All mathematicians looked alike. They’re all men, for one. They’re all clean-cut, blond, plaid shirt tucked into blue jeans, and belt, shoes, walking stiffly down the hallways and pushing up their glasses before they slip too far down their noses. Theodore had dark hair. It curled aimlessly over his ears and neck. It was what attracted Diane to him in the first place.
Of course they had known each other for a few years by now. Diane was also a doctorate student in mathematics and the department was so tiny that it was suffocating, in the small, crumbling building they resided in. She was popular, being the only female in the department. She knew she was beautiful, too. In a building full of men in glasses, any woman might have been considered beautiful, but she was beautiful. She was tall and slim, with wavy dark hair. Most importantly, she dressed as though she wasn’t a mathematician. She took care of herself, so that the men in the room could find no fault in her. The older ones turned red at the sight of her and treated her well. She was a brilliant mathematician and a good lecturer, so the classes she taught were always full. But mathematicians tended to be boring people. She felt as though her talents were wasted: her profession doomed her to life as a single woman.
Except there was this man. She had known him since they were both undergraduates. Theodore was brilliant, too. His work in geometric representation theory was already causing a stir among those who cared. Diane used everything she knew to get his attention. They became friends. They had lunch, then dinner together. She wore her best clothes to work. Then, two years ago he introduced her to his girlfriend, a doctorate student in sociology. Last year, they were married. Diane hated that.
She was looking in through the open doorway of his office now. “I saw your draft proposal on quantum cohomology in non-orientable manifolds,” she said, like some bad pick-up line. His back was turned and his shoulders hunched, hands writing furiously. He didn’t even look up.
“Don’t you have a class to teach?” he murmured absentmindedly.
“I’m done. It’s Friday,” Diane replied.
“Then go home.”
“Let’s have dinner.”
“I’m working on my revision.”
“I’m going home.”
She could hear the sound of his pen scratching dully against paper. Cassandra gave it to him, apparently. She had thought about stealing it before.
Diane decided to give up and sighed loudly to show her disappointment. Theodore stubbornly refused to acknowledge it. She let her heels clack loudly as she stomped away.
Cassandra was coming up the stairs, dressed frumpishly as usual, and she smiled when she saw Diane walking towards her. Diane hid her grimace under a smile.
“Diane! Hi! Is Theodore still in his office?”
“His door’s open.”
Cassandra grinned stupidly. “Thanks!” she replied and strolled by. Diane felt she could have lied and gotten away with it, but she didn’t lie, and that annoyed her. And wasn’t she jealous? That annoyed her, too. Cassandra was an idiot. And Theodore, too. They were both idiots. As if she didn’t try her best.