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A Time of Greater (Un)certainty

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"Well, then, what about the first time?" Niels says (like a fool, Margrethe thinks, even if by now, perhaps, he has guessed what she has guessed and so simply feels there is no need to pretend otherwise anymore). "Surely we can agree on our memory of that clearly enough."

He is, she realizes, still looking for a way to reconnect, to rekindle the fire.

"I don't see what there is to disagree about," Heisenberg says, his expression slightly relieved and slightly apprehensive, as if he is not as certain as his words would have one believe. "You had come to the lecture festival - "

"In Göttingen, yes. And you were there, in the audience, barely twenty."

Niels looks fond. Heisenberg is smiling.

"You had made a very simple mistake in your mathematics. I could not believe it at first."

"My mathematics were perfectly sound. I explained them to you afterward."

"I didn't admire you any less for it, of course. You were already a legend, the best of all of us, and you had come to Germany to hold out a hand in friendship. Everyone there adored you, and I was no exception."

"You grasped them in the end, I believe."

Heisenberg looks fond. Niels is smiling.

"You came looking for me after the lecture."

"We ran into one another later that day, and I couldn't resist a chance to talk to you again, to make you understand."

"You were very angry, as I recall."

"I was, perhaps, a little bit annoyed with the way you'd interrupted my lecture."

"There was no interruption; you asked if anyone wished to ask any questions and I did so."

"But I saw that you meant no harm by it, that you were simply rather passionate about these things."

Margrethe reflects that this is a conversation by any other name. She wonders if either of them realizes how often they contradict each other, how one so often barely seems to listen to the other.

"We both ended up yelling," Heisenberg says. "It was probably a good thing we had picked a more or less private place for our argument, away from the other visitors."

"It was a civilized discussion. I'd been given a guest room. We had some tea there, too."

"From your lecture, I'd never suspected you could be so vehement. So stubborn. Unreasonable, almost. You were convinced that you could not possibly be wrong about anything."

"You were still a young man, convinced that you knew everything better than anyone else. Still, you were willing to listen to my arguments. Slowly, I managed to make you see your error."

"The argument lasted for hours. You smashed a tea cup."

"We talked for a very long time. By the time I noticed the hour, it had already grown very late."

"I didn't think you would want to see me again after that."

"You had to leave, of course. Someone would surely worry if you stayed. Someone might already be worrying, wondering why you hadn't returned from the festival yet. You were expected somewhere, surely."

"There was nobody waiting for me. You?"

"No. No, I have come alone."

"Then ... "

"Yes, of course, you can stay. Very welcome. More tea? Or ... something else? Something a bit stronger? It's the hour for it, after all, and I have very kindly been given this bottle of excellent wine. That is, I've been told it's excellent. I'm afraid I'm not very knowledgeable about such things."

"I feel entirely too light-headed already, but how could I refuse? One glass, then. One glass surely can't do any harm. You are finally wound down, it seems. Relaxed. Smiling. Joking, even."

"There is much joy to be found in the world today. And you seem to understand me so very well, almost like - but no, this would not be an appropriate time to think of Margrethe. She isn't here."

"Even though you love her."

"Even though I love her."

"I understand."

"Have you considered your future? Will you be seeking a position soon?"

"Perhaps I will."

"We are both tired. Better, most likely, to discuss the subject in the morning. I will go walking, I think. It has always been an excellent way to clear my head. Will you come?"

"Impossible to say no. Yes."

"You should get some rest, then. We both should. And you have already said that you will stay."

"I had not expected an invitation to come walking. Walk where? And to what purpose? To clear our head? If it needs clearing, it's only because of you. Still, again, how could I refuse?"

"Easily. I promise you, I shall not be offended in the least."

"Perhaps, a little bit annoyed?"

"No, no, absolutely not. This has nothing to do with physics."

"I will stay. I will go walking with you."

"Good. I am glad. There is still wine left, but I am not thirsty anymore. Already, I feel like I have had rather too much, although perhaps that is not entirely due to the wine."

"Possibly not. Shall we?"

"Yes."

 

"Agreement reached in the end," Margrethe murmurs.

Niels looks faintly embarrassed. Perhaps she was wrong earlier, then; perhaps he still believes he has been able to conceal what is so painfully obvious to anyone with the eyes to see it.