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All Theory

Holly McDede

She wakes up, which is new. It gives her a headache, to be honest. Turns out, when you don’t think thoughts for a few years, your thoughts begin to smell. She attempts to cover up the scent with candles, but her brain appears to be allergic to fire. When chunks of brain matter chip off, she tells herself it’s for the best, though the throbbing cranium disagrees.

Carefully, she scrummages through piles of dead thought-bodies. There is one thought that looks particularly rotten. Think: 25-year-old soy milk. Think: dead baby.

Think me, the thought thinks.

“No thanks,” the girl answers, defiantly, protected within the cage of quotation marks. The thought’s italics make the thing look like a pathetic, fragile princess.

But the thought is a thought, and so the thought will think, whether she likes it or not, because what else is a thought to do? Ready, breathe, think.

She does so. Then she says, “Huh.”

The good thing – and there aren’t many good things, but there is at least one – about this particular thought – that the girl had been maybe, possibly raped – is that it’s all theory. Global warming is also theory, which means it is possible to continue to believe that the world’s demise is not around the corner. There’s another theory that the world does not even exist, which means there’s no global warming because there never was a globe to be warmed or people to warm it. If there are no people, because there’s no world, there’s probably no rape either.

Though being maybe possibly raped has its perks, the girl would prefer very much to not think about this theory. Instead, she enlists her high school math teacher to contemplate her rape. He knows a thing or two about theories.

When she enters the classroom, she sprinkles the numbers, the slices of time, the measurements of motion, across his desk. She writes down a question on a piece of notebook paper, and hands it to him.

“Let’s see here,” he says. He rubs the paper like it’s a crystal ball or his mother’s back.

Question 1: Assume it is three years ago. Assume the world exists at Rutgers University Library, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Assume there are only four people in this world. Define person 1 as “the angry boy.” Person 2 is, “The sad girl.” People 3-4 are, “The sad girls’ parents.” These parents dislike the boy. They think the boy will transform the sad girl into “the pregnant girl.”

“Or, the sad, pregnant girl,” the math teacher notes, logically and not to mention mathematically.

Moving on, she hands him question two.

Question 2: Now, back at Rutgers University Library, the relationship between the sad girl and the angry boy is moving at a rate of 299 792 458 m / s. On a train track. A train is approaching at a rate of 70 miles per hour. Assume feelings are not as irrelevant as they are to mathematical theories.

“Fine,” the math teacher growls. The girl hands her math teacher the True/False section.

Welcome, one and all, to the True and False Section! Put T for True and F for False. Put T/F for sentences that are partially True and a bit False.

1. The angry boy is angry T

2. The sad girl is sad T

3. The angry boy is angry because the sad girl is sad T

4. The girl is sad because her parents are angry T

5. The sad girl is not just the sad girl – no, sir! When she is not practising her cello, completing homework assignments, or brushing her teeth, she is also, “that conformist girl in the 1950s movie who just can’t get it right because she keeps accidentally sleeping at angry boys’ homes and accidentally smoking pot in New Jersey.” T/F

6. In New Jersey, only Satan worshippers and dedicated slackers smoke pot T/F

 7. In Jersey, pretty much everyone smokes pot T

You are now exiting the True/False Section!

“For question 7,” the math teacher asks. “Are you referring to the Bailiwick of Jersey, or the New, more polished Jersey located in the Northeastern portion of the United States?”

She hands him question three.

Question 3:

3) Assume the angry boy is an anarchist. Assume he, therefore, does not include parents in his political theories. Assume he believes that parents are getting in his way. Now, if the angry boy is angry because the girl is sad, and if the girl is sad because her parents are angry, and if her parents are angry because the sad girl is with the angry boy, should the sad girl abandon the angry boy or her angry parents? Or the entire freakin’ world?

“Hmmmm,” the math teacher contemplates, switching the light bulb in his brain on, then off, then on. “Forgive me,” he says. “Nervous habit.”

She hands him question four.

Question 4: Assume words are spoken at the Rutgers University Library, and assume these words matter.

i. The angry boy says, “Stand up to your parents! Stand up to the universe!”

ii. The sad girl says, “Okay!”

iii. She takes a book off the shelves.

iv. She reads

“I think you forgot to ask the question,” the math teacher says.

The Big Question: Assume the sad girl is sad in the Rutgers University Library bathroom. Assume the girl ignores her 10th grade English teacher who once said, “Never use the word ‘tears’ in writing.” Do not place limitations, based on the rules of fictional universes, on these tears. English teachers be warned: Her tears weigh so much, are so plentiful, that if this were a baggage check, and her tears were in her luggage, she would be a security threat. Fortunately, everyone knows sad girls make horrible, indecisive terrorists, and prefer to hurt themselves with sub par decision making skills than to hurt anyone else. The boy will not be stopped either. The girl will not ask him to; she will just lie there, sobbing in a Rutgers University Library bathroom. Meanwhile, the angry boy will unleash all the anger he’s ever known in a somewhat sad attempt to become, not angry boy, but just, simply, boy.

Given these variables, identify whether or not the sad girl was raped.

“I think something is missing from this theory,” the math teacher says, his pulse beating like stricken calculator keys. “I mean, what book were you reading? Possibly, you weren’t raped. Possibly, it was just a really bad book.”

The girl checks out books on rape and theory. She gets Intimate Violence, When Rape Isn’t Quite Love, and Someone’s Knocking on the Door. A man on the bus asks her what she is reading. He wants small talk, and the girl feels like disclosing this information could only lead to Major Silence or Big Talk.

“Oh,” the girl says. “You know. Just your typical romance novel.”

Apparently, the boy on the bus is on his way to a Guys Supporting Other Guys for Guy Rights in a Female Rights Focused World meeting. “Wanna come?” the guy asks, giving her a wink. The girl thinks her presence might be inappropriate. As she says this, the guy looks like he might cry. He says that no women ever want to come. He says that an unhappy girl he once knew told everyone he cared about that he had raped her. “Being accused of rape is like being raped,” the guy says. “Of your friends.”

The sad girl does not specialize in theoretical grammar, but to be raped of friends sounds grammatically impossible, though only arguably literally impossible. In any event, the girl – or, rapist, you decide – runs back to the math teachers classroom, terrified of who she might rape next.

“I have more data,” she says. She sprinkles the integers and variables across his desk.

The Thing That Definitely Happened

The girl is in the bathroom at Rutgers University library, crying. The boy enters the bathroom.

The Thing That Happened


The conversation after things may have happened

“Why didn’t you stop?” the girl asks. “I was crying. I was being the sad girl. I was the girl in the bathroom crying. That was me. You saw me.”

“I don’t know,” the boy says. “I needed to hurt something, I guess.”

The girl laughs. “Makes sense. You are the angry boy.”

The boy says, “I raped you.” The girl shakes her head.

The boy is glad he didn’t just rape someone. That would be awful.

The girl asks to be excused. She walks to the top floor of the Rutgers University Library, and thinks to herself, He raped me. Then she quickly thinks as many thoughts as she possibly can, thoughts about tacos, thoughts about Laverne and Shirley, thoughts about all the possible words that can rhyme with giraffe, super deep thoughts about race and diversity, the best thoughts, the greatest thoughts.

She runs down the stairs to work on her Model United Nations essay about the Soviet Union’s role in the Korean War. Oh, the odd things girls decide to do after being maybe possibly raped!

The math teacher looks unsatisfied. “I can’t find the value of x,” he says, “without knowing the values of y and k and j. Where are y and k and j?”

The only people who might know are the girl’s goldfish. She told them everything, including x. One goldfish immediately died of confusion – just sank to the bottom. The other looked proud, like King of the Fish Bowl. “We never rape anyone,” the goldfish said with his eyes.

“Oh yeah?” the girl said. “And where has that gotten you?”

The girl goes to see a therapist. She sits on the couch just like they do in the movies. The therapist suggests that the girls’ sleep deprivation has permanently damaged her ability to make good choices. One of these choices was seeing a therapist.

She goes to see a doctor. She asks him, “Was I raped?” He checks her body, searching for plausible theories. “Nope, looking good!” he says. He gives her stickers of fruits, vegetables, and a sticker of a glass of apple juice. They toast to good health.

She goes to see some feminists. The feminists are practising “casual consent.” All the women get in lines of two. When the sad girl makes it to the front of the line, she turns to the girl next to her, and says, “I consent. You may have sex with me.” The other girl nods, and says, “You, too, may have sex with me.” Then they stare at one another, unsure of what to do. The whole thing is so so formal that suddenly the sad girl would rather not have sex at all, actually. So then it would be rape anyway! In theory.

She goes to a movie director, and hands him her theory. “This is the worst rape scene I have ever read,” the movie director says. “The characters are one dimensional. The setting is boring. I mean, come on, a library in New Jersey? I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Me either!” the girl exclaims, feeling terribly understood. The girl goes to visit the local chapter of The Gangs of Thugs. They, unfortunately, are nothing but polite and even offer to walk her, and all her grandmothers and dogs, across the street. The girl has a feeling that if she were raped by a gang of thugs this would all be more pleasant for everyone. Instead she was, theoretically, raped by a polite, vegan anarchist. She was maybe possibly raped by someone she loved, which makes everything awfully confusing. Where, oh where, are the gangs of thugs?

The girl writes a short story about rape, because she is a pain profiteer, kind of like George W. Bush only she profits from being raped instead of war. The point is, she’s evil.

She reads this short story about rape out loud in front of people she barely knows at a poetry reading. She imagines inviting the man who is not a rapist to the reading, but doesn’t. She imagines a version of herself who does and will never exist approaching him after the reading, just to, you know, ask him for his creative opinion, some feedback, anarchist to writer, guy who isn’t a rapist to girl who isn’t a rape victim.

“Hi,” an imaginary version of herself says to the imaginary version of her ex-boyfriend. The imaginary version of herself is so similar in appearance they might even be related. Since the sad girl left the Rutgers University Library three years ago, her sadness has grown up, gotten taller. Since receiving a perfume called Sorrow! from her mother for Christmas, her sadness has smelled sad, rich, and womanly, not unlike the sacred garlic pear flower.

“Hi,” an imaginary version of the angry boy says. “I’m sorry you think that I raped you.” His anger is hollow, empty, like he had finished drinking it from a beer can long, long ago, before he was even born.

“Oh, no, don’t worry, everyone rapes another person in one way or another at some point in their lives and besides I am sure you were high off of the dust from the library shelves and besides rape isn’t, like, the worst thing it’s not like killing someone’s mother, or German shepherd – ”

She stops. “Wait,” she says, and never says. “Was that an apology?”

“Apologies are irrelevant to mathematical theory,” the math teacher reminds her. “As a rule, the girl that is sad is the sad girl is the sad girl.”

The math teacher announces that he has reached a conclusion. He hands her a piece of paper.

Theory: The girl was raped.

Conclusion: The girl wasn’t.

“Oh,” the sad girl says. She wasn’t raped! Hooray! No rape! The sad girl gets to be the happy girl!

She exits her math teacher’s classroom. She passes by people who have gone through their whole lives without ever thinking, without ever wondering, if they were raped. She also passes by some people who wonder if they were raped as often as they shower, as often as they eat breakfast.

She reaches into her brain, and puts a thought in her pocket. When she is ready, which she will never be, she will think it. For now, she will, for all intents and purposes, with only a vague theory of what it means exactly to even move, move on.

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