Sometimes I used to go up to the C.O.’s desk and talk to Officer Grabowski, an Andy-Kaufmanesque hack who sat there chain smoking Sobranies and reading physics. I’d been looking into cosmology and was troubled by the notion of an infinitely expanding universe. The idea seemed abhorrent to me. That everything might collapse back into a singularity every hundred billion years before being reshuffled and dealt back out satisfied some kind of aesthetic urge. But cosmologists seemed to be having a tough time locating sufficient matter to check the escape velocity of everything.
So, I was consulting Grabowski.
“What do you want, Fillmore?” he asked in ironic, high-pitched, Slavic accent.
“Grabowski,” I said, “what do you know about, you know, singularities?”
This seemed to pique his interest, though only in so much as I wasn’t trying to bum a cigarette off of him. (As much as I might have been crossing a line to talk with the C.O., it was an even riskier thing for him to be seen talking with me.)
“Singularities,” he said. “You’re talking about end of the world.”
“Yeah,” I said.
Grabowski put down his book, lit a Sobranie and leaned back in his chair.
“What are you up to, Fillmore?” he asked with a smirk.
“I’m not up to anything. I was just thinking about it.”
“You were just thinking about it.”
“Suppose that everything is just drifting away.”
“And the universe is falling apart.”
“And that’s it.”
“So, what are you asking me?”
“That doesn’t bother you somehow?”
“No. Why should it bother me?”
“Everything we are or ever were, the record of life on earth, no: life anywhere, sentience, form, matter, flung out into space? I mean, I don’t think I believe in God exactly, but . . .”
And the mention of God seemed to push some button in him.
“Look, Fillmore. I think this is it. What you see is what you get.”
I wasn’t prepared for this kind of conversation, with a nihilist, I mean.
“What do you want from me, Fillmore?”
As I walked back to my cell I heard a muffled sort of commotion. The Masterson boys, Head and Main, had Trinnie Mason trapped under his bunk and were lying on their sides kicking at him with steel-toed shoes. A bunch of guys were laughing at trailer trash waving their fingers in each other’s faces on Jerry Springer. No. There was an order to the universe. And I felt a lightness in my step.