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Image by Quynh Do


with the martello journal


by jamie anderson

It is twenty five to four in the morning and I am searching black holes on the Internet. I do
this not because I want to know about black holes, or that I feel the study of black holes is
important to me, but because I think the knowledge will replace something inside me that I
think I’ve misplaced. Did you know that you can’t directly see a black hole? The gravitational
pull is so strong that not even light can escape it, making it invisible to the naked eye. They
are also harmless unless you get too close. I think of myself as a black hole, and then feel
pretentious about it. Like out of all the similes and metaphors of the world, I could have
picked a better one. Outside, Dublin festers. I hear a car go past. For a second, I feel like I
am shapeless. 

It is seven minutes past four in the morning and I am thinking of a better way to describe
myself than a black hole. I google search the words ‘good similes’ and realise that there are
perhaps no good similes at all, and that no one has ever found a way to accurately depict
themselves. I wrestle with anger at Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde because they claimed all
the beautiful words as their own, and left none for me. I reach for my writing journal and pour
helplessly over its pages, realising that if there was ever a good sentence, that someone
else has already written it. I try to find some solace that it probably wasn’t Yeats. I turn back
to my laptop. I scroll through endless lists of weak metaphors generated by a billion dollar
search engine that does everything but settle me until I have convinced myself that,
perhaps, the black hole wasn’t such a bad metaphor after all, and that I am a better writer
than I think. But then I wonder if Virginia Woolf would ever describe herself as a black hole,
and decide that it’s maybe a bit too on the nose, even for her. I feel shapeless again.

It is thirty three minutes past six in the morning and it has been light for almost ten minutes.
Outside birds sing. If I looked out the window at that exact moment, I know that I would see
the same row of derelict houses across the street from my own, while people are without
one. The familiarity both bristles and calms me. The webpage with facts about black holes
has been open on my laptop for almost three hours. Did you know that if you fall into a black
hole, your body would undergo a process called ‘spaghettification’? At first I thought this was
some childish joke, that someone had edited the webpage to include this, laughing behind
the clicks of their keyboard. But after a few more searches, I find that it’s true. When a
human body falls into a black hole, the force of gravity would compress the body mass
entirely, while stretching it out at the same time. Like spaghetti. I then search if someone
could survive spaghettification. Nothing can survive falling into a black hole, my computer
replies. Not even information. I wilt. I think about how language is integral to science, how
there would be no way to relate the complexity of scientific fact without similes, like
spaghetti. How Einstein would probably be considered mental if he didn’t have metaphors to
simplify his theories to the masses. That’s what language is, really, isn’t it? Finding a way to
dumb things down for people to understand. I wonder at the simplicity of myself as a black
hole, and then come to the conclusion that even if I confided this in someone, they still
wouldn’t understand how I feel. I don’t understand how I feel. I think I want to die. I stare at
my computer for a long moment, my mind growing tired, feeling almost satisfied that the flow
of information has ceased some leak inside me. I find some peace in the knowledge that if I
ever fell into a black hole that I wouldn’t survive. That someone could probably make a nice
carbonara out of my remains. I close the page for good. I forget almost instantly about
spaghettification. I go to sleep, and forget too, for a moment, about feeling shapeless. 

It is two in the afternoon when I wake. I have forgotten almost everything I learned about
black holes. And the fact that nothing I will ever write will be original because everything
great there is to say has already been said by someone else. And that I don’t really know
who I am, or what I am. And the fact I want to leave because the thought of staying tastes
like similes and metaphors that I’ll never be able to write. And that no matter what I do,

someone else will have done it first. Except, that is, falling into a black hole. That I could do
first. I get out of bed and look out of my window. Dublin is the same colour it was yesterday,
and the day before that. The nearest black hole to earth is called Sagittarius A*, fifty
thousand light years from Ireland. I look into the sky and wonder which Luas line would take
me fifty thousand light years away. The red line, I think. When I put my clothes on, I think for
a long time about how Jane Austen was too busy writing books about rich white men to
experience spaghettification, and how I’ll beat her to it, and then I don’t feel as shapeless

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