an excerpt:

The Question

How do we quantify the unquantifiable? How do we estimate the value of x? How does a person in love interpolate a compromise point between two unknown values? How do we state the mathematically imprecise? In what ways might we put into concrete symbols the palpitations of our hearts, the stirrings in our loins, the turbid secretions of our mental anguish and jealousy? Where do we draw the line at the intersection of our lover’s heart? The shortest path between two points is a straight line but only our point, the place on which we are standing, is known to us.

Math Problems

A is a man in his late thirties. B is a woman, about the same age. A and B once dated but now were great friends who saw each other often. C is also a woman but much younger than either A or B. If A travels to B four times a week, but wakes in the bed of C two mornings a week, how far will A have traveled? The distance between point A and point B is analogous but not the same as the distance between our hearts and our hips, our sexual center, the hinge point of our physicality.

D is also a woman and a friend of B. A secretly longs for D but feels impeded by B and his relationship with C. Let the twelve divisions of arc AB represent months and point D of arc AB describe A’s first intimacy with D. Let arc AB also represent the moon passing over the bed in C’s apartment. Let these angles of arc represent values of light and dark as moonlight shines over a July landscape. Let arc AB form the curve of her throat (D) admired by A at B’s house during a party in January, or the curve of C’s waist as she sleeps in moonlight on a hot summer night, the thin veil of a curtain quivering in an occasional breeze. A reaches over to her, made breathless by the silver line of moonlit skin, but doesn’t touch. He lets her sleep, silently admired.

Let arc AB represent a semicircular driveway in front of B’s house after a casual soiree to celebrate B’s new job. Let point D represent the moment at which a wave of guilt swept over A as, leaving the party with D, he remembered C’s anger over his lack of attention to her. But inside the house, mirroring A’s betrayal, C had cozied up on the sofa with an unknown man, a point unexplained and outside the set of points and lines creating A’s plane system. If A, having met D though B, continues to visit C, what is the area of emotional ground covered by triangle ACD?

Excerpt from *Solving for X*, Peter Illig

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