Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.
The restaurant was dark and elegant. Her boyfriend held the wineglass up to let the dim light of the wall sconce shine through it. He nodded as if he had understood something about the wine by squinting at it, took a sip, closed his eyes and nodded again, and put the glass down by his plate. "So," he went on," how could time have a beginning, when the very concept of 'beginning' requires time? And is this even a genuine cosmological conflict, or just something we feel because we confuse words with understanding? Can we expect the universe to be logical, or is logic just something we made up in our heads?"
He looked earnestly into her eyes, almost staring. She suppressed a sigh. Things used to be so simple.... The restaurant seated its patrons on decoratively significant chairs that were actually quite uncomfortable, and her bottom ached. No doubt the chairs were meant to encourage turnover. She stared around the room. The plaster walls were painted a soft sienna between tasteful wood panels; the electric sconces may as well have been candles, they were so dim. Other couples hunched over their tables, trying to read the menu. She was pretty sure the dim lamps and small type were another manipulation, designed to guide the patrons to the ever-so-earnest mercies of the waiters' recommendations. She worked in marketing; she was no fool. Well, fool enough to answer her boyfriend's rhetorical outgassings.
"If logic," she said, "is something we made up in our heads, and our heads are something that developed out of the pattern of the universe, then it logically follows—does it not?—that logic is part of the pattern of the universe." She picked up her own wineglass and took a slow sip, without inspecting it beforehand. Let him chew on that, she thought. She stared right back into his eyes.
He appeared to be thinking about it. But he was, she knew, attentive to appearances. Well, so was she. Wasn't that what marketing was? She tried to be honest in her work, but she knew that few people read past the first three lines of copy, and most were swayed by the pictures and layout. Humanity, she thought, was a failing product, kept alive in the market by clever advertising. Religion, patriotism, and her boyfriend's self-important pronouncements—all ways to justify your shelf placement in the universe. Her irritation got the better of her. "What do you know about 'Time' anyway? You're a musician."
He smiled broadly. "Ha! Time is the basis of music. Music is, I'd say," (Yes, she thought, of course he'd say….). "Music is our direct and conscious involvement in time. Elaborated by tonality to, uh, tie it to the spatial dimensions…. Well!" He hung his head in mock humility. "I'm getting a little lost here…."
"Anyway," she said. "I meant 'Time" with a capital T."
"Time is time."
"Didn't Einstein prove that time is elastic?"
"Ye-e-es, but—" His gaze wandered around the ceiling. Maybe the meaning of time was hidden in the mismatched vintage chandeliers
"Well," he said. Now he was staring past her shoulder. "Musical time is elastic too. Maybe consciousness is just a long jam session playing with time." He smiled, feeling either triumphant or drunk. She'd have to drive them home. He was a very good musician, with a faultless sense of rhythm, and earned his bread cutting soundtracks for commercials and TV shows, but he lived for his jazz band that played for tips in a noisy bar. She sipped her own wine. Alcohol influences time; maybe that's why we drink it. She pontificated to herself: the universe includes chemicals that change consciousness, therefore it understands consciousness…oh my god, if she was going to drive them home, she'd better stop after this glass.
"Relativity," he said.
"Oh, shut up," she said. She said it without inflection, the way you would observe that it was ten o'clock or that there was a new flowerpot by the neighbor's front door. The romance had sagged out of the evening. Of course romance had been her own expectation. Her boyfriend had spent the day negotiating with his agent, hence in constant and often irritating talk, and she knew from experience that such days left his head buzzing with words that he'd have to talk out. Talking nonsense soothed him at times like this, and putting up with it was, she supposed, an act of love itself. How could it be that such a tiny corner of the universe was so full of intricate complications? She raised her glass as the waiter came by and nodded towards her boyfriend. The waiter understood and topped them both off. Since she was going to drive home anyway, she may as well push him past the talkative stage and into drowsy desire with one more glass. She took a token sip of her own, then set it to off to the side
Chemicals born out of dying stars swirled into the tangle of nerve cells that held her boyfriend's soul, and calmed him down. He talked less, his smile became gentler. Soon, older patterns of living, evolved before words, would take over. His eyes glinted. By the time they got home, and she would drive slowly, he should be just sobered up enough for her own purposes. Time spoke through her nerves as well. He was a good sort, but by god he could be tedious sometimes.
They left the restaurant. The car was parked on a tree-lined side street, and as they walked towards it, arm in arm, away from the lamps and signs of the main road, she glanced up at the sky. Between the silhouetted branches, she noticed, now and then, the paltry glimmer of stars. The stars, the very stars they had evolved from. She squeezed his arm, and he smiled without looking back at her as they walked.