Need to Know

A Duologue

By Antony Buonomo

“What about snot?”

“Just over six thousand litres. Do you want the exact amount?”

“No, that’s fine. What about sweat?”

“Mmm, strange. It’s almost the same. Nearly six and a half thousand litres.”

“Yes, that is strange. What about hair?”

“What about hair? Do you mean total weight? Or total length? Or daily shed, or maybe –”

“When was it longest?”

“May 17th 1982. The longest hair on your head reached twelve-point-two-seven centimetres at eleven thirty-six on that evening. Then you had a shower and it fell out. You had a haircut the next day.”

“Hmm.”

“What are you smiling about?”

“Nothing, just… nothing. Don’t worry. Total weight of fingernails.”

“Four hundred and twenty-four grams. Your longest was –”

“Not interested. Shit?”

“Total –“

“No. Give me the most at a single er… sitting.”

“Biggest single… sample… was sixty-nine grams in November 1982 and –“

“Busy year.”

“Pardon?”

“1982; busy year.”

“Yes. I suppose so.”

“Please continue.”

“Of course. The most at a single sitting was after the car accident when you were constipated for two weeks; one hundred and fifty-seven grams.”

“Yeah, I could have guessed that one.”

“Yes, I sympathise. Well, anything else I can help you with? Naturally you are entitled to as much time as you need but I do have other people to see.”

“Spunk.”

“I take it you mean…”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“We don’t get embarrassed. Are you referring to number of sperm, or semen as expressed as total weight? Actually ejaculated or only produced?”

“Second thoughts, forget it.”

“Very well, anything else?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Of course, take your time.”

“Let’s change tack a bit.”

“If you wish.”

“All right; when was I closest to killing somebody?”

“Ah, yes, interesting. For simplicity’s sake I think we should split this into two results; event-related and emotion-related.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, you may have got very angry with someone and killed them; we call this an emotion-related result. Whereas you influencing events that then conclude with someone dying is called an event-related result. Actually it’s more complicated than that but let’s leave it there. I haven’t even mentioned Parallel-Consonance outcomes.”

“Please…”

“Yes. Yes. Do you remember having an argument with your mother about your sister in the early nineties?”

“I thought you were providing the answers. No, of course not, I don’t think it was an isolated incident.”

“Well, during that argument you –“

“Look, I may have been angry but I wouldn’t actually contemplate actually killing her, –“

“I didn’t say you would. Please let me finish. Yes, all your indicators were very elevated, however during that argument you were weighing up whether to leave before saying any more. You decided to stay. If you had left at that moment you would have been walking to your car when two women would have approached you. They would have asked if you knew a good restaurant nearby. You would have recommended one and then got into your car. At the restaurant one of the women would choke to death on a piece of baguette.

“Oh.”

“Yes. As I say, things like Eventuality-Paradox come into play but this case is as clear we can expect.”

“And that was the closest?”

“Yes. Apart from your entries in the Confluence Index.”

“Well wha ­–“

“The CI is a more sophisticated indication of possible outcomes resulting from your actions combined with other people’s. Yours is about average and you almost caused the end of mankind only once. Not bad.”

“The end of mankind.”

“Only once. If you had decided to go to Naples for that football game in May ’97 and a doctor from Rome and an architect from Berlin had also decided to go, the Earth would have been a smouldering piece of charcoal four months later.”

“I want to change the subject.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Does everyone have a true love, a soul-mate?”

“Almost everyone. And sometimes more than one.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“What about mine?”

“I appreciate that this is something you want to know about. However, and this is from experience, I have seen many occasions where this information ­–“

“But if I ask you have to tell me. Right?”

“Well yes –”

“So just tell. What the hell else can happen to me?”

“Not strictly true. Your –“

“TELL ME.”

“Very well. The record will show I tried to warn you of the consequences. Let me see… well, first thing to say is congratulations, they do exist and that the two people in question are women. The first is a –”

“Is?”

“Yes, is. She is an eighteen year-old lapdancer working in San Diego.”

“My soul-mate is a lapdancer? You’re kidding?”

“Yes. Yes I am.”

“Are you allowed to do that?”

“I apologise. Surely no harm done.”

“Is there a way I can hurt you?”

“I’ll continue. In reality the lady is ­–”

“Stop. Wait. Just wait. Maybe you were right. What’s the nearest I ever got to her?”

“About three thousand miles.”

“Could we have met?”

“The indication is that it is unlikely. It looks like you were toying with the idea of travelling at one point… but you would have probably travelled with a woman and that would have decreased the chances of meeting the… er, lady, in question. It is a pity, you would have made each other almost perfectly happy.”

“Mm. What does ‘almost perfectly happy’ mean? In fact what does ‘happy’ mean? Do you have a chart for that too?”

“Of sorts. It’s our CS ­– Contentment Scale. To be completely honest you’ve hit on something; we’re still not sure that ‘happiness’ actually exists.”

“‘Contentment Scale’? Contentment — that’s the best you can do?”

“No. That’s the best you can do.”

“I’ve been happy. I’m sure I have.”

“Don’t confuse happiness with pleasure. Most of the high points on your CS happened before you were six years old. After that, nearly all of your peaks can be attributed to football, playing poker with your friends and watching movies. And before you say anything, the extremely high bio-chemical element involved in sex and love confuses us.”

“Us too. What about the other one? You said there were two.”

“‘Other’’ what? I don’t understand.”

“The ‘other’ woman. The ‘other’ perfect match, the ­–”

“Seriously; is there a point to this?”

“Maybe. Don’t care. Get on with it.”

“She is a book-restorer from Havana. She ­–”

“How old?”

“Aah, yes. About your age.”

“No lapdancing in her spare-time?”

“No.”

“Just checking. Go on.”

“She — well, you would have matched and stimulated each other on almost every level. As I say, a ‘soul-mate’.”

“How near did I get to her?”

“Very near.”

“This is serious, don’t play games. Please.”

“Remember the woman who nearly asked you to recommend a restaurant?”

“… yes… “

“Well, one of them was on a research visa from Cuba visiting a friend –“

“What?!”

“Look, try not to be too bothered. Actually, human existence is full of these occurrences. Your particular examples would take me more than 57 hours to relate to you. Are you all right?”

“I don’t know. I was seconds away from her.”

“Mm. Tragic. Yes. Truly awful.”

“Well, fuck you too.”

“She has a boyfriend. She wouldn’t look at you twice. She is happy enough.”

“Hold on. You said she was my soul-mate.”

“She was, or is. That doesn’t mean she would be able to know that just by looking at you. “

“I was thinking sparks. Or maybe a glowing halo of some kind.”

“This kind of thing happens to almost everyone almost every day. The idea that is going to make your fortune is triggered by the news item you are covering with your thumb as you read the newspaper. The person you are forced to share a table with in a crowded café is going to be the best friend you’ll ever have; if only you could stir from your pathetic torpor and work up the courage to talk to them. You turn left out of that café instead of right and three people die in a car wreck. Bad luck. Your best friend’s girlfriend is your soul-mate. Tough. If there was a mystical sign for all those things you would be knee-deep in fucking auras. Is there anything else?”

“Go back to spunk.”