Solution to the Three-Body Problem (microfiction)

(an original)


Today in physics class, we were asked to solve The Three-Body Problem. Given three objects, no friction, only gravity to pull at each other — how do they move?

In certain initial configurations, three bodies move around each other forever: a stable orbit. Move one of them, just a bit, and the entire system becomes chaotic. One might collapse too hard into another — indistinguishable, three bodies into two. Or one might be flung out entirely — irretrievable. As the force of the third wanes and wanes, the pair of leftover bodies recover into stable orbits, once again.

Tonight at our place, he asked me for ten minutes to take a phone call before he came back to bed — “soon, babe, soon.” I knew and maybe he knew I knew, too — we had both been in class today. But I didn’t say anything to him and held him just the same. Physics gave me hope — we couldn’t orbit like this forever, three bodies pulling on each other. Something would budge, and maybe we, a pair of leftover bodies, could fall into stable orbits, once again.

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