That was the first thing Allister told me about Albert Einstein. That, and the fact that he had magical, fantastic, crazy hair- which we all know from countless photographs and documentation.
Einstein's words were magical, too. Allister remembered that, as well. He remembered the genius in them and the German/Swiss tingle in them.
But mostly, Allister remembered that on the day he met Einstein, bagel crumbs had covertly collected in Einstein’s mustache and clung to the ends of the hairs; dangling and dancing with every German/Swiss genius-of-a-syllable.
And Allister found himself with that familiar dilemma in meals with people you've just met. Do you say something or do you pretend there are no crumbs? And, of course, when the mustache in question is the mustache of a genius, you have no choice. You do not interrupt. You cannot. There are genius thoughts being thought and said and shared. And, to interrupt, is to run the risk of halting the flow of genius. And, if it should stop, who knows when it would start again?
And, so, Allister sat and listened and said nothing. And 'listened' is, perhaps, a poor choice in words. Allister sat and watched Einstein's lips move. That much was true. But, he could not listen. He saw the mouth of Einstein move, but could not hear the words. He could not. As Einstein’s mouth formed genius, the bagel crumbs danced and chanted equations and theories from the tips of his mustache just in front of his lips, in the silent but distracting language of crumbs.
Allister knew that he should be abosorbing and wondering about Einstein’s words. But, he could not. The bagel crumbs had collected in a chorus and forced him to wonder about and absorb them. They forced him to accept them as genius bagel crumbs who planned to climb from Einstein's mustache and colonize the tips of his eyebrows and, then- yes, oh yes- the coveted and wily genius hair on top and flaring from Einstein's genius head. It was all Allister could do to keep himself from shouting at them, “Clinging to the hair of a genius, does not make you a genius!” But, he did not. Instead, Allister held his tongue and nodded his head and pretended that he was listening to Albert Einstein.
And, oh, how those pretentious crumbs taunted. Oh, how they said nothing, but dangled so loudly.
To ignore the crumbs, all Allister could do was focus on Einstein's mouth and the shapes it made when words came out. And, rather quikcly, this degraded to the simple process of the lower jaw flapping up and down. Allister was hypnotised or transfixed and perhaps both at the same time. He could feel himself being drawn in so close, so seemlessly fast, that the genius would not notice and his jaws would continue mechanically chomping until Allister was being swallowed. And, though Allister deeply admired Einstein, he had no intention of living in his stomach. That was where the crumbs belonged. Not Allister.
And, what was worse, Allister knew he was missing genius. World hunger was being resolved right in front of him. Equations for world peace and how it could be spread were being created (also how time travel and trips to Mars could be accomplished). So, he grabbed the first words he recognized from Einstein's flapping genius jaws: “Isaac Newton.”
“Newton- Isaac Newton, I mean, he just sat under an apple tree and was hit on the head and wrote the obvious. Apples fall from trees. What goes up, must fall down. And the world changed. The world changed for a statement of the obvious! And add centuries later and here you are pulling out equations and theories for things we cannot even see! Right? Am I right? What’s so hard is that the world is so old and we came around so damn late! You know? Where do we go, now? What is left for us?"
There was a slight pause before Allister apologized for saying 'damn'.
And there was a longer pause as Einstein digested. He digested Allister's madness which, unbeknownst to him, his mustache crumbs had induced. And, then, the genius answered (in his characteristic German/Swiss-tinged way).
“From our lofty place here in this cafe, it is very easy to see the obvious. But, you have to remember how many people sat under trees and were hit by apples and any number of other fruits before Mr. Isaac Newton. And no one thought twice about it. They simply sat there. Perhaps they ate the apple, perhaps they walked away. But, they never thought twice about the reason for the fall. There is always room for a question, Allister. Always. And, when we have- as an entire species or simply as a single soul- hit a solid wall of impossibility with nowhere to go, well, what is there left to do but carve your channel through the impossible?”
And Allister sat for some time. So did Einstein. They sat still. They sat quiet. For some time.
Then, Allister said, “Mr. Einstein, you still have bagel crumbs in your mustache.”