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Chapter 35
I was still in the chair when I woke the next morning. It wascold and raining and my laptop battery had exhausted itself. Ishook my head to test for a hangover but it seemed that myalcohol-processing enzymes had done their job adequately. Sohad my brain. I had unconsciously set it a problem to solveand, understanding the importance of the situation, it hadovercome the handicap of intoxication to reach a solution.
I began the second half of my life by making coffee. Then Ireviewed the very simple logic.
1. I was wired differently. One of the characteristics of mywiring was that I had difficulty empathising. This problem hasbeen well documented in others and is, in fact, one of thedefining symptoms of the autism spectrum.
2. A lack of empathy would account for my inability to respondemotionally to the situations of fictional characters in films. Thiswas similar to my inability to respond as others did to thevictims of the World Trade Center273/290terrorist attacks. But I did feel sorry for Frank the firefighterguide. And for Daphne; my sister; my parents when my sisterdied; Carl and Eugenie because of the Gene–Claudia marriagecrisis; Gene himself, who wanted to be admired but hadachieved the opposite; Claudia, who had agreed to an openmarriage but changed her mind and suffered as Genecontinued to exploit it; Phil, who had struggled to deal with hiswife’s infidelity and death and then to win the love of Rosie;Kevin Yu, whose focus on passing the course had blinded himto ethical conduct; the Dean, who had to make difficultdecisions under contradictory rules and deal with prejudiceabout her dress and relationship; Faith Healer, who had toreconcile his strong beliefs with scientific evidence; MargaretCase, whose son had committed suicide and whose mind nolonger functioned; and, critically, Rosie, whose childhood andnow adulthood had been made unhappy by her mother’s deathand her father problem and who now wanted me to love her.
This was an impressive list, and, though it did not include Rickand Ilsa from Casablanca, it was clear evidence that myempathy capability was not entirely absent.
3. An inability (or reduced ability) to empathise is not the sameas an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for anotherperson, often defying logic.
4. Rosie had failed numerous criteria on the Wife Project,including the critical smoking question. My feelings for hercould not be explained by logic. I did not care about MerylStreep. But I was in love with Rosie.
274/290I had to act quickly, not because I believed the situation withRosie was likely to change in the immediate future, but becauseI needed my jacket, which was, I hoped, still in the rubbishbin where I had thrown it. Luckily I was already dressed fromthe previous evening.
It was still raining when I arrived at the bin, just in time tosee it emptied into a garbage truck compactor. I had acontingency plan, but it was going to take time. I turned thebike around to head for home and crossed the road. Slumpedin a shop doorway, out of the rain, was a hobo. He was fastasleep, and he was wearing my jacket. I carefully reached intothe inside pocket and extracted the envelope and my phone.
As I remounted my bike, I saw a couple on the other side ofthe street watching me. The male started to run towards me,but the woman called him back. She was making a call on hermobile phone.
It was only 7.48 a.m. when I arrived at the university. A policecar approached from the opposite direction, slowed as it passedme, then signalled a U-turn. It occurred to me that it couldhave been summoned to deal with my apparent theft from thehobo. I turned quickly down the bicycle path, where I couldnot be followed by a mo-tor vehicle, and headed towards theGenetics building to find a towel.
As I opened the unlocked door of my office it was obviousthat I had had a visitor, and who that visitor had been. Thered roses were lying on my desk. So was the Father Projectfile, which had been removed from its home in the filingcabinet. The list of father-candidate names and sampledescriptions was on the desk beside it. Rosie had left a note.
Don, I’m sorry about everything. But I know whoTable-Napkin Man is. I’ve told Dad. I probably shouldn’thave but I was very upset.
I tried to call you. Sorry again. Rosie.
There was a lot of crossed-out writing between Sorry againand Rosie. But this was a disaster! I needed to warn Gene.
275/290His diary indicated a breakfast meeting at the University Club. Ichecked the PhD area, and Stefan was there, but not Rosie.
Stefan could see that I was highly agitated, and followed me.
We reached the club, and located Gene at a table with theDean. But at another table, I saw Rosie. She was with Claudiaand seemed very distressed. I realised that she could besharing the news about Gene, even prior to a DNA ratification.
The Father Project was ending in total disaster. But I hadcome for something else. I was desperate to share myrevelation. We could resolve the other problem later.
I ran to Rosie’s table. I was still wet as a result of forgettingto dry myself. Rosie was obviously surprised to see me. Idispensed with formalities.
‘I’ve made an incredible mistake. I can’t believe I’ve b............
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