Einstein has taken up residence in my backpack wormhole. He waited to register for housing and was waitlisted. He’s honestly a hoarder, and heavy. I like to carry lighter things in my wormhole: panty hose that don’t run, first edition novels, the smell of a new baby’s head, and Pudding Pops frozen by physics.
As I walk across campus, a Pigpen-level trail of chalk dust, post-its and pencils chewed down to stubs, Subway sandwich wrappers and straw wrappers and candy wrappers —
follows us. My Oxford tweed suits smell like frosted yellow birthday cake and U-238 yellow cake and, at the most inopportune moments, Einstein-farts, after he sneaks handfuls of cafeteria beans.
I wish he’d leave but he reminds me he dreamed up wormholes, and that I owe him.
“I don’t owe you anything,” I say. “Here’s a cat poster and more styrofoam balls. Please be quiet until I get done teaching.”
Einstein isn’t listening.
“I’ll take you to The Bridge and McDonald’s for fries when I get done.”
He’s only eating foods that begin with ‘f” this week: fish sticks, fudge and Frito pie. I see him making tick marks on his food chart. To distract me, he makes a joke.
“You know cats can’t hang upside down?”
It’s his favorite not-really a joke; I’ve discovered geniuses just aren’t that good at comedy. That and one about an elephant who sits on your fence because elephants can’t sit on fences, not physiologically possible, he tells me.
It’s the ninth gravity-defying cat poster I’ve bought this week. He rips them trying to create wormhole fission.. Other poster subjects that can’t defy gravity or fission: boy bands, Britney Spears, monster trucks, Spiderman (close, but not quite) and giant apples that say “world’s best teacher”, each chosen by Einstein for their “likability factor.”
The guy at the comic book store asks if I’m wallpapering my place with posters.
Einstein snort-laughs in the wormhole.
I’ve tried to talk him into using double-sided tape to hang up his posters but he doesn’t trust tape. Or tapeworms. Or worm-patterned washi tape. Sometimes, he moans and clutches his gut like he has a tapeworm because I wouldn’t give him thumbtacks. I remind him it’s probably the refried beans.
He settles in with his styrofoam balls and Fig Newtons (the funniest cookies because, “Who gives a fig about Newton?” The balls will become a display I’ll steal so my third grade daughter can get an A.
When class runs long, he pushes stolen push pins into my back. That’s my cue to wrap up before he leaves bloody punctures. I pick up drive-thru french fries and he tells me funny stories about how he streaked a football game with Nathan Rosen, at the speed of light so no one saw their birthday suits.
He snacks loudly as I drive over the bridge, into the tunnel and back again and back again and back again and back again, Einstein honks the tunnel warning horn blasts and takes scientific notes, until we cross over the bridge one time too many and can’t return.
I settle into the backpack with him and we dip greasy French fries into ketchup or blood or the Red Sea, something red but I can’t tell anymore. The smiling upside-down cat tells us to “Hang in there” in a giggly-cat voice and radio Idina Menzel sings us to sleep. Tomorrow it’ll be Taco Tuesday. Again.
Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites including McSweeney’s, Robot Butt, Weekly Humorist, College Humor and Botnik Studios. She reads submissions as a member of the Taco Bell Quarterly Day Crew. You can find her on Twitter at @amygcb and hiding from her teenagers in the laundry room.