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Tome On The Range

Short Fiction: Binary Star By Sarah Gerard
Karl Smith , March 23rd, 2015 08:44

Extracted from the novel Binary Star, published earlier this year by Two Dollar Radio, Sarah Gerard's prose, both haunted and haunting, possesses a celestial quality seemingly drawn from the beauty of fluttering, astronomical luminescence and the terror of what feels a near-immeasurable vastness. In Binary Star personal reality becomes the vacuum and the horror of the metaphysical numinous abject. (Photograph by Josh Wool)

       Tonight I am only proud of my abbreviated parts.
       I have taken in one half cup of Eden pumpkin seeds and one cup of coffee with two
Green Tea Fat Burner supplements. I am thinking about the grapes in the freezer. They’re
little, frozen spheres.
       Cold food takes more energy to digest than warm food.
       The body has to heat it up to break it down.
       I read that online just now.
       Time is a matter of scale and balance.
       Of keeping myself intact while shedding outer layers.
       I turn in circles before the mirror.
       I urinate and return to the mirror.
       I turn in circles.
       I try on everything in my closet before the mirror and hate it.
       I look terrible changing.
       I weigh myself again and again and again and still I am 92.
       By sunrise I will be 90.
       When I die, I will be 000.
       I walk back and forth from the futon to the scale to the spheres to the futon to the
       I urinate and drink more water.
       I urinate.
       You only see yourself, John says.
       No, you only see yourself.
       No, you only see yourself.
       Every time it ends with you, John.
       Tonight I feel the matter of emptiness.
       I cannot control what my body does, though at times I feel I can control what I do to
it, and thus what it becomes.
       A morning is becoming.
       I drink my Red Bull in the classroom this morning. I think nothing but feel my
students watching me.
       I luminesce. I cannot control them, I feel.
       I cannot control the variable of morning. Of continuous morning.
       This morning I was 92.
       The longer I live in time, the less I believe in the future.
       I am becoming in coming undone. I unbind.
       I rise like the morning: revolution.
       This morning, I turned in circles looking for my keys. I had never been asleep. I don’t
sleep anymore.
       John suggested a unit on primitivism. I have become so much him that who I am is
empty. I have very few ideas of my own. I have very few new ideas because I am
consumed by a singular idea.
       I am an ideologue (an idealogue). I cannot teach them primitivism, John; I only teach
the stars.
       I have made myself empty of intention. My body is hollow: a form. A vessel.
       An exploding vessel.
       To disagree with John would be to renounce what he believes are our beliefs, what I
believe he believes are our beliefs. To disagree with him would be to admit that I’ve lied.
He’ll know I’m lying.
       Lying about all of it.
       All of what?
       I believe very few things about myself. I believe in the possibility of perfection. I
believe that I have mostly starved myself of will.
       Something is dawning that I cannot explain, though I know it’s related to darkness.
       I am not really here though I am here, though I cannot be sure that I am anywhere, if I
am even sure of that.
       I mean that I’m not sure I’m anything.
       Starvation is a matter of privilege.
       I take advantage.
       I stand at the back of the classroom, a core unhardened into flesh and reanimated,
cold like space, and white.
       I stand at the back until the bell.
       I am always in the back.
       This is how things are done.
       This morning I turned in circles before the mirror so that I could see my back.
       I know I am air because I hear and because I can see through myself. I would not if I
was not.
       Most of the time, when I think I have heard something, it is only my heartbeat.
Sometimes it’s so loud I can’t sleep.
       That’s a lie.
       At times I feel it struggle.
       That’s a lie.
       I would not if I didn’t have to. Do not if I don’t have to. If I don’t have, I don’t have
       I drive straight lines across my back. My ribs, which are curves, are straight lines.
       I have mixed feelings about curves.
       These are not my students. They are only students of culture. Proximity does not
imply a relationship. We are only near each other. We were born of civilization.
       We hear each other.
       We file out in a line that is rough at the edges and curves through a door, like sheep to
the slaughter.
       We moved in a clustered line down a hallway, some slower and some faster, like the
river that winds through the bottom of the Grand Canyon. John disliked the canyon. It
was just a hole in the ground.
       Really a gash.
       A wound.
       Once, he tied me to the bed and played knives across my skin, but did not draw blood.
John is a coward.
       This is the only way I can do it.
       Last night I touched my absence.
       Beauty can be tricked into being where it is not.
       It is naught.
       It is not the past. Because the longer I live in time, the less I believe in the past.
       I carry it with me but I can’t carry much.
       To consider.
       We stand at the edge of the gash. We are there for a moment, but we see it. We see
ourselves in it.
       The river at the bottom reflects nothing back.
       Is absent.
       I found that it was absence. Only mine.
       I am faint.
       I’m often faint.
       Our palms sweat together. The canyon yawns before us.
       John takes his hand back.
       He dries it on his pants.
       I’m hungry, he says.
       This summer, when John was here, I weighed myself at least five times a day.
Sometimes I am already in the bathroom. Other times I just need to have a precise
number. We all gain weight around each other.
       It is thought that our weight can fluctuate between two and four pounds a day, depending
on a number of factors, including the proximity of one’s companion.
       And how much water one consumes.
       In other words, how dry one is.
       I have never liked water pills. I believe caffeine is enough.
       But still.
       I’ll try anything.
       I drink four cups of coffee every day. The first, I get from Dunkin’ Donuts. They
know me. The rest, I get anywhere I can get them.
       I find the displays in Dunkin’ Donuts especially motivating.
       I drink two 12 oz. Red Bulls every day, at least. Sugar free. Sometimes I spring for
the 16 oz. can.
       And tea. And water.
       I make this a “thing I do”, to always have some vessel with me, holding liquid.
       All the time.
       All time.
       To train for zero gravity, I’d have to float in a swimming pool. This is not a real
simulation, as water resists movement.
       In zero gravity, my organs would drift under my ribcage, reducing my waist to a thin
       In zero gravity, my hair would have body, lift off my skin.
       My breasts would lift off. I wouldn’t feel them.
       I shed water.
       And blood.
       My body thinks that it holds too much.
       Which I do.
       Some astronauts describe zero gravity as womblike: a more primitive state of being.
       The human arm weighs nine pounds on average.
       Not to have arms or legs or torso.

Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio, 2014). Her chapbook Things I Told My Mother came out in 2013. Her short works have been published in the New York Times, New York Magazine’s “The Cut”, the Paris Review Daily, Bookforum, Joyland, Music & Literature, Slice Magazine, the LA Review of Books and other journals. She has an MFA from The New School and works at BOMB Magazine.