Act II

A pub.

RAMSEY is at a table, reading Orson’s Euclid.

Orson comes over with a pint of beer and a glass of gin and tonic. He sets down the gin and tonic in front of Ramsey.

Orson sits down.

ORSON: I’m honestly inclined to believe she’s a spirit of the night. From dawn to dusk she has no existence beyond the memories she sows in the minds of those who meet her. Like a star, she disappears in the full light of day.

Ramsey puts down the Euclid.

RAMSEY: Godel. Kurt bastard Godel. I hate him.

ORSON: It wasn’t love at first sight. Couldn’t have been. I’ve modeled the dynamics of attraction and can state quite categorically that love at first sight is a fallacy.

RAMSEY: That guy really knew how to pull the rug out from under a fellow’s belief system.

ORSON: It was when she showed me how she killed her husband – that’s when I fell in love with her. You’d have done the same if you’d seen the perfect parabola she used. How many murders do you suppose have been committed with such exquisite geometry? Not many, I’d bet.

RAMSEY: Why couldn’t he have left well enough alone? Why did he have to be a smart-arse? I was a fool to believe that mathematics could describe the Universe down to its last detail, but at least I was a happy fool. Maths gave me the strength to get up in the morning. It lent meaning and purpose to my life. It was my church.

ORSON: It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the more I think about it now, the more certain I am that she was falling in love with me.

RAMSEY: If Godel was here now, I’d pull out his intestines and shove them up his arse.

ORSON: Her eyes spoke to me. They were praying I would rip her evening gown from her exquisite body and penetrate her with my throbbing manhood. And I would have done – except I didn’t know how. I’m a virgin, Ramsey. Did you know that? I expect that comes as something of a surprise to you. Or does it? Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before.

RAMSEY: Any complex logical system is incomplete. Thus spake Kurt Godel.

ORSON: The bus was late, of course. It’s always late. I’ve no idea if it ever turned up because I decided to walk. Took me six hours to get home. Three hundred and sixty minutes of my life I’ll never see again.

RAMSEY: At any given time, a complex logical system contains more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules. Therefore, we can never be sure of anything. There’s no certainty. If there’s an Ultimate Truth out there, we’ll never get so much as a glimpse of it. And even if we did, we’d have no way of knowing it was the Ultimate Truth.

ORSON: Do you know the difference between lust and love, Ramsey? Lust can be modeled in two dimensions using integers and a few basic operands. Love on the other hand – love is much more complex. To describe it, you need to postulate at least six dimensions and resort to irrational numbers. Love is something akin to the square root of minus one.

RAMSEY (angrily): Why didn’t you warn me? I thought you were my friend. It’s your fault that my psyche is in ruins and the pain of living has become too much to bear. If I’d known about Godel, I would never have got myself mixed up with maths.

ORSON: Do you remember when we met? It was at the bus shelter – the one I spent half of last night at. Some time between Christmas and New Year. It was snowing and we were both as pissed as farts. You had a bottle of cider and I had some cheap brandy which I was going to use for cooking. The bus was late. We chatted for hours and got legless.

RAMSEY: You showed me Euclid’s axioms. All five of them. It was a revelation. I looked at those axioms and thought to myself, ‘Fuck me. This old Greek has it sussed. Five statements of the obvious from which we can map the entire Universe.’ I especially liked that thing about parallel lines. That’s what hooked me.

ORSON: I thought I understood the axioms until last night. All that stuff about equals being added to equals and the wholes being equals. What does that mean?

RAMSEY: I never understood that either.

ORSON: Is there a brothel in this town? I promised Jessica I’d lose my virginity before I saw her again. I haven’t much time. How does one go about finding a knocking shop? I looked in the Yellow Pages but it doesn’t list brothels.

RAMSEY: Did you try under Bordellos?

ORSON: Naturally. I also looked under Banios, Bawdyhouses, Harems and Seraglios. I even tried Social Services.

Ramsey takes out a bottle of pills.

RAMSEY: I got these from a chemist’s shop yesterday morning. As I was going in, a young lady approached me. She asked if I would get her some poison. ‘If you want poison,’ I said, ‘you can get it yourself.’

ORSON: I should look in the newsagent’s window. That’s where they advertise, isn’t it? ‘French lessons. Thirty pounds an hour.’ That kind of thing.

Ramsey empties the pills into his gin and tonic.

RAMSEY: Eight of these will do the trick. I bought sixteen to make sure. The pharmacist was most helpful. He gets a lot of people wanting to kill themselves. ‘Take these,’ he said. ‘You won’t feel a thing. It’ll be just like falling asleep.’

ORSON: Do you want to come with me?

RAMSEY: Where?

ORSON: To the knocking shop.

RAMSEY: I’m just about to kill myself.

ORSON: I’ll pay. It’ll be my treat.

Ramsey stirs his drink with his finger.

RAMSEY: These are dissolving nicely. He knows his stuff, that pharmacist. ‘No more than sixteen,’ he said. ‘Otherwise you’ll vomit and you can kiss death goodbye.’

ORSON: I’m not sure what to do once I got there. Is there some coded euphemism I should use? Or should I just march straight in and say, ‘I would like to have sex with one of your tarts, please’? What’s the etiquette in these situations?

RAMSEY: Do you know the worst thing about dying, Orson? It’s knowing that you’re never going to read your own obituary.

ORSON: I don’t care what the girl looks like. So long as she’s clean and doesn’t swear. And I don’t want a redhead. There’s something about redheads that makes me uncomfortable – especially if they have green eyes.

Ramsey knocks the gin and tonic back in one go. He pulls a face.

RAMSEY: Tastes like cough medicine.

ORSON: Do you think people can tell just by looking whether you’re a virgin or not?

RAMSEY: I thought so until I lost my cherry. As I emerged from that alleyway, I expected to be greeted by a chorus of congratulations. I anticipated hearty handshakes and the popping of champagne corks. Wild cheering, marching bands, bunting. A ticker tape parade! Maybe even a telegram from the Queen. And all I got was a pointed question from my mum about the state of my trousers. What’s the point of losing your cherry if nobody but your mum takes the blindest bit of notice?

ORSON: What did you say you were doing tonight?

RAMSEY: Killing myself.

ORSON: And tomorrow?

Ramsey looks quizzically at Orson.

ORSON: Sorry. Stupid question. I tell you what, why not come to the knocking shop with me? Have one last shag before dying?

RAMSEY: I’ve already swallowed the pills. I won’t live to see the dawn.

ORSON: Pity. It’s your round, by the way.

RAMSEY: If I give you the money, will you go up and get them? These pills kick in awfully quick. I’d hate to keel over on my way to the bar. People will think I’m pissed.

ORSON: Actually, I’d better not drink any more – not if I’m going to have sex.

RAMSEY: Quite wise. The trick with alcohol and sex is to drink enough to get your nerve up but not so much you can’t get anything else up.

ORSON: Of course, that’s all academic if I can’t find a brothel.

RAMSEY: Do you know Harwell Street?

ORSON: Down by the industrial estate?

RAMSEY: Go to number forty-seven and ring the doorbell twice. Say you’ve come to read the gas meter. Once inside, ask for Rosa. If you mention my name, she’ll probably give you a discount. You can’t go wrong with Rosa. She’s very talented.

ORSON: Rosa.

RAMSEY: Give her my love. And say goodbye for me.

ORSON: Will do.

RAMSEY: Explain to her that I won’t be requiring her services any more and that we’ll never have that Caribbean cruise together and it’s all down to Kurt Godel. She’ll understand.

ORSON: Do you think I should take my treatise with me?

RAMSEY: Rosa is not what you’d call mathematically inclined.

ORSON: Pity. I have a certain hypothesis I’d like to test.

RAMSEY: Test it by all means. She’s very accommodating.

ORSON: Perhaps I should have another beer before I go? What do you think? Dutch courage and all that.

RAMSEY: I wouldn’t if I were you.

ORSON: Perhaps you’re right. I’d best be going.

RAMSEY: Good luck.

ORSON: You’ll be all right, will you? I’d like to stay but time’s getting short.

RAMSEY: I’ll be fine.

ORSON: Listen, I was wondering. My watch isn’t working and seeing as you won’t be needing yours…

Ramsey takes off his watch.

RAMSEY: Here – take it.

Orson takes the watch and examines it.

ORSON: This looks a bit cheap. Where did you get it?

RAMSEY: Singapore.

ORSON: Right. See you then.

Orson takes a last swig of beer and hurries off.

Ramsey contemplates his empty glass.

RAMSEY: I think I’ll have one for the road.

Ramsey stands up. He staggers.

RAMSEY: Perhaps not.

Ramsey sits back down. He holds his head in his hands.

RAMSEY: Bugger Godel. (thumps the table) Bugger him to hell.

Enter Jessica. She looks around uncertainly.

Angrily, Ramsey picks up the Euclid and throws it to the floor.

RAMSEY: It’s all your fault, Euclid. You and your triangles and arcs and lines that never intersect. You seduced me!

Jessica contemplates the Euclid. She bends down and picks it up.

JESSICA: What is it about Euclid that gets folks so worked up?

Ramsey glares at Jessica.

RAMSEY: What the sodding hell do you know about Euclid?

JESSICA: ‘If equals are added to equals, the wholes are equal.’

RAMSEY: Good Lord. A woman who’s read Euclid! I never thought I’d live to see the day. Almost didn’t as it happens.

JESSICA: I wouldn’t say I was an expert.

RAMSEY: I know you. You’re the young lady who approached me outside the chemist’s shop.

JESSICA: I am not in the habit of propositioning strangers.

RAMSEY: You asked me to get you some poison.

JESSICA: You must be thinking of someone else.

RAMSEY: Perhaps I am. I don’t know. My mind is in a daze. The old certainties no long apply. I feel like a man gazing at the night sky only to discover that the stars have all gone.

JESSICA: Do you mind if I join you? I hate being in a pub on my own. Makes a girl feel vulnerable.

RAMSEY: I’m not very good company right now.

Jessica sits down.

RAMSEY: I’m depressed. I’m angry. I’ve lost my faith in Euclid.

JESSICA: It could be worse.

RAMSEY: I’m dying.

JESSICA: You need cheering up. Lucky for you I came along. Men seem to find my company pleasant. I think it’s my cheek bones.

RAMSEY: If Godel were here now…

JESSICA: Are you expecting him?

RAMSEY: He’s dead. Has been for some time. I’m not upset because he’s not here; I’m upset because he’s turned my world upside down.

JESSICA: Sorry. You must think I’m awfully thick, but I thought you were waiting for Godel.

RAMSEY: Do you know what he says? He says that at any given time, a complex logical system contains more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules.

JESSICA: No wonder you’re depressed.

RAMSEY: I’d get you a drink but it’s not safe for me to stand. I’ve popped some pills. They’re beginning to kick in. I didn’t think they’d act so quickly. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken them with alcohol.

JESSICA: Never take pills with alcohol. I thought everyone knew that.

RAMSEY: The pharmacist should have warned me.

JESSICA: Don’t worry about the drink. I only came in to see if a friend of mine was here. From what he told me, this must be where he drinks. Funnily enough, he has the same copy of the Axioms and Postulates as you do.

RAMSEY: You’re talking about Orson.

JESSICA: You know him?

RAMSEY: I’m his best friend.

JESSICA: He told me he didn’t have any friends.

RAMSEY: Why would he say a thing like that? I feel hurt.

JESSICA: I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.

RAMSEY: I let him teach me everything I know about geometry. And this is how he repays me!

JESSICA: Perhaps he was confusing you with his puppy. Grief can do that to a man. He got very emotional when he spoke of it.

RAMSEY: Grief? He was glad to see the back of the damned thing. It pooped everywhere.

JESSICA: That’s not how he told it.

RAMSEY: He hated that puppy. Do you know what he called it? The European Poop Mountain – and for good reason. Mind you, it didn’t deserve to die the way it did.

JESSICA: I’m afraid to ask this but – exactly how did it die?

RAMSEY: Let’s just say it died of heat stroke.

JESSICA: Sounds like a euphemism. I don’t like euphemisms.

RAMSEY: They have their uses.

JESSICA: How would you like it if you died of a euphemism? You owe it to that poor puppy to state its cause of death in plain English.

RAMSEY: You don’t want to know.

JESSICA: I’m in love with Orson. I want to know everything there is to know about him.

RAMSEY: You’re what? In love with Orson? Are you mad? How could anybody be in love with Orson? Even his mother hates him.

JESSICA: I realise he’s a deeply unattractive person with few or no redeeming features, but for some perverse reason I find myself wanting his babies.

RAMSEY: You are one very sick woman.

JESSICA: That’s part of my attraction.

RAMSEY: The thought of Orson having babies! Dear God! Death can’t come soon enough. I’m begging you – don’t let a single sperm of his anywhere near your ovaries. If Mother Nature had meant for him to replicate, she wouldn’t have made him such a geek.

JESSICA: I think you’re being unfair. Imagine a baby with my looks and his brains.

RAMSEY: Supposing it was the other way round?

JESSICA: I’d have to drown the little sod.

RAMSEY: Listen. I’ll tell you the only thing you need to know about Orson. The bastard’s driven me to suicide. He introduced me to maths and led me to believe that the Universe is an ordered and rational place. And he’ll do the same to you.

JESSICA: Not easily.

RAMSEY: If only he’d warned me about Godel! I wouldn’t have bothered with maths if he’d done that. I’d have joined the navy.

JESSICA: This Godel sounds dangerous. I think I’ll avoid him and stick to Euclid. And possibly Isaac Newton.

RAMSEY: I have taken sixteen pills. Even as we speak, they are releasing chemicals into my bloodstream. Those chemicals are slowly shutting down my Central Nervous System. Soon, I will lapse into a coma and slowly slip this mortal coil. I shall cease to exist.

JESSICA: Sounds fascinating. How are you feeling?

RAMSEY: Whoozy. A little light-headed.

JESSICA: Any regrets?

RAMSEY: Only that I ever set eyes on Orson.

JESSICA: You still haven’t told me how the puppy met its end.

RAMSEY: Orson put it in my microwave. There was a crackling sound. Sparks crawled over its body. It lit up like the aurora borealis. And then the puppy let out a pathetic yelp and exploded.

JESSICA: How terrible.

RAMSEY: I couldn’t eat for a week afterwards.

JESSICA: Seeing a puppy explode would ruin anyone’s appetite.

RAMSEY: There was nothing wrong with my appetite. The puppy had wrecked my microwave. It took me a week to get the money together for a new one.

JESSICA: Where’s Orson now?

RAMSEY: You just missed him. Once he knew I was about to peg it, he couldn’t get out of here fast enough.

JESSICA: We’ve got an assignation arranged for tonight. A secret lover’s tryst. I bet he’s gone home to have a bath and change his clothes.

RAMSEY: Not if we’re talking about the same person. The Orson I know doesn’t bathe unless there’s a ‘q’ in the month. He’s taken himself off to get laid.

JESSICA: He mentioned he might. He seems to have a hang-up about being a virgin.

RAMSEY: Didn’t use to. He was always boasting about how he’d managed to hang on to his cherry. Said for his age that made him unique. ‘Orson,’ I said to him, ‘the fact that you’ve never been laid is not a measure of your will power; it’s an inevitability. You’ll always be unique, regardless of whether or not you get to dip your wick.’

JESSICA: You’re right about that.

RAMSEY: But then we’re all unique, aren’t we? There’s nothing unique about being unique.

JESSICA: That sounds like something Euclid might have said.

RAMSEY: Shall I tell you the real tragedy of my life? It’s this: five years ago, when I was struggling to come to terms with being divorced, I met Orson instead of someone like you.

JESSICA: I’d only have broken your heart.

RAMSEY: Are you going to break Orson’s?

JESSICA: I expect so.

RAMSEY: Good.

JESSICA: It’s not that I want to; it’s just my nature, that’s all.

RAMSEY: I’m not criticising. We all have our role in life. If yours is breaking hearts then so be it.

JESSICA: I’m as my maker made me.

RAMSEY: Amen to that.

JESSICA: Except for my thighs. My maker gave me cellulite. I didn’t want it so I went to Pasadena to have it removed. You might call that blasphemy, but I see it as fulfilling God’s plan. God gave us an imperfect Universe so that we could spend our time fixing it.

RAMSEY: That’s an interesting point of view.

JESSICA: People make the mistake of thinking God’s under some obligation to get everything right. They think He has to because he’s God, but He doesn’t have to do anything. If He wants to mess things up that’s his prerogative. We’ve no right to demand anything of Him, especially not perfection.

RAMSEY: I couldn’t agree more. Being perfect in every way must make for a boring life. If I was God and perfect and could do any damned thing I liked, do you know what I would do? I’d make myself imperfect. I’d introduce uncertainty into my existence.

JESSICA: So you wouldn’t know everything?

RAMSEY: Heck, no.

JESSICA: And where would this imperfection lead?

RAMSEY: To a Universe beyond comprehension.

JESSICA: So that at any given time, a complex logical system contains more true statements than it can possibly prove according to its own defining set of rules?

RAMSEY: Shit!

Ramsey puts his head in his hands and groans.

RAMSEY: What have I done?

JESSICA: You’ve taken sixteen pills.

RAMSEY: I thought Godel’s theorem proved the absence of God. I had it back to front.

JESSICA: You saw human nature as a flaw in the fabric of Creation rather than the glue that holds it together.

RAMSEY: I’m afraid you’ve lost me.

JESSICA: You ignored the anthropic principle which says that the Universe only exists because we are here to observe it. Without us, there is no reality.

RAMSEY: I don’t follow.

JESSICA: Our humanity, our flaws, our imperfections – these are the things that make existence bearable for God and for us.

RAMSEY: Who are you? Where do you get these profound notions?

JESSICA: It’s a mystery even to me. I seem to know a lot of things without knowing how I know them. Usually, I don’t even know that I know them. I’ll be having a conversation and all of a sudden I’ll say something quite brilliant, right out of the blue. It just pops into my head.

RAMSEY: It’s called inspiration.

JESSICA: I think it’s down to reincarnation. I must be carrying knowledge over from my previous lives. For instance, how many fundamental forces are there in the Universe?

RASMEY: Four – the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity.

JESSICA: And what unites them all? What makes them work together? Where is the unified force?

RAMSEY: I don’t know. Nobody does.

JESSICA: I do.

Jessica taps her forehead.

JESSICA: It’s here. This is what makes the Universe work. This is what unifies the four fundamental forces – human consciousness. That occurred to me the other night. I’ve no idea where the notion sprang from. It just came to me. To be honest, I’m not sure what it means. Aren’t you glad you met me?

RAMSEY: I have taken sixteen pills. They are stripping my soul apart piece by piece. It didn’t matter a few minutes ago when I didn’t believe I had a soul, but now…

JESSICA: In mathematics you learn by your mistakes as much as your successes. Orson taught me that.

RAMSEY: Suicide is a mortal sin. God gave me the gift of life and I’ve thrown it right back in His face. I’ve damned my soul to eternal torment.

JESSICA: It’s a shame you never met my husband. He could have given you one hundred and one reasons why the soul can’t possibly exist. There is no God, he always said. No afterlife. And you couldn’t argue with him. He knew his stuff. Made millions out of selling can openers.

RAMSEY: And that makes him an expert on metaphysics?

JESSICA: That and the fact he died and rose from the dead.

RAMSEY: Don’t talk nonsense.

JESSICA: It’s true. There was an article in the local paper.

RAMSEY: The trouble with God is that he never calls. He’s like some distant uncle out in India you’ve never met. You have the feeling you’d be great friends but you’re always waiting for him to make the first move.

JESSICA: I had an uncle in India. I don’t think he was God though.

RAMSEY: I can feel the pills working. Molecules breaking apart. Synapses shutting down. Neurons dying.

JESSICA: Did you know Orson’s got three can openers?

RAMSEY: Do you remember in ‘2001’ where the computer has its memory modules removed one by one? (singing) Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.

JESSICA: Who’s Daisy? Your girlfriend?

RAMSEY: My soul is being disassembled. The fragile remnants of my identity are drifting away like dandelion seeds on a summer’s breeze. A few hours from now, I’ll be lying on a slab. They’ll dissect me and put my various bits into jars filled with formaldehyde. Like a piece of meat, I will be catalogued and processed.

JESSICA: I knew a girl called Daisy once. Didn’t like her.

RAMSEY: Look, I know we’ve only just met and I wouldn’t normally jump in like this, but I was wondering if…

JESSICA: I’d go to your funeral?

RAMSEY: Yes.

JESSICA: I’d love to, but it’s rather awkward right now.

RAMSEY: Of course it is.

JESSICA: I’m sorry.

RAMSEY: No. Not at all. Please. It was rather presumptuous of me to ask. Let’s say no more about it.

JESSICA: Don’t take it personally. It’s just that I’ve recently killed my husband and it’s far too soon for me to start burying other men.

RAMSEY: I understand.

JESSICA: Some other time, perhaps.

RAMSEY: Orson was right. You are a spirit of the night.

JESSICA: That doesn’t sound like a compliment.

RAMSEY: He called you his Angel of the Bus Shelter.

JESSICA: Tell me something about him.

RAMSEY: He’s a git.

JESSICA: I meant something I don’t know. Where does he work?

RAMSEY: He works at the UK Institute of Pataphysics.

JESSICA: So he’s a pataphysicist? Is that useful?

RAMSEY: No.

JESSICA: And you? What do you do?

RAMSEY: I’m an amateur.

JESSICA: An amateur what?

RAMSEY: If I knew that, I’d turn professional.

JESSICA: I think I’d better go now.

RAMSEY: Something I said?

JESSICA: I have to freshen up. I want to look my best for Orson.

RAMSEY: He’s at the local knocking shop shagging Rosa.

JESSICA: Did he take his treatise with him?

RAMSEY: Probably. I told him not to but he’s quite vain about it. Leaves it lying around where people can sneak a look. When he catches them, he pretends to be cross but he’s secretly pleased.

JESSICA: I thought as much.

RAMSEY: Did he show you any of it?

JESSICA: ‘A Silkworm Spinning A Cocoon.’

RAMSEY: ‘While lying on her back, the woman raises and spreads her thighs to expose her clitoris to powerful stimulation.’

JESSICA: That’s the one.

RAMSEY: That’s not even the Kama Sutra. It’s from The Perfumed Garden.

JESSICA: I hope he’s not showing it to some common tart.

Ramsey clutches at his chest. When he speaks, it is with great effort.

RAMSEY: You’ve got no worries there. Rosa’s not the least bit interested in maths. She can’t even read a newspaper without moving her lips.

JESSICA: Are you all right?

RAMSEY: Everything’s going dark… starting to fade away. This is it then. This is the end.

JESSICA: Like I say, I’ve got to be going. Is there anything you’d like me to say to Orson for you?

RAMSEY: Yes. Bugger Godel.

Ramsey slumps forward – dead. Jessica gets to her feet.

JESSICA: Bugger Godel.

Jessica picks up the Euclid and opens it.

JESSICA (reading): ‘Axiom 3. If equals are subtracted from equals, then the wholes are equal.’ (nods knowingly) Makes sense.

Jessica drops the Euclid on the table and exits.

(End of Act II)

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