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I have a crush on this term: ESCAPE VELOCITY. It’s the amount of speed an object needs in order to break its gravitational rotation and shoot out on its own. Obviously, we’re talking about objects in space here, but I like it because it sounds like me.

Here’s where I differ from objects in space, though. Take your average piece of space debris (we’ll call him Greg as I’m really fond of that name), that’s been happily making the rounds of Saturn for – well, I was about to throw a number out there, but I have no concept of this stuff and don’t want to out-myself as the ignorant American I am, so let’s say – a really long time. The space-displacing awesome girth of Saturn has created enough gravitational pull to keep Greg locked into the same space commute for – a really long time.

At first, maybe Greg felt that freshly-minted sense of purpose you get at the start of anything new: I’m a piece of debris! Wait…I’m SATURN’s piece of debris! Saturn is obviously the best game in town out here. Look at all these other pieces of debris – they agree! We can’t all be wrong!

Once that purpose-buzz wears off, Greg probably had plenty in the way of new scenery to keep him occupied: Oh, I love this side of Saturn. I wonder if there are other pieces of debris on the surface down there? Oooh, here comes my favorite corner where I can see that great big burning ball…so bright!

Then, because newness is like a cheap lacquer that thins out and wears off with repeated handling, I would imagine that Greg just got sucked into the routine of it all…just kind of rotated for – a really long time.

And maybe, after some time, Greg picked up some extra girth of his own and found himself slightly further out from the center of his rotating band and thought, ‘Hm, this is weird’, and just like that game you play on the playground in grade school called THE WHIP where a long chain of kids links up arm-to-arm and runs in a circle and you take turns being on the end because that’s where you go the fastest – one day Greg found himself at the very outer end of his rotating band and before he knew it: he felt himself disengage with a ripping sensation, felt strange air all around his body like never before, felt the power and the terror of his own trajectory and momentum slingshotting him out and away from Saturn, the best game in town, seeing it from angles he’d never seen it before, but mostly looking out – looking forward, feeling space particles whiz by like wind.

And eventually, Greg’s momentum will slow and he’ll feel himself pulled like a tractor beam to some other massive space-displacing girthy planet body, and he’ll know his experience with “Saturn” the “best game in town” is in the past now and this is his new life.

Escape Velocity.

Where Greg and I differ (besides all the obvious ways) is that I am the pilot of my own Escape Velocity. As I feel the seasons of my life run through those stages of purpose-buzz to scenery to routine, I hear this whisper from my gut: move faster. The speed starts gathering in my head first; like an old-time movie projector starting slowly, I am treated to images of whatever my next Saturn could be – the next “best game in town”. I feel a corresponding quickening in my desire to stop acquiring stuff, hoard my resources (like canning preserves for the winter), plan, dream, talk…soon I have spun a whole fantasy out, my resources are streamlined, my mind pointed like a dagger, my body tensed for the spring.

And then I launch.

The problem with Escape Velocity for me is not the velocity; it’s the escape. I love the velocity but I’ve made the mistake of tying it up with escape. I am in love with speed. My heart screams for it, my body responds to it, my soul goes along for the ride, hair thrown back and streaming in the wind, knuckles white, big grin. And as I get older, even though I keep responding to that deep whisper (move faster) (Tacoma – Los Angeles – Seattle – DC – Saturn who?), another part of me is resisting. Is growing tired. My orbit is eroding in quality, my arc of speed in strength. I’m so tired of moving boxes and new apartment leases and the process of dating new friends and finding a grocery store.

So I come to this: is it possible to maintain velocity and just orbit one thing? Or will my velocity create escape, again and again, until I don’t know where I started or why I’m going?


I wrote a whole series of these a few years ago. They still take me right back to the moment.

I come to and I’m in the back parking lot of the restaurant. It’s been raining, so the moon is reflected in puddles on the concrete. The air is cold and rich and charged—I drink it in deep, all the way to my tailbone. Then I take a deep drag of my cigarette, and think that’s funny. I stand up and spin, my lime green dress orbiting around me. I am in love with myself and my body and the air and the moon and the cigarette and the green and pink and yellow spinning around me.

I come to and I’m teaching this little boy to Walk Like an Egyptian. I am sweaty from dancing so much but I don’t care. My bridesmaid dress isn’t white or anything so it’s okay. All our dads are dancing. My dad looks at me with love and laughter: “Have we ever done this before?” No, we haven’t. I am vaguely embarrassed by his lack of rhythm. Natalie’s dad is going to town with his mustache and this strange, exclamatory dance with lots of pointing. Darby’s dad is by far the worst—or the best—because he dances just like Darby warned us he would: he stands still and pumps his arms in the air, without heed to rhythm, a look of ecstatic joy on his face. I want to cry because my best friend just got married and our dads are horrible dancers and I’m so happy and full that I could shake apart.

I come to and we’re playing What Color is the Sky? I like Atomic Orange. He insists it’s Dishwater Grey. I lean back on my hands and fidget with the rough grain of the roof, which feels like sandpaper against the pads of my fingers, and imagine we are on a giant square of sandpaper under the Atomic Orange/Dishwater Grey sky with no stars in sight. My feet are sweaty in my moccasins and I wiggle my toes, feeling them slip and slide all over each other in the leather. I am nervous because I want him to kiss me. When he finally does it’s fun and warm and my earrings are bothering his mouth so I take them off and lay them together carefully, the posts forming an x, making him promise to remind me to get them later. They’re still up there.

I come to and realize I have been watching the three lights blink, on and off, more or less in a row, rippling at me across the air misting off of the Puget Sound. I think of the word Sound and its connotations as the sounds of the passing train rise out of the gulch, tiny and perfect, like there’s a miniature train in my ear—chugga chugga chugga toot toot! This makes me laugh and I accidentally inhale some of the Basic brand cigarette I’d been sucking into my mouth and blowing out, because I haven’t learned how to smoke yet, not really—but I don’t know this. All I know is the promise of being 17 and the magic of the clear night air and the blinking, on and off, of the lights.

I come to and I’m watching Natalie Sander-singular become Natalie Kern. Her happiness makes her a fruit that is too ripe, flushed and heavy and achingly, fully beautiful and this fullness is contagious as I grip Mike Raimondi’s hand and catch Kylie’s eye. I am hit with the weight of it: we are growing old, we are getting married, we are making the memories we will tell our children about when we are misshapen and lined and they won’t believe we ever sat like this in our best clothes with our clean hair and lip gloss, under the trees listening to the creek gripping each others’ hands and crying, crying at the gains and the losses that this moment holds out to us in its sun-dappled palms.


If there are such things
as heart strings,
you’re playing on mine.
Your fearless fingers fly up and down my neck, pluck-snap me, slap-spin me around. Close your eyes, tilt your head right, hug me close, shoulders curving over the tops of me. I’m prone against your chest, helpless and pulsing out these big deep ship-belly booms. When you’re showing off, you push me away from you like LOOK MA NO HANDS and I thrum, thrum, so deep.

Coming back to my body I remember I’m not the only one in this underground bar.

You have transported that guy in the corner to another universe.
He has completely lost control over his face. From behind and to the right I watch his muscles working:

We clap for your solo.
Then you're off again.

Your d-double-kick gets caught in my mouth.
Turns my cheeks up.
Metal and snare and wooden sticks and your pink tongue poking out the corners of your mouth. I stick my tongue out too like we’re kids on a playground.
Your high hat tastes like freezer burn on ice cream, only better.
It gets confused with the watery whiskey sucked through the plastic straw burning down in my belly and my feet are tapping, tapping.