event horizons

I have a brand-new story at Cicada Magazine; you can read it here.

Right now I am having trouble sticking with anything I’m reading, does this ever happen to you? I am working my way through the special collector's edition of Scientific American, "Physics at the Limits," which is all about dark matter and the beginning of the universe and a lot of really bonkers science (did you know there's a theoretical model now that suggests our entire universe is the three-dimensional event horizon around a four-dimensional black hole? ME NEITHER) and I've started about ten other books I can't seem to finish, not because I don't like any of them, but because something in my brain is restless. I get hung up every now and then on the Platonic ideal of the exact right book and nothing else will do, and no book I pick up is the exact right book, which for me is reading The Secret History for the first time at the age of 15. Which, of course, is not just a specific book but a specific moment in time; just like you can never read the exact right book again for the first time once you've found it, you can never go back to the person you were when you read it. The exact right book is maybe a fourth-dimensional black hole, with the rest of your reading life the flattened shell that surrounds the singularity. Or maybe that's a bit of a reach.

My first yoga teacher was the exact right yoga teacher, and I've been looking for her again too. I didn't know at the time she was the exact right yoga teacher; I'd never done yoga before, I thought it was normal to have your yoga class be a pay-what-you-want (three dollars) gathering of dirty punks stretching gently on the floor, presided over by a woman called Salal (this was Portland in the early aughts, everybody you met was a plant or an animal) who lived in the witch house on Mississippi and taught community yoga once a week at the yoga studio on Interstate. She had heavy bleach-streaked black hair always piled in a mess on her head and she came to class in ratty sweatpants and old band shirts cut into muscle tees and everybody loved her, everybody everywhere in town loved her, everybody went to punks' yoga. What I remember best was the miracle of her voice, a rich deep whiskey-and-ginger voice that washed over you like molasses; lying on the floor at the end of class, eyes closed, Salal telling us that we were like hollow logs in a stream, the water carrying away everything we needed to let go. Every week in yoga class I cried when she said let go and it wasn't just me who cried every week either. And then Salal went to the hills of Humboldt County to grow weed with her boyfriend, Tiger (early aughts, I told you) and I have been looking for her ever since.

There are a lot of wrong books and a lot of wrong yoga teachers. I'm better at yoga now than I used to be and I'm better at reading. Getting older is a hard thing to explain to anyone who hasn't done it yet, which I don't mean in a patronizing way, just a true one: it's a strange thing to be in a position to know so much about what you could have done differently with no way to redo any of it. (Time travel into the past is theoretically possible but unlikely, as you may know already.) I don't mean regret, that's not the same thing, and I don't mean I wish I could go back and give advice to my younger self, because my younger self would find my current self unfathomable--not insufferable, I don't think (I hope) but also not likely someone my younger self could ever imagine growing into, and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. For a long time anger was what kept me alive and that's not a thing I regret either, but I'd like to live for joy, too, the most fragile imaginable platform for survival in the world we live in now. Other things I am learning slowly as I get older: patience, and faith. Waiting for the right books to come around again, the right teachers, the right lessons for the person I am still becoming.

We don't know very much about the early infancy of the universe, four hundred thousand years or so after the big bang (they don't capitalize it anymore, at least not at Scientific American) when the universe cooled enough for hydrogen atoms to form and eventually the first stars ignited and coalesced into galaxies. In the 1990s and early 2000s scientists studied quasars, then the oldest known objects in the universe--jets of light that spew from supermassive black holes that formed billions of years ago. The oldest discovered so far, ULAS J1120+0641, is around 13 billion years old and two billion times the mass of our sun; nobody knows how it go so big so fast, but they're working on it. Nobody knows what made the first stars burn bright and huge enough to collapse into anything so powerful. It's easy to forget the past, or to rewrite it, to let go of the things we don't want to remember, but the stellar objects we used to be explain the condensed beings we become whether or not we learn how to untangle the secrets of our early lives. I don't know how I lived so incandescent back then either; I'm happier now with the steady burn than the wild blaze. But it's good to remember the light we can still give off, hot suns flaring to life in the dark, pulling everything into our orbits, making matter out of dust.