The Quantum Princess
Once upon a time there was a powerful king who had six boys and mostly loved his only daughter, and they lived somewhere in the sky. Don’t ask me why, but one day he got mad at her and said, “may the no-good take you!”
And then everything in the sky got ruined. The big wheel in the sky stopped turning. The small wheels on earth couldn’t move. People were meant to hitch their bicycles on earth to the big wheel in the sky in a neat and orderly way, but you know that when someone in the house gets angry, dishes and windows get broken, the kids miss the school bus, and the parents are late to work.
Because this king in the sky yelled at his daughter, we see terrible storms to this day and every man and animal is stricken with fear and confusion.
For thousands of years people have not known what do about it.
Because the king couldn’t find his lost daughter anywhere.
The king’s daughter hated being yelled at so the only way was to Leave Home at a Young Age, giving no thought to what will happen later, where to sleep, where to eat, how to get clothes and shoes for the snow. It’s a big world; people are bad and do not want to help you.
This princess was afraid of getting her feet wet; getting her hands dirty; She was afraid she wouldn’t find clean water to wash her hands and face; she was afraid to come in contact with dirty people; she was afraid all her clothes would get wet and she wouldn’t have anything to change into, and the rain and cold wouldn’t stop. She was afraid to pray because she wouldn’t be neatly dressed. People might cry and she wouldn’t have the patience to help them. Let’s say she was starving. How careful should she be about food? How much to give herself and how much to others? She won’t have a teacher so how can she ask advice? Her books will get wet and moldy; how long should she wander around, and when to give up?
This is what happens when you leave home at a young age:
1. Find out you must pay for everything.
2. You inevitably move back home, at least for a while.
3. Your place gets changed.
Before she left her father’s house, the princess had the top position. Now her brothers got control, and the princess had the disadvantage. When she left, she lost her place. Her friends were gone. The family moved on without her. Everyone had grown close together and she fell far behind. She had no place to sleep. Sometimes the couch and sometimes a mattress on the floor. There was no door to close. Younger brother got a room with a door and a bed, new sheets and a blanket. The king’s daughter had nothing to complain about; after all, she left. If she complained, she would look stupid.
She moved out again and got an apartment to share with a Chinese girl. Its main feature was the lonely sound of buses in the morning. Not much cooking equipment, not much food. A bit of rice. And so, she searched for another place. And people who are lost often run into the Master of Prayer.
“I have a good idea,” the Master of Prayer remarked one rainy afternoon when he and his followers were sitting around, praying and singing in the back room of a cave, which served as a shelter from the storm and a kind of clubhouse-in-exile.
The others looked up when he spoke, surprised, because Master was not the one who came up with new ideas; that was more typical of the Kid.
Master waited just long enough to see that they were all listening and said simply, but loud enough to be heard above the drumming rain and yowling wind, “Let’s fix up the world.”
The others were now dumfounded. It was simply not like their leader to make dramatic or provocative pronouncements. The Wise Man, known to the group as the Wise Guy, said as if thoughtfully, “Hm, nothing more than that? Do you plan this for tomorrow or the day after?”
One or two of the others laughed, but the rest kept their eyes fixed on the Master, who continued:
“The problem with most ways of fixing the world is thinking that money can do it.”
The Treasurer looked up from his waterlogged account book, noting what the group owed to other people, in the unlikely hope those people could be found. He said, “How can you fix the world without money?”
“It won’t be easy,” said the Master. “We need prayers. Lots. And with no money and no power, any one of us is considered a kind of animal there in the civilized world. I will go by myself, in disguise.”
“Power is in the heart,” said the Princess from behind a curtain.
It seemed that nobody heard. The friends looked at each other, except for the Bard, who as usual sat focused on a Gemara by the fire. His clothes were damp, since he had slept outside in the rain so as not to bother his friends when he woke for the midnight moaning.
“What do you say, Bard?” said the Master.
“What do you need a disguise for? Just be simple and straightforward.”
“Right!” said the Faithful Friend. “If we must save the world let’s just get it done fast. Without any depth of mind or thinking into things.”
“Even the olden wisdoms?” said Gever, the newcomer who had recently left the civilized world to join the group.
The master smiled, reached over and gave Gever a hug. “Stay away from that wisdom stuff. Compared to the king we’re all idiots. It’s just imagination and foolishness and stuff that makes a person go nuts.”
The Quantum Princess, as she came to be called for reasons you’ll see, decided that she would go fix the world too. But the Bard was wrong. She would enter in disguise and she wouldn’t tell anyone. She would go as someone deeply involved in the civilized, upside-down world.
She decided to search for the most confused woman in the world, someone the civilized world called a success. The Princess would wait for her to fall asleep at the wheel, and like a flash of lightning switch identities and charge like thunder, straightening that poor woman’s crooked heart and in the process, also her own. Because, when crookedness ruled people’s hearts, the big wheel in the sky would not turn and the Princess could never go home. She would forever be stuck in the cave, in limbo, waiting for something that might never happen.
The Quantum Princess had been a strange kid to begin with and eventually grew up, meaning that the billions of subatomic particles comprising all her body parts doubled, tripled and quadrupled. That could not have been simple because sometimes they acted as one unit, but oftentimes they interfered with one another. Sometimes the little princess just behaved like a normal particle. A particle obeys the everyday laws of physics. Push it and it goes; pull it and it comes. But when no one was watching her, which was almost all the time, the little princess behaved like a wave, running this way and that way, until something came along to stop her.
That is why she became what you call unpredictable.
The advantage was being all things at one moment. The disadvantage was that hardly anyone knew what a quantum princess was, or how to talk to her, and that meant she often felt lonely.
Let’s call her Tabby now, the name she used in the civilized, upside-down world. Tabby was smart and successful. She had everything going for her. In this particular time frame, she was a girl about nine years old, with an excellent school record.
Then the Princess took over.
And Tabby couldn’t concentrate on school. The lessons just put her to sleep. Inevitably the teacher called on her in mid-dream, and her finger wasn’t on the page, let alone the paragraph.
Eventually Tabby just got annoyed when the teacher called on her to give an answer, obviously to embarrass her.
So, Tabby began to snap back at the teacher and yell why do you bother me? Teacher smacked her hand with a ruler, and Tabby hit her back, which created a riot right there in the class. Every one of the kids wished he or she could have done that. Tabby landed in the principal’s office with a letter that Tabby is argumentative. So what? So were lawyers.
Because Tabby argued a lot, Dad said go be a lawyer. That sounded okay.
Tabby took a course in pre-law, where she was sometimes asleep, and sometimes arguing and asking provocative questions. There was no time for provocative questions here—she just had to memorize cases and briefs and more cases.
The turning point in Tabby’s life was when her father sent her to a psychologist and the psychologist sent her to boarding school, just because she was writing stories about wars, killing and fires, attacks, cold and hunger, all the things that you normally find in the world but are not allowed to talk about. Or think about.
Tabby eventually stopped writing stories so she could go home, but nothing changed. The headmaster didn’t let her go home even for holidays. Once she did. Her father and brothers were sitting in front of the television. When Tabby got in
the way of the picture or spoke, they glared at her. After a while she said hey why can’t I talk? and they said shush! Tabby walked out of the house and spent all her money on a bus ticket. She didn’t know where; she just went as far as the bus could go.
Now about Roy. We hadn’t mentioned him before. Roy and Tabby didn’t know each other so well back then, but he wasn’t just some guy. He was Tabby’s little boyfriend from grade school.
Roy did pay attention in class and never fell asleep. Tabby loved Roy. Loved his smile, He didn’t laugh at her. He gave her a ring. She sent him a note: when I was a baby, a man kidnapped Mom and your dad saved her. Therefore, you will save me! It’s in your blood or something.
When Roy grew up, he applied to Tabby’s father for a job. He demonstrated his inventions and made his pitch, but the boss remained unimpressed and kept Tabby hidden.
Roy decided to collect his inventions and go home. Just as he put on his coat, Roy saw Tabby in the mirror! Wow!
And then she was gone.
Let’s say you are Tabby. You are too young to get married. The more she wanted Roy to just marry her, the more her father pushed Roy away. He was trying to get on Dad’s good side, bringing a new gadget every week that he had just invented, and Dad rejected them all without even looking.
After a while, Roy and Tabby said the heck with it and tried to get married secretly, but that wasn’t so easy. Moreover, the impatience pulled Roy like a magnet toward money, honor, and philosophizing.
So, to recap, Tabby left home at a young age and married Roy. Yes, after all that, she did marry Roy. Her father blew up in anger. But nothing worked out the way people usually expect.
Despite Roy’s preoccupation with wealth, there still was no place for them to be together.
Tabby kept an eye out for a place to eat, sleep, and wash up. She had no money for a subway token, and so she ducked under a turnstile to enter the tunnels. She rode the train from Battery Park to 125th Street and back. Night faded into day. Street people began to follow her; Tabby suspected it had something to do with the personal magnetism people said she had. Electrons.
People hemmed in close to her. Couldn’t they see she wanted to be alone? Didn’t they have something to do? All Tabby wanted was a stretch of quiet. People walked by unceasingly. It was so hard to be private, even in a tunnel, because people used it to stay dry from the rain; they set up house in the tunnel, collecting blankets and pieces of bread, newspapers and clothing, coats, hats, pajamas, and bags to keep things in, so when people walked by they looked at Tabby and her stuff; some wanted her stuff. Police passed by and looked at her like, is it worth the bother to clear this person away and then two people will take her place tomorrow? So at least the policemen made believe they didn’t see her.
After many nights like this, Tabby met Roy at the Shortline bus station on 42nd Street. Roy had a backpack, a hiking manual, some flour and water in a canteen. Tabby had blankets. They got on the bus and debarked at Tuxedo Park, camping gear on their backs, and started hiking up the mountain with no GPS, no phone, no trail map, no map of the shelters, no experience, and no clue where to find the Bear Mountain Inn. They followed tree markers for the Appalachian Trail and just to make sure, Roy marked the starting point with a pile of rocks. Snow started falling; the sun started dipping down. For hours they hiked according to the markers, and then stumbled again on the same pile of rocks, which meant they had been going in circles.
Panic set in. Roy dropped his backpack, made a tiny fire just to get started, and set off to look for wood, leaving Tabby to spread out blankets in the dark. She spread them not too close to each other, removed her ring to show that the setup was not okay, and placed it on Roy’s blanket with a large rock between them. There was no time to find a lean-to shelter and they had no tent; it was getting dark fast. This time Roy kept his eyes on the trail in case food would appear at someone’s campsite and distract him from what he had to do. He smelled something, meat on a grill. He looked around. Nothing. It must have been far, or a case of wishful imagination. He gathered pieces of wood, but lost track of Tabby.
Tabby had set her heart on supper at the Bear Mountain Inn, and now she was starved. She placed a few twigs on the tiny fire, snapped a branch from a tree, made it into a stick, mixed water with flour from Roy’s pack to make dough, and spread it on the stick. It was messier than it had looked in the hiking manual. She balanced the whole thing over the fire.
The dark and cold intensified. It started to snow, and this gradually put the fire out. Tabby ate the bread, burned black on the outside and raw on the inside. She listened intently for Roy. She heard a branch. Snap. She peered out. Still no Roy.
It must have been an animal.
She dropped the skewer, stood up, shaking, and yelled, go away bear! Go away bear! She backed away, still yelling, still shaking, and reversed into the soft parka of a stranger.
The bear had gone.
“Hey!” the man said. “Are you alone, little princess?”
Tabby was dressed in jogging pants and a winter jacket and did not look like a princess.
“I’m with someone,” she said, lips hard as a fist.
“Where is he?”
“Just getting some wood.”
“Here, let me start that fire for you.”
That’s how it goes. One thing leads to another. Hours passed and there was no sign of Roy. Tabby’s fingers turned numb from the ice and cold. Then she was following the man down the mountain, into his car.
And she woke up somewhere else. A neon-colored sign said Wonderworld.
A swing band struck up. A tuba, trombone, clarinet, drum. So hard to think when every particle in her body felt the drumbeat. People were laughing at the movie characters walking around. A mouse, a duck, and many princesses, posing with the people for photographs. Everyone wore shorts and t-shirts. Tabby felt hot in her winter clothes.
Someone placed a pen in Tabby’s hand and told her to sign a contract that made her one of the Wonderworld cast. A woman helped Tabby squeeze into a polyester princess costume and string of plastic pearls. A hairdresser pinned up her hair. A make-up artist brushed on rouge and painted on lipstick, eyeliner and mascara.
It wasn’t time to eat yet; they needed her now to greet people in the great hall festooned with swords and coats of arms, knights in metal suits standing guard with their silver axes.
People milling around the castle caught sight of Tabby in her Cinderella get-up and trooped in her direction. The man who had brought her, Ralph the stage manager, stood in a far corner, watching. Tabby got into character: sweet Cinderella.
Kind Cinderella. So happy to see all you people. They paid wads of money for Cinderella autographs and photographs where they hugged and kissed her, excited to meet a real live princess.
Tabby just wanted to get out of there and go back to sleep, but she had eight more hours to keep going this way. If she had a regular job she could space out, but that was not possible here and now. Because the people asked her questions, like where is Prince Charming, or where is your evil stepmother? and she had to make up a story to get them to laugh or something. If not, Ralph would tear up her contract and put her back on the street.
Everything would make sense when Tabby got her own house and could think without people bothering her. Even if she didn’t have her own house, if only she could have a room and close the door. A long time ago she had needed sheets with matching curtains. For breakfast she needed butter and strawberry jam on her toast, and eggs.
She still needed to eat but not that much; a piece of bread would be fine. A cup of water.
She just wanted to think. She had been around a long, long time, and she remembered how things had been in the sky, in her father’s house. She had been a real princess.
The bell rang.
It was time for the Cinderella feast. People lined up to gawk at Tabby. More Cinderellas were running around to take people’s orders. Tabby knew what a princess was, and it wasn’t like this.
Then there were the Wonderworld pirates. Their job was to act the same scene over and over for the tourists as they moved along in small boats in a man-made lagoon, laughing their evil laugh, selling maidens at an auction, drinking rum, brandishing swords.
They grew tired of pretending and decided to become real pirates and kidnap Tabby. The guy with the Captain Hook mask, Napoleon hat and diamond earring must have read Tabby’s thoughts. He pulled her aside during a cigarette break and said, let’s be real pirates.
Tabby pulled away, but that was for show.
One thing led to another, and so Tabby was grabbed by a boatload of pirates. The actor who played a pirate turned into a real pirate. He whisked away the fake princess who was a real princess to start with, walked her at knifepoint aboard the Jolly Roger, cut loose the anchor, spread the sails, and disappeared at sea before anyone noticed at the feast that some of the Wonderworld cast were missing.
It figures, since she too had grown tired of being a make-believe princess. . One heart reflects another like a mirror, even when it’s mixed with something evil.
End of Chapter One