“Reality is nothing but our shared illusions,” stated Frank, plainly, as if there was nothing more to be said on the matter. 

Tipsy wasn’t particularly impressed. “Oh, well that is one of those proclamations that sounds really profound till you ask yourself what it really means and then you realize that there is nothing inside - it is like an easter egg toy that you open with great anticipation, only to find nothing inside”

Frank was not fazed by this rather direct and unapologetic criticism. If anything, he felt a slight elation that their relationship was past the stage where any criticism had to be padded by layers of fluff. And then he threw back - “Maybe the accusation that you hurl against my intelligent observation are the ones that you should hurl at reality itself- something that seems profound but has nothing inside if you peel the layers”

“So, if I go meta - you want to go meta-meta. I will not have it. I must go meta-meta-meta and call you a bullshit artist”

“And yet, here you are. With all the things in the world to choose from you choose to be with me, sitting here in this fine restaurant drinking wine. whatever bullshit that you accuse me of uttering , you probably like it”

“‘Like it’ is too strong, I would say - given the choices that were available to me and the budget of energy that I was willing to expend to  garner more choices or choose between the available ones, you made the cut. So think of you being here as merely contingent than anything significant”

“So you are saying that I am merely lucky, ” said Frank, still refusing to take anything personally, “rather than particularly deserving of your esteemed presence. And that our meeting here is nothing profound - and that is exactly what I have to say about reality.  There is nothing profound about reality. Of all the ways that atoms could have been tossed - it just so happened that atoms were tossed this way” 

“Your particular way with words may well be a reason that I tolerate you. I find that in some cases, though somewhat rare, you do raise interesting questions and ‘what is reality’ is a good question to be talking about. Though I must say it has become quite a cliche. Maybe it was novel in the first dorm conversation you had back in the day but now we must go deeper”

“But we haven’t yet answered the question about what is reality,” said Frank, not willing to give up before he had exhausted all the seemingly intelligent things he had to say about the matter. 

At this point, we are done with the setup for the entry of our main character. Or the character for whom people read this. And by people, I mean more than one person who has actually read this stuff. 

So in comes the waiter - “ Well my dear lady and presumed gentleman - I wish to inform you that the proclamations of the said presumed gentleman are actually quite insipid. though the interjections by the lady are of some interest. ‘What is reality’ is something we often find people discussing when they have partook our wine at greater than a certain amount. 

What that amount is depends a lot on the individual person- through a tough to beat baseline model is obtained by assigning appropriate weights to the age, weight and the litres of wine imbibed in the past (assigning a greater weight to recent imbibing events) . We have, of course built sophisticated models which predict this and many other actions that people tend to do as they imbibe wine. And if you suddenly find that you waiter is ignoring your table you can rest assured that our models have predicted that the sum total of human happiness will be enhanced if the waiter’s senses were to develop a certain, let’s say, immunity to your vociferous commands for his or her attention. 

In any case, that’s about as much inside information I am willing to give you so if you can quickly tell me what you need- I will assemble the atoms for you and at some indeterminate point of time in the future - bring those atoms to you. Note that as you wait you will never really be able to determine whether or not your food is coming. Because if it hasn’t arrived yet how can you tell that it will not arrive the very next instant. One of the very famous computer science theorems was inspired by this very phenomenon”

Frank suddenly felt relegated to the role of a walk-on part in a movie from being the lead actor. He was upset but there wasn’t much he could do. He had already become a minor character - he did not want to become a minor character making a fool of himself. So he looked at Tipsy and said -” I will have some more wine and you?” 

Tipsy listened intently to the waiter but didn’t seem as bothered by his eloquence as much as Frank was. In fact she had used the time to look at the menu and was ready to order some entrees and snacks which the writer is too lazy and uninformed to convey to the reader. 

Tipsy was amused at the show being put up by Frank and the waiter. It all seemed like some kind of a peacock dance and she was happy that she was not burdened with that. 

As soon as those words were typed Tipsy lashed out at the writer - “Do you have any clue?” she questioned the writer. 

The writer wanted to admit that he actually did not. But he wouldn’t be much of a writer if he did. So instead he bluffed. And said that he recognized that whatever travails he knew men went through would be far worse for the women. And he left it at that. He then wished to list some unique risks that men were subject to, but nothing substantial came to mind. He thought about mentioning the fact that men died younger than women but that didn’t seem to have any direct bearing on the issue that had been raised which was whether he had any clue. So the writer withdrew from his direct role in the writing. 

“Reality is just a bluff that we feed ourselves, ” continued Frank, suddenly recovering his power of speech. 

Tipsy had a lot to say on the matter. A lot that would have made sense to people like herself who were burdened with normalcy. She also wanted to wax eloquent about reality and what not. But to enable people to make philosophical observations about what the world was or what it was not - there needed to be a world - and she had chosen to build that world. So she let Frank, and the waiter and the writer throw words in the air which both amused and bemused her. 

“What is more important, ” she heard Frank saying , “The world, or the people on the world, or the ideas that those people produce?”

She continued listening - the food that she had ordered would be coming to the table soon. 

Approximate Calculations

 “Tell me Frank, why should I tolerate you?”- said Tipsy without any specific emotion. 

Frank was absolutely up to the task of answering this question. He had rather a high opinion of himself, for which I suppose he could not be blamed. Like so many other things, it was a failing all too common in members of the human species who shared his gender. 

“Because, my dearest- I amuse you,” he said. “And there are not many in the world who are equal to the task. In fact I would go to the extent of saying - that the chances of you ever meeting one of the men who could amuse you for life is vanishingly small.”

Tipsy, despite herself, was a trifle amused. She had to grant Frank that. There were not many who could amuse her for long. Frank wasn’t really bad - for a man, that is. They all have their failings - but some are better than others and you do want to keep a few of them around; even if just for the, what do they say these days, diversity. 

“All right Frank, I will grant you that - you do amuse me at times and yes that isn’t a characteristic shared by any appreciable fraction of men. But saying that you are among the best of men isn’t saying much at all - is it?”

Frank wanted to stand up for those of his ilk. Those to whom nature had dealt a rather harsh blow. Those, for whom nature had removed a significant portion of perfectly reasonable emotions and generally infused pompousness.

What could men do? This was their biological plight and society had done them no favor - it had rewarded the most pompous; the most arrogant and the most abrasive. Nature and Nurture; when tired of debating each other; go out for a drink and conspire to fuck up the character of men. Men have no chance in this fight. They lose miserably and then go ahead and brag about it - such is the fate of men. 

For such men, for himself Frank wanted to stand up. He wanted to make a statement. But he did not want to sound weak or apologetic - he wanted to prove that he was amazing even if it meant betraying half of humanity - those most like him. 

“I agree, my dearest, other men do not set a very high bar but I love you and that should solve everything, ” said Frank desperately hoping that he would suddenly change the nature of the game. 

“Frank, my dearest love, there is some merit to you argument but as I become more and more capable of amusing myself without necessarily involving any other human presence - I am faced with the question of your presence; and its pros and cons”

Frank felt gallant. “I can protect you against the bad people out there. There are a lot of bad people. Bad people do bad things. Bad is not good.” Frank’s vocabulary was suffering from a sudden squeeze.  

Tipsy pondered for a moment. “Really! Frank. And what would the approximate gender of these “bad” people be?”

Frank did some mental calculations. Then, Frank did some sentimental calculations. Rounded off to at least 10 decimal places, the gender of the people he wanted to protect Tipsy from was male. 

“But you can’t kill all the men.” said Frank, throwing all the men under the bus. “And therefore you need me around to protect you. From other men. That’s why men are useful. They can fight off other men” The argument sounded much more powerful in Frank’s head than when he said it out aloud. '

Tipsy wanted to move on from this topic- Frank did have some utility though she couldn’t quite put her finger to it. 

Just then, motioned by the writer, the waiter arrived on the scene. 

He addressed Tipsy. He knew that Frank's existence was largely ornamental and Tipsy made all the decisions though she sometimes let Frank have the mistaken belief that his preferences also mattered. Manipulating men was altogether too easy - a bit of reinforcing their strong belief that they were amazing. 

“Dear Ma’am, would you be interested in messing up the signaling mechanism of your brain’s neural network by consuming some ethanol. I am told it helps ameliorate the effects of sitting in the company of an imbecile”- the waiter ventured. 

Frank was offended. He told himself he would have punched the nose of this pompous ass if that wasn’t the surest way of ruining this night out with Tipsy. 

Tipsy meanwhile, started looking at the drinks menu and ordered a few. 

Frank started thinking of the meaning of life, whether machines could be conscious and how long would it take for the drinks to arrive. If he were granted a wish to have any of the three questions answer - undoubtedly he would have picked the third. The mystery of how long would it take for the drink to arrive had perturbed him for much of his life - but it wasn’t getting resolved today.