Saturday 6 June 2020

'A Date Without Small Talk' by Neil Clark

I hate small talk, so I thought it was cool when we hugged and you said, “Hi, nice to meet you. Do you think that time existed before the universe was formed?”

We went mini-golfing. I asked you if you thought it was possible that a miniature Earth, maybe the size of one of these golf balls, might exist somewhere inside this normal-sized Earth.

“How do you know we’re not already inside this miniature Earth you speak of?” you said. “How do you know giant clones of us aren’t walking around out there, having this same exact conversation?”

“Except I guess they’d be calling it just golf,” I said.

The rest of the date might have lasted a minute or a million eons. I don’t remember, because you made me feel dizzy like my world was a vortex on course for a black hole.

Whenever it ended, I asked if I could see you again.

You told me this was inevitable, because the universe is expanding and will continue to expand until it begins to collapse. Then it will collapse until it has collapsed to nothing. From there, it will start expanding again, and it will expand in exactly the same way it expanded before. All events will be exactly the same. Eventually, it, and we, will arrive back at this exact moment. This has already happened a trillion times before, and it will happen a trillion times again. The universe is trapped in this cycle.

“So yes,” you said. “You will see me again. In this iteration of existence or the next.”

A day later, I messaged you. I said the weather was nice. I asked how you were doing and what you were getting up to.

I waited for you to message back.

I waited and I waited.

I waited more. I waited longer than it takes for the universe to expand and collapse and then expand again until the moment we first met. I waited for so long that I now have a definitive answer to your question:

No. Time did not exist before the universe got formed. If it did, surely by now I’d have seen you again.

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