One evening in early March, when she went to the Rockefeller Library to pick up the reserve reading for Semiotics 211, she found Leonard there as well. He was leaning against the counter, speaking animatedly to the girl on duty, who was unfortunately rather cute in a busty Bettie Page way.
"Think about it, though," Leonard was saying to the girl, "Think about it from the point of view of the fly."
"O.K., I'm a fly," the girl said with a throaty laugh.
"We move in slow motion to them. They can see the swatter coming from a million miles away. The flies are like, 'Wake me when the swatter gets close.'"
Noticing Madeleine, the girl told Leonard, "Just a sec."
Madeleine held out her call order slip, and the girl took it and went off into the stacks.
"Picking up the Balzac?" Leonard said.
"Balzac to the rescue."
Normally, Madeleine would have had many things to say to this, many comments about Balzac to make. But her mind was a blank. She didn't even remember to smile until he'd looked away.
Bettie Page came back with Madeleine's order, sliding it toward her and immediately turning back to Leonard. He seemed different than he did in class, more exuberant, supercharged. He raised his eyebrows in a crazed, Jack Nicholson way and said, "My housefly theory is related to my theory about why time seems to go faster as you get older."
"Why's that?" the girl asked.
"It's proportional," Leonard explained. "When you're five, you've only been alive a couple thousand days. But by the time you're fifty, you've lived around twenty thousand days. So a day when you're five seems longer because it's a greater percentage of the whole."
"Yeah, sure," the girl teased, "that follows."
But Madeleine had understood. "That makes sense," she said. "I always wondered why that was."
"It's just a theory," Leonard said.
Bettie Page tapped Leonard's hand to get his attention. "Flies aren't always so fast," she said. "I've caught flies in my bare hands before."
"Especially in winter," Leonard said. "That's probably the kind of fly I'd be. One of those knucklehead winter flies."
There was no good excuse for Madeleine to hang around the reserve reading room, and so she put the Balzac into her bag and headed out.
From The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides