Sometimes the waves are crashing very hard on the other side of a wall. It’s a clear wall, scuffed plexiglass maybe, and the waves flatten themselves against it like specimens on a slide. You can see the violent turbulence, the dirt, a ghostly glint of something gelatin that stings. You brace as they break, but you stay dry. The sides will crack eventually, and you’ll drown.
Usage: 'I listened to Sufjan Stevens and I didn’t even cry; I guess everything’s in the aquarium today.'
In the twisted metal nest of the refinery sits a hundred-foot gout of flame: excess fumes being vented off and set on fire. If the gas is not released, it builds up dangerous pressure; if it’s not burned, it poisons the air. It poisons the air anyway, though, and the fire kills songbirds and moths. From a distance, the flare can be beautiful, tiny and vivid, a birthday candle in a tangle of wire. It is much bigger than it looks. It is toxic to everything.
Usage: 'I’m not sure if this is justified rage or a gas flare.'
There is external gravity and then there is internal gravity, the gravity of the guts. External gravity is always there; internal gravity spins up, like that ride at the amusement park that pins you to the wall. You might not sink when it hits, not visibly. You might not even brace yourself for a moment on the shelf of fancy jams in the grocery store. But inside, the gravity is too strong for the narrow scaffold of your body to hold. Inside you’ve crumpled dramatically down and you’ve taken the jam shelf with you.
Usage: 'I know the jam shop is only a few blocks away, but I’ve got gravity.'
Excerpted from The Hairpin.