«How many letters F do you see?!?» She rolled her eyes. “What a dumb question!”
Social media really did make people more stupid now, didn’t it? She started counting. Three. According to the comment section, that was not the correct number. In fact, there was great dispute about that correct number in the comment section. She counted again.
That had to be it, right? She counted once more.
“Four. What the f…?!?”
Well, she thought, this has to have some sort of logical explanation. Almost without thinking she put down her phone, opened her school laptop, and started searching for How many letters F do you see?
This is what she read:
Did you count 3? Possibly 4? There are actually 6 Fs in this sentence! Go ahead, count again. Our brains are trained to overlook the word ‘of,’ so most people only see 3 or 4 Fs at first glance. If you counted 6 the first time you might be a genius…or maybe you’ve seen this before.
Alright, she thought, here I am believing that I’m a genius! Her hand reached for the crowded place beside her bed where she kept the up to five books she was reading at any given time. She grabbed only air, so she tried again, without really thinking. Nothing.
“Everybody says I’m a genius.” she said out loud and looked down. The top of the little cupboard beside her bed was empty. Of course. She had cleaned it. It would have been her mother’s birthday today. She always cleaned on the day before they would have celebrated.
“Be a girl,” her mother had kept on telling her, “but think. Nobody can handle a girl that thinks.”
“Not even other girls.” she said.
She ambled over to the bookshelf. Ah, there was what she was looking for.
“I’m 17 and I read this! I am a f… genius.”
In her hands, she held the nicely bound edition of a university textbook titled “Introduction to astronomy.” In one corner of the cover it said: “Including exercises at the end of each chapter.” She always ended up looking at that book with its non-grammatical but welcoming cover when she felt weird. She pulled up a page at random.
Off to one side of the page was a colourful diagram displaying the visible light squeezed into the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum.
“Yeah!” she said looking at the page. “That’s about right. Humans can’t see very much now, can they?”
That was it, wasn’t it? Human perception was more limited than people would like to think, than she would like to think.
“Oh, sh…! Now I’m getting depressed, too.”
She heard the voice of her father bellowing from below.
“Stentor’s too weak a nickname for you, dad.” she murmured and made her way downstairs. The spontaneous reference to Greek mythology felt oddly satisfying.
“You ok?” he asked as she walked into the kitchen.
“Yeah.” she said.
Her father gave her a puzzled look as she sat down.
“Here”, he said, “have a bite. Trouble with a boyfriend?”
That question came out of nowhere, at least to her.
“I know how it is.” her father said.
She looked up.
“You know how it is with boys?”
“I am one myself.” he said.
Oh, she thought, he’s joking again. She tried to smile with macaroni in her mouth. Daddy’s food never exactly tasted well, but it was more than just eatable, which was kind of the point of spending time preparing it.
“I don’t have a boyfriend, dad. How come you don’t know that?”
Her father sat down beside her, his plate full of mostly cheese.
“No, it’s not that.” she said. “It’s much deeper. I just realised something about the universe.”
Her father looked concerned now.
“I always thought the stars looked nice.” he said. “You like them more than I do, though, that’s for sure.”
She stared at him.
“Do you understand how small you are?” she said. “Humans are nowhere as great as they think they are. I mean—“
“Wait up there now.” he interrupted her. “Don’t talk yourself down like that! You are my daughter. And you’re wonderful. Everybody loves you. You’re a genius!”
“You don’t understand.” she replied. “I mean thanks, I guess, but that’s not what I’m saying.”
“What are you saying then?”
“The universe is so big. And we’re so small. There’s so many stars. Maybe there’s other forms of life!”
“Yeah, stars are cool to look at.”
“But we see so little of them with our eyes, dad. There’s ultraviolet light, infrared light, gamma rays. We need instruments to see all that. I mean, I feel both small and big at the same time thinking about the stars. It’s really cool that humans can find out all these things, but we aren’t really significant at all. It’s like, like we have to see the stars more with our minds than with our eyes to even have a chance to understand them.”
“I use my eyes.” her father said after a moment’s consideration.
“Yes, you do.” she answered. “I can believe that!”
“What do you mean?”
“You just see those little dots in the sky, don’t you? And you like shooting stars. But apart from that? What do you actually know?”
Her father stared blankly at her.
“Do you know that for you to live, stars had to die?” she continued.
“Yes. I think I’ve heard about that.”
She could see how he struggled to understand this conversation and made a decision. A smile crept up on her face. Her mother had smiled that smile when she had wanted something from her husband.
“Can I have a telescope?” she asked. “Just a small one, daddy. To take pics of the moon and things with.”
“Ah, oh, er, well. Yes.” her father said. “Sounds expensive. Er, is it?”
Too easy, she thought and stood up. Humans really are nice if nobody f…s them up. He doesn’t notice much, but that’s ok, too. She put her dish into the sink.
“Thank you, daddy.” she said and kissed her father on the cheek. “No. Not much if you really love me. Oh, and I need a camera, too.”