The black hole formed quickly. The paper browning, crisping, then aflame as he held the match under the letter. He blew out the flame and stared into the smoky void it’d made. She’d written the letter, he’d read it, then burned it. So, what was left? What was lost?
Nothing according to quantum physics. Information could not be created or destroyed. Even by a black hole.
Setting her charred letter on his desk, he considered the ramifications. He’d have to set the terms. You couldn’t explain a thing in this or any other universe without defining the terms. For a time out of time, he stared at the equation filling his enormous office chalkboard, then began erasing.
All night he worked. Wracked his brain. Searched what was left of his heart. Did he have them all?
Betrayal. Deception. Treachery. Duplicity. Artifice. Perfidy.
Joy. Delight. Happiness. Exhilaration. Endearment. Contentment.
And a thousand more terms. Did he have them all?
Dawn outlined the heavy curtains, as he drew them aside and opened the old leaded window. Cool air rushed in from the courtyard, and he smiled recognizing this first autumn chill. That in itself was proof. He could feel.
Braced, he returned to the chalkboard, to the terms. Could it be proven? Was it worth proving? Her letter had told all, but explained nothing. Information, however conserved, was nothing without an explanation. Without proof.
He worked at it all morning. All afternoon. All night again. All week. All month. All fall and winter. In spring, a warm breeze from the window reminded him. He was close. Either he’d solve it, or he’d yield to Time and accept the paradox.
Accept that, like anything else, Beauty in all forms could be obliterated. The very heart of existence could become non-existent. Like the black hole he’d created in her letter. No record remaining of what was once there between them. Not even the dark energy of his feelings which he could no longer be sure had been real.
The large chalkboard was filled with signs and symbols defining each term and its relationship to the whole. He found himself gripping the chalk stick painfully hard. He put it in the tray and rubbed his fingertips. Chalk dust covered them. Lightly, he pressed his thumb against the mostly blank lower right corner of the chalkboard, leaving a delicate print. He studied the mark, his singular touch.
He was stuck. Stuck on her. Something he could never solve for.
Brushing some dust from the tray into his palm, he took it to his desk where her burnt letter hadn’t been moved. He sifted the fine particles through his fingers, dusting what remained of the letter, and then carefully blew the excess off.
A single fingerprint of hers emerged. A tiny treasure map of the world she was to him. A clue that whatever motives he imagined, whatever terms he defined, whatever equations he created, whatever answers he sought, it did not matter as much as this tangible X marking the spot where every journey of the heart begins and ends.