The Solitude of Prime Numbers

All Mattia saw was a shadow moving toward him. He instinctively closed his eyes and then felt Alice’s hot mouth on his, her tears on his cheek, or maybe they weren’t hers, and finally her hands, so light, holding his head still and catching all his thoughts and imprisoning them there, in the space that no longer existed between them.

but his eyes were too dark for her to make out any spark in them

Choices are made in brief seconds and paid for in the time that remains.

Denis's love for Mattia had burned itself out, like a forgotten candle in an empty room, leaving behind a ravenous discontent.

Do you really like studying?"

Mattia nodded.

"Why?"

"It's the only thing I know how to do," he said shortly. He wanted to tell her that he liked studying because you can do it alone, because all the things you study are already dead, cold, and chewed over. He wanted to tell her that the pages of the schoolbooks were all the same temperature, that they left you time to choose, that they never hurt you and you couldn't hurt them either. But he said nothing.

Even though he was afraid to admit it, when he was with her it seemed it was worth doing all those normal things that normal people do.

...finally her hands, so light, holding his head still and catching all his thoughts and imprisoning them there, in the space that no longer existed between them.

He opened his mouth to reply that feeling special is the worst kind of cage that a person can build for himself, but he didn't say anything.

His scars were hidden and safe in her hand.

In fact, they didn't talk much at all, but they spent time together, each in his own abyss, held safe and tight by the other's silence.

In the end it happens, in some way you couldn't imagine before.

It was strange to find them here, still alive, with their shared bits of past that suddenly counted for nothing.

Mathematicians call them twin primes: pairs of prime numbers that are close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching. Numbers like 11 and 13, like 17 and 19, 41 and 43. If you have the patience to go on counting, you discover that these pairs gradually become rarer. You encounter increasingly isolated primes, lost in that silent, measured space made only of ciphers, and you develop a distressing presentiment that the pairs encountered up until that point were accidental, that solitude is the true destiny. Then, just when you’re about to surrender, when you no longer have the desire to go on counting, you come across another pair of twins, clutching each other tightly. There is a common conviction among mathematicians that however far you go, there will always be another two, even if no one can say where exactly, until they are discovered.

Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough to really touch each other. He had never told her that. When he imagined confessing these things to her, the thin layer of sweat on his hands evaporated completely and for a good ten minutes he was no longer capable of touching anything.

Mattia thought that he and Alice were like that, twin primes, alone and lost, close but not close enough to really touch each other.

Numbers are everywhere," said Denis. "They're always the same, aren't they?"

"Yes."

"But Alice is only here."

"Yes."

"So you've already made up your mind.

People took what they wanted, they clutched at coincidences, the few there were, and made a life from them. . . . Choices are made in brief seconds and paid for in the time that remains.

Prime numbers are divisible only by 1 and by themselves. They hold their place in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed, like all numbers, between two others, but one step further than the rest. They are suspicious, solitary numbers, which is why Mattia thought they were wonderful. Sometimes he thought that they had ended up in that sequence by mistake, that they'd been trapped, like pearls strung on a necklace. Other times he suspected that they too would have preferred to be like all others, just ordinary numbers, but for some reason they couldn't do it. This second thought struck him mostly at night, in the chaotic interweaving of images that comes before sleep, when the mind is too weak to tell itself lies.

Separating them were two layers of brick, a few inches of plaster, and nine years of silence.

she and Mattia were united by an invisible, elastic thread, buried under a pile of meaningless things, a thread that could exist only between two people like themselves: two people who had acknowledged their own solitude within the other.

She emptied herself of Fabio and of herself, of all the useless efforts she had made to get where she was and find nothing there. With detached curiosity she observed the rebirth of her weaknesses, her obsessions. This time she would let them decide, since she hadn't been able to do anything anyway. Against certain parts of yourself you remain powerless, she said to herself, as she regressed pleasurably to the time when she was a girl.

She found herself thinking of how it would feel to be safely trapped in his arms, with no more possibility to choose.

She hadn't chosen him over all the others. The truth was that she hadn't even thought about anyone else.

She remembered lying in the crevasse, buried by snow. She thought of that perfect silence. Also now, like then, no one knew where she was. This time too, no one would come. But she no longer expected them to.
She smiled at the clear sky. With a little effort, she could get up by herself.

She was tired, with that tiredness that only emptiness brings.

The scene was set. All that was required was an action, a cold start, instant and brutal as beginnings always are.

They lived the slow and invisible interpenetration of their universes, like two stars gravitating around a common axis, in ever tighter orbits, whose clear destiny is to coalesce at some point in space and time.

Twin primes: pairs of prime numbers that are close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching. If you have the patience to go on counting, you discover that these pairs gradually become rarer. You encounter increasingly isolated primes, lost in that silent, measured space made only of ciphers, and you develop a distressing presentiment that the pairs encountered up until that point were accidental, that solitude is the true destiny. Then, just when you’re about to surrender, when you no longer have the desire to go on counting, you come across another pair of twins, clutching each other tightly.

Why did you choose to stay here?" (...)
"I don't know," he said. "It's as if there's more oxygen here.

With a little effort, she could get up by herself.

You'll get used to it. In the end you won't even notice it anymore," he said.

"How is that possible? It will always be there, right before my eyes."

"Exactly," said Mattia. "Which is precisely why you won't see it anymore.