bang, and stupidly jumped. It was the radiator, naturally, but for a split second she thought he'd fallen out of bed, or worse, down the stairs. He was the only thing on her mind, now. She spent every waking moment with him, except after midnight when she escaped to this mathematical world.
She often wonders if she started this proof to be closer to him; to the person he used to be. Even so, she'd never be able to tell him about it. Not anymore. Her tears continued to fall as she thought about that night last month, the excitement in his voice when he actually thought he'd come up with a new theorem. She cried a lot that night, too. Lately, she wasn't sure if she'd ever stop. She worked through the tears, the numbness in her body; the tension in her hands. She wished she could feel something, anything. It was as if she was watching herself from beyond her body as her brain spewed out the information like a calculator.
It was the end of January. She would have been packing up to go back to school about now. Instead, she had packed up her life there, said good-bye to her friends, the guy she was casually dating, the professors she admirably respected. She thought about Claire, Claire's great life, with her great boyfriend, her fancy New York apartment, and it's funny, because she never expected to be bitter at twenty-one.
The coffee's grown cold and the tears have all dried up. She thinks about turning in for the night, wonders if she's accomplishing anything at all. It feels ... she doesn't know what it feels like; a jigsaw puzzle, maybe. Or paint by number; where everything connects and falls into place as long as you have the right colors. Some nights she has the colors, bright radiant blue mostly, shining behind her eyes, and the dots are easy to find. Her body feels a shrill of hope, then. Hope that something brilliant is bound to happen -- that all of this is for a reason. Then she thinks of her father, ragged, worn thin, barely recognizable and the blue fades to black. And all she sees is the ink on the paper.