Black Holes

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One day I will be able to see the start of time. The beginning of the universe, not with telescopes or mirrors but through the power of two black holes colliding. Merging and dancing together to create a force that sends waves through time and space.

Time and Space.

One day I will be able to see the beginning of the universe, but I may never know what goes on in my son’s head.

I can tell you about black holes. How when things are pulled into them it makes a gurgling noise. Like a plug being pulled from a bathtub.

Glug, glug, glug.

I can tell you this happens as the energy of motion is converted to sound.

What I can’t tell you is why my son cries at night. I can’t tell you why he quit university mid-term. Why his friends, Chris and Scott whisper about a drunken misadventure at a lake.

I can’t tell you why I have to find him on the bathroom floor. His head against the cold tiles. His dyed black hair fanned out. Pills scattered like stars. Listening for the beat of his heart, all the while willing black holes to collide so I can go back to the start. To the beginning. To him as a baby. To having him safe in my arms. To that ridiculous quiff of red hair poking out of the snowsuit we couldn’t get him out of. To pushing him in the second hand stroller that always took us to the left. When the sirens come, I almost think they are the sound of his old mobile playing a discordant version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

I hum this in the back of the ambulance and I know the paramedics think I’m mad or in shock. But I’m not; I’m just trying not to scream the million questions that come into my head.

And in hospital instead of asking: Is he ok? Is it my fault? What happens next? I just say.

“We know more about the universe then about a developing brain.”

The doctor looks unimpressed. He plays with the tip of his pen. Pressing and un-pressing the clicker.

Click, clack.

“We pumped his stomach, he’s recovering but he will need to be in for observation.”

Click, clack.

Observation, it seems like such a luxury. Observation is something that only happens for many experimental physicists at the end. We build telescopes and rays and send men up in space only when know what we want to look for. First we theorise and predict, then contradict. Nothing can escape a black hole we say, then later we counter argue. Quantum physics, everything has an equal and opposite reaction.  For everything that must go in, something must come out.

And I feel suddenly desperate for a reason to be here, for something to come out of this. Maybe there’s something wrong with me and this is just the chance I need. Perhaps I should get a scan?

“I have a mole shaped like Jimmi Hendrix’s head, perhaps I could get someone to look at it?”

The doctor looks at me, slips the pen into his top pocket.

“Can anyone drive you home?” He asks.

But there isn’t, so I spend the night next to my son and dream of black holes, of them sucking me down, down, down. Then pulling me apart, limb from limb. I wake with a jump to see him staring at me.

There’s spit running down my chin. I must have been screaming, but he doesn’t mention it. He says instead.

“I heard the nurses talking, they all go smoke on the roof. Want to go?”

Out on top, we watch the steam of our breath come out at regular intervals into the cold night air. We stand breathing out long breaths, watching the mist dissipate into the night. Somehow it becomes a game, each of us trying to out exhale the other. Long, foggy puffs that exhaust us. And then we catch each other bent over and breathless we laugh.

When we stop, I feel like all the laughing I will ever do has been pulled away from me, rushing far, far to the other side of the universe.

He licks his chapped lips.

“I’m sorry.”

I look up at the stars, it’s a clear night, bright and the wind is sharp and tastes of autumn.

“You weren’t meant to be home, if that helps.”

 “Autumn is the best time of year to see stars, best chance to see anything, stars, planets, even  comets.” I reply. “Can’t see black holes though.”

My son sniffs. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I want to reach out and touch him, but I don’t.

“It’s funny really; we could be looking at one right now, a black hole and not even know it.”

He shuffles his slippers against the gravelled roof.

 “You know the best part of black holes? When one collapses, where it used to be, new stars can form.”

My son sighs and pulls the ties of his hospital gown tight around him, shielding himself from the cold night.

“That’s Orion up there right?” He nods towards the sky.

But for once I don’t want to look at the stars, or the moon, or the planets. I don’t even want to look for the start of time.

I just want to look at my son.

About the Author: 
At the age of eight, Amber decided she either wanted to be a scientist or a writer. Now she likes to do the latter about the former.

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