Bees, Red Admirals, Ants and Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Quantum Physics

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 2

We didn't. Not there anyway

The thing is, shaking hands is okay because it's sort of sterile, - the sort of thing you do with people you either don't know well, or people you don't wish to know well. In other words, you get it over and done with just as fast as you can.

Gabriel's different. I'm crushing on him like I've never crushed ever before. Not only is he cute as hell, but I genuinely like him as a person! So, if I find it hard to just merely touch hands with someone for a millisecond or less without going into meltdown, how the bloody-hell am I going to react when I touch his hand.

No. It's a better idea to find somewhere secluded.

"What gives you the idea that you're better able to help me as opposed to the shrinks then?"

"Okay. You start by telling me what they did, and then I'll tell you what I think might help you."

"Well, obviously, nothing worked. They would sit me down and talk to me about my feelings, and then the one bloke told me I was being irrational. I mean, that's not helpful at all, is it? I don't need some guy to tell me that, 'cos I already know it's irrational!"

"Yeah, but surely there were other times, other people with different ideas? What about them?"

"Again they chit-chatted. One bloke suggested that I tried to think of person to person physical contact in much the same way I would if I were touching an inanimate object. Problem with that is, to test that, they'd need to touch you, and they're not allowed to touch kids themselves, because if that kid had a panic attack, they might be accused of all manner of nasty things."

"No-one else you trusted enough?"

"Well, Dad possibly, but definitely not either of my brothers. The thing is with Dad is that he works ridiculous hours, so either one of my brothers saw me off to school, and later, a neighbour would take me home. When I tipped eleven I became like a latch key kid, and that was fine. Take myself off to school in the morning, walk home later and let myself in. There wasn't any continuity, so I never did ask dad to help me. And also…… and this isn't meant to sound unkind, but Dad has never been what you might describe as a demonstrative person."

"Do you trust me?"

"That depends on what you have in mind, I guess."

"What if I promise to stop. You say the word and we won't do it again."

"Like, do what exactly?"

"Shaking hands?"

"Okay. Not here though."

We got changed using a family-size cubical. Seeing Gabriel in the raw and I was up there in a heartbeat! It was okay though because he popped one too!

He's even more fantastic naked than he is dressed, and even then I think he's edible! Oh right, and his name might be Gabriel, but he definitely isn't Jewish!

Go figure!

Oh God, how I hope this works.

"Oh, yeah. I was meaning to tell you about this bloke who I met on the way to the pool shortly after you walked past me. Strange guy wearing a tatty leather coat and a trilby hat?"

"With a camera?"

"That's him. Got any idea who he is?"

"That's Mr Gordon. Funny old man, if completely harmless!"

"I thought he was a bit weird. Kneeling in the mud with his face on the deck, is not my idea of normal."

"Probably just taking a photo of something."

"A bee…… only when I went to see if he was alright, I scared it off."

"No biggie. Another one will come along eventually. That's what bees do you know. They…… come along!"

"You sound just like him."

"Only because he said much the same to me when I first met him, but in my case it was a Red Admiral butterfly. Apparently they come along eventually too.

Did he tell you how he won that camera?"

"Yeah. He photographed a Kingfisher which won him a prize."

"Yeah. That photo's wicked! Not only did he win a national photo competition with it, later on, it was on the cover of Vogue magazine and National Geographic. He made a lot of dosh out of it."

"So, why does he look like a tramp?"

"Would you go grovelling around in the mud wearing your best Niki's and your sexiest shorts and tee?"

"Right. That makes sense.

So, you've been to his house then?"

"Yeah. Several times. I'd love to know how old he is? Looking at the way his place is done out, it's quality stuff, but the sort of stuff that had its hay-day back in the 1920's. That would make him like, one hundred years old. I mean, he might look ancient, but one hundred is pushing it some!"

"Have you ever looked at his eyes?"

"No. Can't say I have, not specifically?"

"They're not the eyes of an old man. I can't believe I'm saying this, but they were the eyes of a child!"

"Oh yeah?"

"Seriously! Craggy face of indeterminate age, yet his eye sockets aren't hollowed like most old people. Not bloodshot? Not faded? They were steady, alert, focused, like he had 20/20 vision! Then there was another thing. When he stood up, he stood bolt upright. No curvature of the spine, no limp when he walked? It was like seeing a young actor made up to look like a wizened old man. A bad actor at that!"

"No. He's very old, like really old. My father remembers seeing him around from when he was a child for heaven's sake! What did you talk about?"

"He went on and on about photography mostly, but then he talked about me, and he doesn't even know me, yet he told me that I should take a grip of my life. He told me to go to the pool and talk to you. He also told me that he agreed with my thoughts, like how nice you were and things."

"What? You're telling me that he knew that I fancied you?"

"Well, yeah, I guess. But then he knew I fancied you as well, and that's really worrying."

"Did you let him take your picture?"

"Yeah. Was that a bit reckless of me?"

Gabriel shook his head. "No issues. All it means is that he would like to see you again so he can talk with you some more. He took mine too. That's how come I got invited."

"You took one heck of a risk doing that. For all you knew he might have been a closet pervert."

"I never gave it a thought, but now that you mention it, I suppose I should've forgotten about it and not gone."

"What happened?"

"He talked, I listened mostly. He has this theory that every person born makes history in some small way. He called it the Law of Unintended Consequences."

"He used the same line on me."

"Did he whack on about parallel universes?"

"No, but by the time he'd done with Unintended Consequences, all I wanted to do was get away from him!"

Gabriel chuckled. "Maybe you'll get that lecture when he invites you over! He reckons that I made history by visiting him. The way he put it made a lot of sense at the time, almost as if I had changed the order of the universe. I went to see him which had the Unintended Consequence of him being unable to go out with his camera, and in turn that meant that a photograph or photographs that might otherwise have been taken, weren't taken, and all assuming those not-taken photos were good photos, those not-taken photos would not now be exhibited. Okay so far?"


"I wasn't either. But later, having thought things through in my head, it kind of clicked into place, because he then asked me what might've happened if I hadn't gone to see him. So I said that at least three chocolate digestives and one cup of tea wouldn't have been consumed, he would have gone out with his camera and maybe taken some prize-winning photos. I think he was pleased with me, because then he said that every action, no matter how insignificant, causes echoes throughout the universe, like yeah, what I said was right, but I hadn't thought about what I did by not visiting him and the echoes that caused. He likened it to dropping a pebble into a pond and how the ripples caused as a result, spread across the water in all directions. Those ripples represented the echoes, he said."

"What does that have to do with parallel universes?"

"He reckons there are billions, maybe trillions of them, where each one plays out every possible scenario, so there's the one in which I went to see him, another when I didn't, then perhaps one where I did but he forgot I was coming and went out photogrifying everything, or maybe one where should've done but didn't, but when I was a no-show, he couldn't be arsed to put his coat on and leave the house."

"Follow that logic to its conclusion would mean that there are billions of you's and me's out there somewhere! Maybe even a me somewhere who doesn't suffer from a phobia and has a cute-as-hell boyfriend, someone like you!"

Gabriel blushed, stopped walking, and studied my face. "Do you really think I'm cute?"

"As hell, and then some."

"Then we better get a shift on, because I want a boyfriend who's not afraid to touch me!"

Right. So here we are sitting cross-legged on the riverbank. The skies have cleared, it's warm, and as far as we can tell, there's no-one else around.

It was an area I hadn't been aware of before. Oh, I knew there was a river, but other than a lane who's only reason for being there was to access a quaint if rather large old cottage, the going had proved less than easy, so little wonder I'd not been there until today, that is.

Gabriel shuffled around so we were facing each other.

I swallowed hard.

"Just a quick handshake, yeah?"

"Yep. I need to find out how you're going to react."

"I hope you know what you're doing?"

"I haven't a clue what I'm doing, but just keep telling yourself that it's just a handshake, like a touch and go thing."

"Don't hate me if this all goes south, will you."

"I won't, I promise.

Now, I want you to look at my right hand. Look closely because this hand has magic qualities. I'm going to turn my hand so the palm's facing up, and I want you to study my fingers, my thumb, and the palm itself, okay?"

"What am I supposed to see?"

"I want you to see how smooth my skin is, and also, to notice that my hand poses no threat to you. This hand wants to hold your hand, like, so much. This hand is warm. This hand welcomes your touch, so in your own time, reach out and touch it."

Like the rest of him, his hand is beautiful, soft, and sensual, but my insides are churning. ' You want to do this. You are going to do this! There's nothing to be frightened about, because this is Gabriel's hand, the hand of an angel!

I swallow hard again. My hand moves, cautiously, but with purpose. My fingers are so close to his now. 'I'm going to do it!'

Our hands touch, and all I want to do is pull away, only I don't. I can feel bile rising in my throat. 'Don't pull away! Don't pull away!!!'

I pull away.

And I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to have a heart attack.

"H…… how long…… was……that?"

Gabriel smiled at me. "Three seconds. Pretty good, because I honestly thought that all you'd manage might be a quick slap before keeling over in a dead faint!"

"I very nearly chucked-up."

"Yeah, but you didn't, did you! You lasted three seconds of touching me, and you're still breathing!"

"Yeah. I did, didn't I. Go me, I guess."

"Don't be so negative! That's a real achievement!"

"I suppose. One insignificant step forward for mankind. One major leap forward for Rhys."

"Yeah, it was. So, you up for going again?"

"What? I mean, no! Jesus, Gabriel?"

"Going to be a late night then? Because you're not leaving here until you manage ten seconds."

"Ten? Ten, fucking, whole, long, and miserable seconds?"

"Sure! Why not! You're in the groove, man?"

"No, you don't understand. I am absolutely, completely and utterly, so not in the groove!"

"Yeah you are? Listen. What if I take you mind off what you're doing?"

"Like, how does that work then?"

"I'll talk to you. Urge you on." He giggled, "Whisper sweet nothing's in your ear!"

Somehow, the mental image of me throwing up over Gabriel's tee shirt as he romanced my ear, made me laugh.

"Okay. We do it in penny-pieces until I manage ten, and once done, we call a halt?"

"Agreed. Tip me the wink once you're settled."

"Right. Are you ready?"

"Not really?"

"Tough. We're going to begin, like it or not.

Now, I want you to close those fabulous, sexy eyes for me.

Mmm…… I'm imagining you're in bed with me. We've just showered together, but it's winter, so all we want to do is snuggle up under the duvet and kiss each other to sleep."

"I thought you wanted me to hold your hand, not give me a power-hard-on?"

"Yeah. Sorry about that. Got carried away!

Where were we?"

"About to kiss each other to sleep perhaps?"

"Stop it!"


"Right. Now, with your eyes closed, can you remember what my hand looked like?"

"Yeah. Sweaty, loads of callouses, filthy-dirty, and with one enormous wart right dead-centre of your palm."


"A very pretty hand. Soft, and supple. Beautifully manicured fingernails atop delicate fingers."



Now I want you to open your eyes, then once again, in your own time, take a deep breath, and go, but as soon as our hands touch, I want you to look into my eyes, okay?"

I nodded my head.

"Fine. Now in your own time, don't go rushing it, and, go!"

I sucked in a lungful of air, held it, then slowly exhaled.

I took another, shallower breath and slowly moved my hand towards his.

I'm doing well. I'm certainly a lot less apprehensive.

Then suddenly our hands touch and I flinch.

"Look into my eyes, Rhys. Look into my eyes and concentrate on my voice."

Dutifully I do as I'm told. I'm not at all comfortable, but if nothing else, I'm hanging in there.

"Listen to me, Rhys. You are holding my hand. It feels good, and more, that big scary monster that lives in your head is terminally ill. Enjoy these new sensations, Rhys. Think about what it'll be like once the monster finally pops its clogs and we can snuggle up under that duvet together. I dream about the day when you'll let me wash you all over. Cover your beautiful body with fragrant oils, and massage you to the biggest, most mind-blowing climax of your life."

"Oh God, please yes."

"That's it. Talk to me. Tell me how you feel inside. Tell me what I have to do to make you happy. Rhys? I need a happy boyfriend. Will you be my happy boyfriend, Rhys, please?"

"Oh, yes, yes, and a million times yes!"

"Thirty-five seconds, and now we are officially boyfriends!"

I looked down, and it's like, Oh yeah! Our hands are definitely touching!

"Thirty-five seconds. Like, really?"

"Actually, it's fast approaching fifty. But hey! Who's counting!"

"God! I can't believe it!

Can I try something?"

"Do whatever you like?"

"Give me you other hand. I need to find out if I can touch both at the same time."

It was like a completely different world! I could hold hands. Left to right, right to left, right to right, and left to left. My heart was racing, but not because I was teetering on the edge of a full blown panic attack, but rather I could hold hands with the boy I so needed to be with. I spent ages tracing the contours of his hands, then arms…… something I had never been able to do before, but then we stopped short of exploring further, which was not my idea, but Gabriel told me I looked tired and needed to rest.

He was right. I slept for a little over two hours.

I rubbed my eyes and yawned. "Sorry," I said. "You must be bored out of your mind by now."

"Never! I could watch you sleeping for a millennia and still come back for more!"

"Do I snore? I always wondered if I'm a snorer?

"No, you don't, or rather you didn't this afternoon. You did say a few words in your sleep though?"

"Such as what?"

"The recurring theme went something along the lines of, 'Ooo, yes!' or 'Oh, yes!' You get the drift?"

"I wonder what that was about? Isn't it a shame not being able to recall dreams."

"It sounded to me as if it was highly personal!"

"Not a wet dream though. I'd know if I'd had one of those."

"I used to love having wet dreams. I'd wake up just as the dam burst and have total recall for a few minutes! But sometimes it worried me because some of the dream situations were weird and kinky. Situations that under normal circumstances, wouldn't even be arousing, yet given the mess in my pyjamas, you could be forgiven for thinking that I had imagined being in bed with every cute boy in the world, and all of them licking clotted cream from in between my legs. Simultaneously, and at the same time!"

"I adore clotted cream!"

"Down boy! You've still got a way to go before that can happen!"

We left the field by the riverbank, but on reaching the abandoned cottage, for the very first time, we walked together, hand in hand.

Actually, I insisted on the old saying that practice made a lot of sense if I wanted to be the perfect holder of hands, and forced Gabriel to walk with me into town and my bus stop.

"That, - was seriously embarrassing!"

"What was?"

"Holding hands through town was. Hundreds of people had to have seen us, maybe even thousands!"

"Can't say I noticed. I think I was too preoccupied with the new sensation of skin on skin contact to be aware of them. Anyway, what's so terrible about holding hands through town? I rather enjoyed it!"

"It's gay. That's the problem."

I giggled. "Oh damn! Whatever next, I wonder!"

"I'm sorry. I wouldn't mind so much if I'd come out at home? As it is, it would only take one person to say something to my parents, and my world would fall apart."

"You think they'd take it that badly?"

"No way of knowing until it happens. They're difficult to read, both of them are. Something happens that even I believe might lead to the Third World War, yet they just dismiss it as a minor inconvenience, but then there have been times when something trivial happens that isn't worth thinking about, yet they go apeshit.

I remember when I was ten, I think…… Anyway, I wanted to find out if oil floated on water, or whether it was the other way 'round, so I raided the garage and proceeded to tip five litres of Castrol's finest 15/30 into our fishpond. I mean, really! How was I supposed to know that by the so-doing, all my Dad's precious Koi Carp would be deprived of oxygen!

When I realised how much trouble I was in, I ran inside the house screaming, I'msosorryi'msosorry, pleasedon'thitmepleasedon'thitme, over and over again. Then I hid myself in the wardrobe and refused to come out. Six whole hours I was in there, Rhys?"

"They managed to persuade you out eventually though?"

"Not as such. I came out because it was teatime, and I was hungry."

"So, what punishment was handed down?"

"None. I remember Dad cuddling me, and once I'd calmed down, all he said was, 'next time you feel the need to experiment, come and ask me and we'll do it together.'"

"That was nice of him?"

"Yeah. Wasn't it. But it was the totally different reaction he gave the time my three year-old baby sister got hold of Mum's makeup case, with most of it ending up plastered all over her freshly decorated bedroom walls and matching duvet cover. Holy Mary Mother of God, it was like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse had paid us a surprise visit!

Now do you see what I mean about hard to read? I think I'd stand more of a chance of being spared the wrath of God if I wrecked my Dad's Porsche than I would if I came out as gay?"

"Wow. Your Dad owns a Porsche?"

"Slight exaggeration. He drives a three year old Audi A4."

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