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ABSOLUTES by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

absolutes

He says the speed of light is an absolute, a universal physical constant: 299,792,458 meters per second, no more, no less, but then I say that’s nothing to how quickly my mind races when he’s away the way he is now, away in the night when I know-damn-well-know that he’s not still at work, that the glow illuminating his face is coming not from a computer screen but from beer-filtered neon and another woman’s cigarette.

Still, I know already what his response will be, possibly because the speed of sound has quickened such that I can hear his voice before he’s even started to speak but more likely because it’s an argument we’ve had before, and I have a good memory for such things.

No, he’ll say, he says, he’s said, no, your mind can’t move faster than the speed of light; your mind’s nothing but a network of electrical impulses, all firing off all-over-the-place, just synapses firecracking, and synapses, well, they’re bound by the laws of physics, just like everything else, just like you and me.  I don’t doubt they’re quick, but they ain’t never gonna go faster than the speed of light.  Just not possible.

Then he’ll quirk a smile, that smile that’s meant to end conversations, change subjects, as if being right about the nature of electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum absolves him from talking about other absolutes in the universe, absolutes latent in minds and bodies and hearts.

And I will try to redirect the conversation, deflect us back to what’s obvious, what’s visible, what’s blinding: the missing phone bills, the new cologne, the late nights and the way he’s started to radiate in a way I’ve not seen since the days before the mortgage and the kids.

This is where my momentum is, where I’m leaning, where I cast my shadow.  But he is good at refraction; he will make himself into a mirror and bounce my words back at me: naked, glaring, distorted, opaque.  I will watch my words fall and bend like particles of light being sucked into the black hole of his logic, a black hole that can absorb everything I have to offer–so much, too much more.

He tells me that the speed of light is an absolute, a universal physical constant, and already, already he’s walking away.  If only I could learn how to luminate, to shine so brightly that I could stop him in his tracks, make him turn around, shade his eyes and smile into the brilliance, then I could say to him, yes, an absolute, a universal physical constant is exactly, exactly what I want.

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