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The Physicist

Age: 23 | Location: London, UK

I’ll admit it. I already know The Physicist. Unlike the Archetypes before him, he is a friend of mine and I feel close to him in a way that means I cannot be entirely unbiased. We were at university together and often talked, outside pubs and in parks and at football games.

Still, he is one of the most interesting people I know.

One of the first things I learnt about The Physicist, long before this interview, is that he built his own canoe.

In fact, despite his many academic achievements, this is what he sees as the proudest moment of his life so far.

‘When I put my canoe, the canoe that I built, in the water, it floated. I messed up and it immediately flipped it over so I had to fix some stuff, but it worked, and I was super happy.’

The Physicist comes from a long line of Italian physicists.

‘Both my mum and my dad were physicists. And as well my grandparents. Both of them. On my dad’s side both my grandmother and my grandfather are physicists.’

And yet he didn’t always know he wanted to be one. When he was a child, he had totally different aspirations.

‘I need to find the word in English. The person that works in a gas station. How’s it called? Who fills up cars with oil. It’s a vibe. I’d love to do that.’

I wonder whether things changed as he went through school.

‘I wasn’t that good at school. I was short and fat and kind of bullied.’

He hesitates.

‘I was average. I always knew that I was quite good at maths but I never showed it during my high school, not until the end. I started studying hard after. That’s it.’

Who sparked this change? Who impacted him most?

‘Definitely my mum. I don't have a lot of people left in my family so she was I think the only constant over my life. I lost my dad when I was a kid, and my uncle came and was a very important figure but only after my dad died.’

‘My mum always said anything I wanted to do in life, which could have been from physics to being a surfer, she said just go and do it right.’

'Do it in a way that you're doing it properly, in a place where they do it best.’

And yet, despite having lived the majority of his life without his dad, he believes that the two of them are most similar.

‘There is many features similar to my father. He was so out of the world in a certain sense, and I feel like I’m like that. Very bad at communicating. Always with his thoughts.’

The Physicist’s most fond memories are of the three of them, still existing together.

‘We used to do insane road trips as our holidays. Always to Australia, from Sydney to the north. From San Francisco to Mexico and back. They are very good travellers, and I was always there, in the car, in the back.’

Above all else, there’s no doubt that The Physicist is good at physics. Really good. He wants nothing more than to wake up every morning and study the numbers of the universe: stars and planets and black holes.

‘It’s a very creative job. Solving problems in a creative way. Brainstorming, thinking about issues. That’s the best part.’

He believes this kind of satisfaction is what everyone should seek in life.

‘There is no need of economic success. I’m quite against that. I don’t find it is a reasonable way to measure. A person that is fulfilled in what he’s doing is successful. Maybe it’s just growing your vegetables or doing your quantum mechanics.’

The Physicist lives alone on a narrow boat in the centre of London, chugging slowly from place to place. This is where he spends most of his admittedly small salary.

‘I’m spending them all. To fix my boat. I’m putting solar panels, new batteries and I’m building stuff and buying nice things. I can’t afford a nice place in London.’

I ask where he would go if he could go anywhere and he tells me that he longs to go back to Italy. Not to Pisa, his home town, but somewhere new.

‘Rome is beautiful. Florence. Italian lifestyle is just a little bit better. But then you don't have jobs, so..’

‘I went to Rome last weekend. To meet a friend. Fuck, Rome. It’s brutal. It’s beautiful.’

A friend? I ask, elbowing him in the ribs.

‘A girl. Yes.’

He smiles, coyly.

‘We’ve seen each other like two times, three times. It was nice. Very random. It just started, I don’t know. I really like her.’

I’ve never seen it myself, but I know that The Physicist is a romantic at heart. He tells me he’s been in love before, and I ask, how did he know?

‘It’s a weird thing. You can fall in love many times with the same person.’

'I was already in love with her for a long time, but then after two years I re-fell in love. There was Covid and I got stuck in Italy and we spent four months together and it was in that moment that we start sharing. I felt very safe and sort of like familiar and very warm. This second time was the moment where I was like, okay. I couldn’t think about any other girl.’

I notice for once he isn’t talking with his hands. Like a typical Italian, he is normally vigorous in his storytelling, but now they are clasped around the pint he is drinking, fingernails short.

I discover that this same girl took him a long while to get over.

He’s had a difficult few months.

‘Over the past year and a half I cried a lot. Mid-December I tried to start therapy, but it didn’t work. The person had a kind of method that wasn’t what I needed. It was very specific on anger and stuff like that, where I don’t feel I’m an angry person. But from that I still managed to get my shit together. I’m trying to enjoy the moment and not worry.’

He’s trying to give up smoking. To look after himself more. To focus on building his boat.

What will happen to his boat when he eventually does go back to Italy?

‘I bought it on Gumtree so I’ll put it back on Gumtree or something like that.’


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