Chapter no 16

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)

e candidate’s name was Bianca Rivera and she met all criteria. ere was one obstacle, which I would need to devote time to. She noted that she had twice won the state ballroom dancing championship, and she required her partner to be an accomplished dancer. It seemed perfectly reasonable for her to have some criteria of her own, and this one was easy to satisfy. And I had the perfect place to take her.

I called Regina, the Dean’s assistant, and confirmed that she was still selling tickets for the faculty ball. en I emailed Bianca and invited her as my partner. She accepted! I had a date—the perfect date. Now I had ten days to learn to dance.

• • •

Gene entered my oce as I was practicing my dance steps.

“I think the longevity statistics were based on marriages to live women, Don.”

He was referring to the skeleton I was using for practice. I had obtained it on loan from the Anatomy Department, and no one had asked what I required it for. Judging from the pelvis size, it was almost certainly a male skeleton, but this was irrelevant for dancing practice. I explained its purpose to Gene, pointing out the scene from the film Grease that was showing on the wall of my oce.

“So,” said Gene, “Ms. Right—sorry, Dr. Right, PhD, just popped into your inbox.”

“Her name’s not Wright,” I said, “it’s Rivera.” “Photo?”

“Not necessary. e meeting arrangements are quite precise. She’s coming to the faculty ball.”

“Oh shit.” Gene went silent for a while and I resumed dancing practice. “Don, the faculty ball is a week from Friday.”


“You can’t learn to dance in nine days.”

“Ten. I started yesterday. e steps are trivial to remember. I just need to practice the mechanics. ey’re considerably less demanding than martial arts.”

I demonstrated a sequence.

“Very impressive,” said Gene. “Sit down, Don.” I sat.

“I hope you’re not too pissed off at me about Rosie,” he said.

I had almost forgotten. “Why didn’t you tell me she was a psychology student? And about the bet?”

“From what Claudia said, you guys seemed to be having a good time. I thought if she wasn’t telling you, it was for a reason. She may be a bit twisted but she’s not stupid.”

“Perfectly reasonable,” I said. On matters of human interaction, why argue with a professor of psychology?

“I’m glad one of you is all right with it,” said Gene. “I have to tell you, Rosie was a little unhappy with me. A little unhappy with life. Listen, Don, I persuaded her to go to the ball. Alone. If you knew how often Rosie takes my advice, you’d realize what a big deal that was. I was going to suggest you do the same.”

“Take your advice?”

“No, go to the ball—alone. Or invite Rosie as your partner.”

I now saw what Gene was suggesting. Gene is so focused on attraction and sex that he sees it everywhere. is time he was totally in error.

“Rosie and I discussed the question of a relationship explicitly. Neither of us is interested.”

“Since when do women discuss anything explicitly?” said Gene.

• • •

I visited Claudia for some advice on my crucial date with Bianca. I assumed that she would be there in her role as Gene’s wife, and I advised her that I

might require assistance on the night. It turned out she wasn’t even aware of the ball.

“Just be yourself, Don. If she doesn’t want you for yourself, then she’s not the right person for you.”

“I think it’s unlikely that any woman would accept me for myself.” “What about Daphne?” asked Claudia.

It was true: Daphne was unlike the women I had dated. is was excellent therapy—refutation by counterexample. Perhaps Bianca would be a younger, dancing version of Daphne.

“And what about Rosie?” asked Claudia. “Rosie is totally unsuitable.”

“I wasn’t asking that,” said Claudia. “Just whether she accepts you for yourself.”

I thought about it for a few moments. It was a dicult question. “I think so. Because she isn’t evaluating me as a partner.”

“It’s probably good that you feel like that,” said Claudia.

• • •

Feel! Feel, feel, feel! Feelings were disrupting my sense of well-being. In addition to a nagging desire to be working on the Father Project rather than the Wife Project, I now had a high level of anxiety related to Bianca.

roughout my life I have been criticized for a perceived lack of emotion, as if this were some absolute fault. Interactions with psychiatrists and psychologists—even including Claudia—start from the premise that I should be more “in touch” with my emotions. What they really mean is that I should give in to them. I am perfectly happy to detect, recognize, and analyze emotions. is is a useful skill and I would like to be better at it. Occasionally an emotion can be enjoyed—the gratitude I felt for my sister, who visited me even during the bad times, the primitive feeling of wellbeing after a glass of wine—but we need to be vigilant that emotions do not cripple us.

I diagnosed brain overload and set up a spreadsheet to analyze the situation.

I began by listing the recent disturbances to my schedule. Two were unquestionably positive. Eva, the short-skirted cleaner, was doing an excellent job and had freed up considerable time. Without her, most of the recent additional activities would not have been possible. And anxiety

notwithstanding, I had my first fully qualified applicant for the Wife Project. I had made a decision that I wanted a partner and for the first time I had a viable candidate. Logic dictated that the Wife Project, to which I had planned to allocate most of my free time, should now receive maximum attention. Here, I identified problem number one. My emotions were not aligned with logic. I was reluctant to pursue the opportunity.

I did not know whether to list the Father Project as positive or negative, but it had consumed enormous time for zero outcome. My arguments for pursuing it had always been weak, and I had done far more than could reasonably be expected of me. If Rosie wanted to locate and obtain DNA from the remaining candidates, she could do so herself. She now had substantial practical experience with the collection procedure. I could oer to perform the actual tests. Once again, logic and emotion were not in step. I wanted to continue the Father Project. Why?

It is virtually impossible to make useful comparisons of levels of happiness, especially across long periods of time. But if I had been asked to choose the happiest day of my life, I would previously have nominated, without hesitation, the first day I spent at the American Museum of Natural History in New York when I traveled there for a conference during my PhD studies. e second-best day was the second day there, and the third-best the third day there. But after recent events, the answer was not so clear. It was dicult to choose between the Natural History Museum and the night of cocktail making at the golf club. Should I therefore consider resigning my job and accepting Amghad’s oer of a partnership in a cocktail bar? Would I be permanently happier? e idea seemed ludicrous.

e cause of my confusion was that I was dealing with an equation that contained large negative values, most seriously the disruption to my schedule, and large positive values, the consequential enjoyable experiences. My inability to quantify these factors accurately meant that I could not determine the net result—negative or positive. And the margin of error was huge. I marked the Father Project as being of undetermined net value and ranked it the most serious disturbance.

e last item on my spreadsheet was the immediate risk that my nervousness and ambivalence about the Wife Project would impede my social interaction with Bianca. I was not concerned about the dancing: I was confident that I could draw on my experience of preparing for martial arts competitions, with the supplementary advantage of an optimum intake of

alcohol, which for martial arts is not permitted. My concern was more with social faux pas. It would be terrible to lose the perfect relationship because I failed to detect sarcasm or looked into her eyes for more or less than the conventional period of time. I reassured myself that Claudia was essentially correct: if these things concerned Bianca excessively, she was not the perfect match, and I would at least be in a position to refine the questionnaire for future use.

I visited a formal costume rental establishment as recommended by Gene and specified maximum formality. I did not want a repeat of the Jacket Incident.

You'll Also Like