I love The Big Bang Theory. For those of you out there who aren’t fans of the show, there’s one episode in particular that resonated with me this week: “The Tangerine Factor,” which introduces a thought experiment referred to as Schrodinger’s Cat. It’s a paradox that explores the following concept: a box exists, inside of which is a cat. The cat is either alive or dead, but you won’t know which until the box is opened. Essentially, until the lid is lifted off and one looks inside the box, both realities exist equally. Put another, less morbid way, when faced with any uncertain outcome, there is a moment in which both opposing outcomes—one positive, one negative—exist in a person’s mind.
Tuesday morning was my Schrodinger’s Cat. The phone calls from the Romance Writers of America to the finalists started early that morning and were to be completed by 2 pm. For those few hours prior to the 2 pm deadline, my cat was just as alive as it was dead. The box was sitting there on my kitchen table in the guise of my phone. The lid was firmly closed. I was going to place in the contest. I wasn’t going to place in the contest. Both realities existed equally.
Then 2 pm came and went. I didn’t have to lift off the lid to know the cat inside was dead. In fact, it was starting to stink up the place a bit.
And yet, my disappointment is oddly minimal. I wasn’t especially surprised that I didn’t place in the RITA final round—the chances of doing so are slim, with only 4% of the entrants in each category placing—but it was fun to speculate and dream and gaze hopefully at my phone. In fact, the possibility of placing in the RITAs has occasionally popped in and out of my head since I first entered Clingstone in the contest back in November 2016, but I never banked any high hopes on actually doing so. I dreamed about it, certainly, but I dreamed about it much as I dream about winning the lottery when I buy a scratch-off ticket every Thursday. Or meeting Gerard Butler and having him whisk me off to Scotland. Both are equally unlikely, but oh-so-fun to visualize (the latter in a kilt, of course).
And so, even though Clingstone didn’t make it very far, I still really enjoyed being allowed to participate in the judging process. There’s a lot of fantastic romance novelists out there, and it’s nice to see their talents recognized in a contest like this.
But I cheer myself with the fact that there will be more unopened boxes in my future. And one of these times, like Penny from The Big Bang Theory, I’ll be able to shout, “The cat’s alive!” Until then, I’ll be content picturing Gerard bounding toward me across the highlands.
Wearing a kilt. Or not.