2054, Part III: The Singularity


Lily didn’t want to approach B.T. She thought that might seem too aggressive; instead, she wanted him to notice her. At the roulette table, he had placed his chips on black, so she’d placed hers on red, and that had been enough. “Lily Bao,” he said, a smile barging its way onto his lips as he saw her from down the table. “Why am I not surprised it’s you who found me first?”

Lily was still collecting the last of her winnings. “Can I buy you a drink?”

B.T. leaned over, grabbed a pair of her chips, and tossed them as a gratuity to the dealer, who nodded in appreciation. B.T. then turned toward her, his one eyebrow raised, and said, “The drinks here are free, kiddo.”

They crossed the casino to the restaurant, walking arm in arm beneath its ceiling painted with kitschy Italianate frescoes and studded with security cameras, dozens of black, watchful orbs. At B.T.’s request, the maître d’ agreed to open up a closed section in order to grant them a little extra privacy. “Come here often?” Lily asked, impressed.

B.T. shrugged and replied, “Depends on your definition of often.” He ordered the two of them a prewar bottle of Bordeaux, a Château Lafite Rothschild. “The 2031,” he said authoritatively, which elicited a little bow from the maître d’, who answered, “Right away, Dr. Yamamoto,” before returning to the front of the restaurant.

Lily suppressed a laugh. “Look at you.”

“Look at me what?”

The 2031 … Right away, Dr. Yamamoto …” B.T.’s gaze dipped self-consciously toward his place setting. Lily reached across the white linen tablecloth and took his hands in hers. “It’s really good to see you.”

“How’d you find me?” B.T. asked. As Lily opened her mouth to speak, he modified the question: “Wait, why’d you find me?” This was more complicated. The long answer began more than a decade before, when, awkward and alone, they’d met freshman year in Cambridge. Back then, they’d clung to each other as if drowning while they navigated the twin challenges of life away from home and MIT’s relentless academic load. B.T. had been Lily’s first boyfriend, a relationship that’d lasted a total of three months. In a season of firsts, he had, on a futon in her dorm room, become her first lover. Lily suspected she was his first lover, too, though he improbably alluded to other affairs. When he forgot Valentine’s Day and then her birthday within a three-week span, and had then taken her to dinner to make up for both but forgot his wallet so she’d wound up paying, she had had enough. Mindful of his feelings, she’d suggested that they would make better friends than lovers. His relief at this suggestion was palpable, the only mutual breakup Lily had ever experienced.

After breaking up, they spent even more time together. For Lily—who’d lost her father, her country, and eventually her mother, all before the age of 20—B.T. began to feel like the only family she had. When the academic load at MIT proved too much for her and it seemed she might flunk out, B.T. intervened. He became her tutor, and they spent hours on those subjects she could barely pass; the ones that came so easily to him. For her part, Lily had taken on the role of older sister and confidant, over the years helping B.T. clean up his messes with other people (a heated disagreement with a professor over a grade, the poorly chosen phrase when critiquing a colleague’s work, the concerns of future employers who’d heard of B.T.’s “tricky” reputation). Which was, ultimately, the why of his question to her. “Because I know you’ve made a mess, B.T.”



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