He wants to make his father proud, that’s the decision he makes.
Gavin is sitting in class, eyes watching the board with little interest. He’s currently on a twisted concoction of antidepressants, stabilizers, weed, and a half shot of vodka stolen from a local grocery store a few blocks off campus. This class is Mathematics 101, a basic course for all the fuckups who couldn’t factor a quadratic to save their life. It’s his only class of the day, having finished his the rest of his spring schedule a day prior, and he intends to just sit through it until he can taste summer, fresh and sizzling on his tongue.
That’s when his professor says it. He can only catch a small part of it, just this one phrase in passing, but it sticks with him.
“And no one has been able to solve this problem. Mathematicians, statistic analyzers, and scientists, all alike haven’t been able to crack it. It’s worth a million dollars and probably hundreds of accolades.”
It’s then when he realizes a purpose.
It’s then when he quits living.
Gavin is not a scholar, nor a nerd, nor a geek, nor even a studious person. But, Gavin likes Math. He likes it more than all his other core subjects and out of all the things people have thrown him in life and tried to force down his throat; he actually got it. Gavin wasn’t in basic math because it was impossible, no, he was in basic math because he was an outlier. The piece of the average that didn’t fit with the rest of the data; an anomaly or an abnormality. He was peculiar with intellect people overlooked in favor of staring at his odd clothes, odd cuts, odd expression, and every other oddity that somehow came to define who he was.
Not what he could be.
And Gavin wanted to be far more. More than every expectations his teachers, professors, dealers, classmates, and his own father had set for him. He wanted to be worth something and remembered.
The class bell rings and he collects his stuff, heading toward his professor. His professor fixes him with a confused look as he approaches, unused to any sort of interaction with his lower class students.
“How can I help you, Mr. Makara?” He inquires, sizing him up from behind a pair of large, curved glasses.
“Can I see the motherfuckin’ Math problem?”
He looks at him with shock before walking over in clicking shoes, his dress shoes hitting the ground sharply with each fast stride. The professor crosses the room to his desk and fumbles around inside before pulling out a thick, textbook-sized packet of text. He shuts his desk with a loud slam that echoes off the lecture hall before walking back over to him and dropping it in his hands.
The text is hundreds of pages long with notes from prominent academic scholars scrawled across sections, formulas and theorems scribbled hastily in corners, upside-down. He can’t make heads or tails of it at first and he looks up at her.
He smooths out his hair and looks at him curiously. “This is it. Well,” and the professor looks pensive for a moment, considering it. “This is our part of it at least.”
A tan hand gestures across the text and Gavin can’t help but think it looks young, probably even younger than his. Soft, too, and he almost wants to touch it, just to see if he’s right. He shakes his head though, this wasn’t the time for this; he was supposed to be listening. Gavin tunes back in, noticing his professor is already up to page thirty of the notes, making a comment on a complex algorithm.
“You can see where Doctor Vantas had made some progress, but it was later counter-argued here.” And the pages are flipped to page 52, where an argument is written in erratic, minuscule script with what was probably a teal pen. “Here, Doctor Pyrope contended that Mr. Vantas’s last step was inaccurate due to—”
“The fact he multiplied it by the wrong number and he dropped the motherfuckin’ coefficient. Yeah, I see it, Teach’.” Gavin nods, eyes scanning the page rapidly.
His professor is taken back for a moment before shutting the packet, forcing Gavin’s eyes up. “I don’t mean to sound accusatory,” The professor begins in a quiet voice, face serious and searching. “But, why do you want to see the problem? I presumed that you’d want a copy of this judging by how interested you were just now, but why?”
Gavin considers his answer for a moment before responding. But, not only he that, but he considers his life, and his worries, and his hardships, and everything else that got him there. He’s serious when he looks him in the eyes and simply says. “Professor Nitram, I just want a chance.”
He spends the first month of the summer just reading the notes, messily written lectures and snippets of stories. They play through like snapshots, each one a moment somewhere in someone else’s life coupled with a logarithmic rule or a statistic. When he finishes, it feels like a story that’s unfinished; no satisfying conclusion and the dashing parabola never gets the linear damsel. He feels undone and unsure of where to even start; the people prior to him only accomplishing hundreds of pages of going in circles.
It’s a few days of just sitting around and thinking inbetween hits when he decides to take the first step.
He calls his professor.
“It’s late, Gavin. Are you really positive this can’t wait until morning?” Professor Nitram asks, voice heavy with sleep.
“I just need some help.” There’s a pause in the line after that. Then a sigh and a disgruntled groan before a quiet, ‘okay’. Gavin grins into his phone, offering up a thank you before hastily prattling off his address and saying good bye.
Professor Nitram shows up fifteen minutes later with his usual outfit in a state of disarray. Gavin can tell that he had just woken up; hair mussed, shirt untucked, and pants with an innumerable amount of wrinkles. To top it all off: he’s wearing a pair of slippers shaped like bulls with nightcaps on.
It’s kind of precious, Gavin thinks, but this is not the time for that.
“So,” His professor starts, slightly embarrassed upon noticing his own slipper clad feet. “Where’s the packet?”
Gavin gestures for him to come inside before shutting the door and leading him around. Even though it isn’t necessary, they’re only going to do math, afterall; Gavin shows his professor around his apartment, making sure to point out interesting stories or funny anecdotes when he sees fit. His professor seems generally amused the whole time, a small smile on his lips as Gavin gets excited over a memory of how he had obtained a snow globe or a crack in the wall. He even laughs a bit when Gavin tries to reenact a conversation between himself and some women at Walmart who just wanted to buy a parrot. It’s enjoyable and hours pass before they even take a look at the stack of papers on Gavin’s dining room table.
“This is what I’ve got so far.” Gavin states, grabbing the paper and dropping to his knee to present it to Professor Nitram like a servant would his master.
Mr. Nitram just looks at him with a small eye roll, though the smile is still tugging at his lips. He takes it out of Gavin’s hands and starts paging through the purple scribblings that are Gavin’s notes. The room is quiet, aside from small noises that can either be descent or agreement from the professor. After a moment he calmly closes the packet and sets it back down on the table, staring determinedly on the floor.
“It’s…all wrong ain’t it?” Gavin hazards, trying to read the other’s pensive expression with much difficulty.
“It’s…brilliant. Like, uh, wow!” Professor Nitram grins, hugging Gavin tightly before letting him go.
Due to the shock of the situation, Gavin falls onto the floor and he’s confused as he watches his professor jump around the room. “I’m doing it, right?” He asks gently, afraid to have the full force of his teacher’s excitement upon him.
Professor Nitram puts his hand in the air so that it laid flat like a table before tilting it from side to side. “Well, sorta. You see, your steps could work, but there are a few flaws you need to fix. And, obviously, we can’t be really sure what is perfectly right until the problem is solved, but—” And he runs over to yank Gavin up, tugging with unknown force at the other’s arm. “I think you’re actually on the right track!” he finishes, shaking the arm he was still holding on to.
“Man, that’s a motherfuckin’ delight to hear. This shit has been bugging me for awhile now; can’t even count how many times I said, ‘fuck it’ and had to go have a smoke.” He laughs easily.
“Well, now I’m here.” His professor states. “And, I totally want to help you out with this, if you don’t mind.” There’s an eagerness in his eyes that Gavin hasn’t seen before, and he has to fight the urge to stare. “I think we can make it farther than anyone else has gone!”
Gavin is about to make a comment on just how sexual that sounded when he remembered the fact that this was his teacher and it would probably be best to refrain from making accusations of proposition. “It’d be bitchtits if you could accompany me on this journey with slices of pi and across the long division of mountains, Professor N.” Gavin nods, a smile slowly forming on his face.
“Awesome!” His professor replies, offering out his fist. “And call me Travis, by the way. I hate getting called, ‘Professor Nitram’; it sounds so old.” Gavin bumps his fist and nods again.
“Travvy it is.” He chuckles, matter-of-factly, loving the way it rolls off his tongue. “Now, let’s get motherfuckin’ mathematical in this shit.”