Chapter no 35

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)

I was still in the chair when I woke the next morning. It was cold and raining and my laptop battery had exhausted itself. I shook my head to test for a hangover but it seemed that my alcohol-processing enzymes had done their job adequately. So had my brain. I had unconsciously set it a problem to solve and, understanding the importance of the situation, it had overcome the handicap of intoxication to reach a solution.

I began the second half of my life by making coee. en I reviewed the very simple logic.

  1. I was wired dierently. One of the characteristics of my wiring was that I had diculty empathizing. is problem has been well documented in others and is, in fact, one of the defining symptoms of the autism spectrum.

  2. A lack of empathy would account for my inability to respond emotionally to the situations of fictional characters in films. is was similar to my inability to respond as others did to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. But I did feel sorry for Frank the firefighter guide. And for Daphne, my sister, my parents when my sister died, Carl and Eugenie because of the Gene-Claudia marriage crisis, Gene himself, who wanted to be admired but had achieved the opposite, Claudia, who had agreed to an open marriage but changed her mind and suered as Gene continued to exploit it, Phil, who had struggled to deal with his wife’s infidelity and death and then to win the love of Rosie, Kevin Yu, whose focus on passing the course had blinded him to ethical conduct, the Dean, who had to make dicult decisions under

    contradictory rules and deal with prejudice about her dress and relationship, Faith Healer, who had to reconcile his strong beliefs with scientific evidence, Margaret Case, whose son had committed suicide and whose mind no longer functioned, and, critically, Rosie, whose childhood and now adulthood had been made unhappy by her mother’s death and her father problem and who now wanted me to love her. is was an impressive list, and though it did not include Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca, it was clear evidence that my empathy capability was not entirely absent.

  3. An inability (or reduced ability) to empathize is not the same as an inability to love. Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic.

  4. Rosie had failed numerous criteria on the Wife Project, including the critical smoking question. My feelings for her could not be explained by logic. I did not care about Meryl Streep. But I was in love with Rosie.

I had to act quickly, not because I believed the situation with Rosie was likely to change in the immediate future, but because I needed my jacket, which was, I hoped, still in the trash can where I had thrown it. Luckily I was already dressed from the previous evening.

It was still raining when I arrived at the trash can, just in time to see it emptied into a garbage truck compactor. I had a contingency plan, but it was going to take time. I turned the bike around to head for home and crossed the road. Slumped in a shop doorway, out of the rain, was a homeless man. He was fast asleep, and he was wearing my jacket. I carefully reached into the inside pocket and extracted the envelope and my phone. As I remounted my bike, I saw a couple on the other side of the street watching me. e male started to run toward me, but the woman called him back. She was making a call on her cell phone.

It was only 7:48 a.m. when I arrived at the university. A police car approached from the opposite direction, slowed as it passed me, then signaled a U-turn. It occurred to me that it could have been summoned to deal with my apparent theft from the homeless man. I turned quickly down the bicycle path, where I could not be followed by a motor vehicle, and headed toward the Genetics building to find a towel.

As I opened the unlocked door of my oce, it was obvious that I had had a visitor, and who that visitor had been. e red roses were lying on my desk. So was the Father Project file, which had been removed from its home in the filing cabinet. e list of father-candidate names and sample descriptions was on the desk beside it. Rosie had left a note.


I’m sorry about everything. But I know who Table-Napkin Man is. I’ve told Dad. I probably shouldn’t have but I was very upset. I tried to call you. Sorry again.


ere was a lot of crossed-out writing between Sorry again and Rosie. But this was a disaster! I needed to warn Gene.

His diary indicated a breakfast meeting at the University Club. I checked the PhD area, and Stefan was there but not Rosie. Stefan, who could see that I was highly agitated, followed me.

We reached the club and located Gene at a table with the Dean. But at another table, I saw Rosie. She was with Claudia and seemed very distressed. I realized that she could be sharing the news about Gene, even prior to a DNA ratification. e Father Project was ending in total disaster. But I had come for something else. I was desperate to share my revelation. We could resolve the other problem later.

I ran to Rosie’s table. I was still wet as a result of forgetting to dry myself.

Rosie was obviously surprised to see me. I dispensed with formalities.

“I’ve made an incredible mistake. I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid. Irrational!” Claudia made signals for me to stop, but I ignored them. “You failed almost every criterion of the Wife Project. Disorganized, mathematically illiterate, ridiculous food requirements. Incredible. I considered sharing my life with a smoker. Permanently!”

Rosie’s expression was complex but appeared to include sadness, anger, and surprise. “It didn’t take you long to change your mind,” she said.

Claudia was frantically waving at me to stop, but I was determined to proceed according to my own plan.

“I haven’t changed my mind. at’s the point! I want to spend my life with you even though it’s totally irrational. And you have short earlobes.

Socially and genetically there’s no reason for me to be attracted to you. e only logical conclusion is that I must be in love with you.”

Claudia got up and pushed me into her chair. “You don’t give up, do you?” said Rosie.

“I’m being annoying?”

“No,” said Rosie. “You’re being incredibly brave. I have the best fun with you; you’re the smartest, funniest person I know; you’ve done all these things for me. It’s everything I want and I’ve been too scared to grab it because—”

She stopped, but I knew what she was thinking. I finished her sentence for her.

“Because I’m weird. Perfectly understandable. I’m familiar with the problem because everyone else seems weird to me.”

Rosie laughed.

I tried to explain.

“Crying over fictitious characters, for example.” “Could you live with me crying in movies?” said Rosie.

“Of course,” I said. “It’s conventional behavior.” I stopped as I realized what she had said.

“You’re oering to live with me?” Rosie smiled.

“You left this on the table,” she said, and pulled the ring container from her bag. I realized that Rosie had reversed her decision of the previous night and was in eect rolling back time to allow my original plan to proceed at an alternative location. I extracted the ring and she held out her finger. I put it on and it fitted. I felt a major sense of relief.

I became aware of applause. It seemed natural. I had been living in the world of romantic comedy and this was the final scene. But it was real. e entire University Club dining room had been watching. I decided to complete the story according to tradition and kissed Rosie. It was even better than the previous occasion.

“You’d better not let me down,” said Rosie. “I’m expecting constant craziness.”

Phil walked in, his nose in a plaster cast, accompanied by the club manager. She was followed by two police. e manager pointed Gene out to Phil.

“Oh shit,” said Rosie. Phil walked over to Gene, who stood up. ere was a brief conversation and then Phil knocked him to the floor with a single punch to the jaw. e police rushed forward and restrained Phil, who did not resist. Claudia ran up to Gene, who was slowly rising. He appeared not to be seriously injured. Under the traditional rules of romantic behavior, it was correct for Phil to assault Gene, assuming he had in fact seduced Rosie’s mother when she was Phil’s girlfriend.

However, it was not certain that Gene was the culprit. On the other hand, numerous men were probably entitled to punch Gene. In this sense, Phil was dispensing romantic justice on their behalf. Gene must have understood, because he appeared to be reassuring the police that everything was okay.

I redirected my attention to Rosie. Now that my previous plan had been reinstated, it was important not to be distracted.

“Item two on the agenda was your father’s identity.”

Rosie smiled. “Back on track. Item one: Let’s get married. Okay, that’s settled. Item two: is is the Don I’ve grown to know and love.”

e last word stopped me. I could only look at Rosie as I took in the reality of what she had said. I guessed she was doing the same, and it was several seconds before she spoke.

“How many positions in that book can you do?” “e sex book? All of them.”


“It was considerably less complex than the cocktail book.”

“So let’s go home,” she said. “To my place. Or your place if you’ve still got the Atticus Finch outfit.” She laughed.

“It’s in my oce.”

“Another time. Don’t throw it out.”

We got up, but the police, one man and one woman, blocked our path. “Sir,” said the woman (age approximately twenty-eight, BMI twenty-

three), “I’m going to have to ask you what’s in your pocket.”

I had forgotten the envelope! I pulled it out and waved it in front of Rosie.

“Tickets! Tickets to Disneyland. All problems solved!” I fanned out the three tickets, took Rosie’s hand, and we walked toward Phil to show him.

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