old (2007), Uncategorized

approximate fractals

I know what a fractal is, he said. You don’t have to tell ME these things. What he didn’t know was that some natural phenomena are approximate fractals — mountain ranges, snow flakes, lightning bolts, coastlines, certain oak trees — or that they are what I imagine love would look like, if someone could see inside my heart and draw a picture, if that were where love lived, if any of us really knew its physical properties apart from the ether. But his ignorance hardly matters; I didn’t love him, anyhow. It was a long time ago, and he was never very nice.


There are things I don’t understand, beginning with why I feel as though I’m coming down with a cold when what’s happened is I’ve cried so much that tears dry up and all that’s left is the feeling of a trickle of snot from my right nostril. I want to know at what point I should stay up all night rather than half-sleeping before being woken by doorbells and alarm clocks and the pressures of yet another day. And also why my instinct when faced with anger is not to run but to stay, to stay and let negative waves wash over my skin, a sunburn I deserve, a toxic wash I feel is my due.


There are things I don’t know how to learn. I am both terrified of conflict and unable to walk away from it, afraid that leaving always means for good. I stay through everything, always have: the black eyes and the broken noses, the handprint-shaped bruises, the kicks to the ribs, the rapes, the violence in general. It’s a character defect, I’ve told myself, a sign that I’m unable to stand up for myself. But that isn’t really it. More like I curl up into a little ball inside of a little ball inside of myself — a fractal! Maybe I’m not too scared to walk away but strong enough to stay.

No one’s ever tried so hard to be with me, D. tells me. It occurs to me that maybe he doesn’t realize how easily that comes to someone who’s come to expect a certain degree of pain.


Hours ago, I promised D. I’d go to bed. Things I don’t understand, things I can’t learn: they jumble in my head and sleep seems impossible. But because I said so: this is the end for now. I will turn off the lights and lie naked on top of my blankets. I will listen to the hum of the fan and feel its touches on my thighs. I will wake, eyes puffy, head thick with ache, not remembering having slept. Maybe I’ll dream about fractals and oak trees, all the boys I didn’t love, all the things I wasn’t strong enough to stand but lived through anyhow.

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