Elizabeth Hellstern

Two Pieces

The Space Between: A Meditation

My brain works in spurts: There are two hemi­spheres and a space between. The space between is filled with synaps­es, junc­tions that jump from nerve impulse to an unknown land­ing space. The space between is the vul­ner­a­ble sweet spot of juicy pos­si­bil­i­ty. The space between is a chasm, and beau­ti­ful, but how we land is entire­ly up to us.

Yesterday, in the strange per­fec­tion that is the way of acci­dents, I knocked the nerve in my right elbow again­st a clap­per of a door­knob, clang­ing the humer­ous with as much unin­tend­ed force as a school­boy ring­ing the vil­lage bell in a black and white Russian movie.

The immutable laws of time bend dur­ing events of chance—time invari­ably slows down as you watch an acci­dent unfold. So I held my hand up and watched the incred­i­ble elec­tric­i­ty come. Time allowed me to sus­pend my judg­ment in the space between the moment my body reg­is­tered the event, and the reac­tion of my mind. In a small, but large, space I drew a breath and observed my sens­es.

There was shock­ing power—my nerves surged like a light­ning bolt. I want­ed to label it “pain,” to say “OW!,”—But it wasn’t pain, exact­ly, though uncom­fort­able. It was inten­si­ty. My body was an elec­tri­cal con­duit.

I wait­ed in that thresh­old space. While I wait­ed, teenagers slept more than ever. Puppies rest­ed near fire­places. Artists sketched, writ­ers jot­ted down notes, musi­cians prac­ticed their scales, and bak­ers let the bread rise.

My left brain turned to biol­o­gy. I learned that the humer­ous, the “fun­ny bone” is attached to the ulnar nerve, which neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly con­nects the elbow to the bot­tom half of your hand. The ulnar nerve enters the spinal column at the top, near the base of the brain stem. The brain sends more of its men­tal ener­gy through the ulnar nerve than any oth­er nerve. Your brain is quite inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed to your hands.

The hol­low of time between pain and accep­tance, the start and the fin­ish, the brain and the synapse, the envelope between us and the let­ter. The ocean between sis­ters, the white that cools col­ors, the cur­tain cut­ting the stage. The space in the bub­bles, and the bell, the burst­ing space between the yolk and the shell. The room of wom­an­ly his­to­ry, where I braille the vel­vet yel­low wall­pa­per.

The right side of the body is close­ly con­nect­ed to the left side of the brain, which con­tains more active func­tions. Metaphysically, ener­gy is trans­mit­ted out­wards along the ulnar nerve, through the right hand, as it flows along the “active” path­ways through the neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tem. If brain ener­gy is trans­mit­ted out­wards through the neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tem, and hit­ting your fun­ny bone sends more men­tal impuls­es than usu­al, it would seem I had set off a huge active, men­tal ener­gy with­in myself by hit­ting my humer­ous. What was I to do with this elec­tri­cal ener­gy?

And so…I entered the vestibule, the por­tal, the worm­hole, the spaces of the open­ings between the car­riages of a pass­ing train. I stepped inside the womb, the cir­cle, the space­ship, the time cap­sule, the seed, the eye of the storm. I slipped between the rub of the fin­ger and the thumb, the between space of speak­ing in tongues, the emp­ty space betwixt the twitch­ing chan­nel for angels and beings between our see­ings. Spaces.

The space between a cold spir­it and the prick­le of my skin, the dilate of my eyes, and the tug of my hair strand. The space between heavy words bal­looned in a pop above my head, and when I say them true and well, with­out mal­ice I know they’re not my maybes any­more. They’re where I have land­ed. But the space calls me back and hurt­ful word arrows slow before they reach me, and sharp objects are not closer than they appear, they’re not even here.

Spaces. They lie between us.

So I’ll fill those spaces with silent love, lay my body down as a bridge for oth­ers of impor­tance to clam­ber over the chasm, to fill the space between us, until it is full—it is surg­ing with the

Spaces. They fill with what I bring. I’ll become a bet­ter space-between-us hold­er, a mag­net­ic induc­tor of a life filled with mean­ing. And what is the mean­ing of this?

When life knocks on my fun­ny bone, when I dance with the jin­gle of elec­tri­cal tin­gles in the space of a light­ning bolt, I’ll become a con­duc­tor of con­trol, with­out con­trol­ling a thing. It’s not pain, it’s sen­sa­tion, inhala­tion, pen­e­tra­tion, alchem­iza­tion.

It’s the space between the strike of a nerve and the strike of solid gold.

Spacy Thoughts: A Mythology 

I’m tired of real­ly tight spaces, and super strict schedules–like sub­ways, meet­ings, ele­va­tors, dead­li­nes, rush hour traf­fic and crowd­ed offices where cubi­cle walls sep­a­rate every­one; they’re divid­ed but still share the same space.

Not for me–I want to spreeeead.

I’m gonna space out. I’m gonna be a space fan and jour­ney safe­ly, man. I’m gonna give lots of space between me and the mean­ies, the bad­dies and the shal­low waters. I want to pick my way care­ful­ly, choose each stone step in the riverbed. Not run around like a chick­en. I’m gonna find emp­ty pock­ets of un-struc­tured time, where I can sit and think for hours—and be fine. Or I’m gonna listen—to a stranger’s sto­ry (only the ones of val­ue, please.) and he’ll tell me the mag­ic while peo­ple stare at us and won­der if I need res­cu­ing.

No, give us some space, please.

I want to pon­der over things and fondle them in my brain. I want to recall tales of Charlemagne and that Viking king; I want to savor grat­i­tude; re-play syn­chro­nis­tic­i­ty; re- hear farewell words– “Safe jour­ney space fans, wherever you are.”

I’m a space fan, wherever I am.

While I’m trav­el­ing, the best thing is that wide open space in front of me. At Safeway, if it isn’t the right day I’ll prob­a­bly give you a wide berth, and at par­ties I’m pret­ty love­ly for an hour and a half max, but the drink­ing days must def­i­nite­ly be spaced out. When we talk if the long spaces between our thoughts are as com­fort­able as pil­lows, then I know we are closer than if we pulled the con­ver­sa­tion blan­ket too tight.

In respon­se to dif­fi­cult mes­sages. I take my time, and time my space. I won’t get in your face. If you get in mine, I’ll decline, but I’ll stand straight like a tow­er. If I start to cow­er, I’ll stretch and bring oxygen—my body needs the cush­ion of those spaces between.

In the space of time, I remem­ber I needn’t fear. I labeled my actions as wrong—I didn’t feel my own—I judged with mea­sure­ments that were passed down with per­sis­tence.

Space gives you 20/20 vision.

I want to be avail­able for the kit­ty to sleep on my lap, free for the child to take a leap, here for the part­ner to tell me his dreams. To know hel­lo and good­bye as aus­pi­cious. I’ll take a pre­cious baby for a spell, the hold­er of dreams with a soft spot of gen­tle smell. Here. In the gift of space between you and me. It’s called the present for a rea­son.

I want space.

I want time to remem­ber I love you, when you’re gone. I want the vac­u­um that allows day­dreams to turn on. I want to learn the lan­guage of my body, my dog and my song. If you have a dead­line, that fine—just don’t make it mine. I’m free from mea­sure­ments, com­par­a­tives, imper­a­tives and oth­er people’s nar­ra­tives. Hands off, that’s my biz-ness.

If I’m wise enough to take that space…

Give it to the Galactic Plain. Grab my fear and spin it around again, and it’ll get dizzy, fall, and space out. Unreachable by a tele­scope or barom­e­ter. The fear will spread sooo thin, you won’t be able to smell it much more.

Then there will be plen­ty of space between my fear, and our love. There will then be you and me, my love.

With no space between us.


Elizabeth Hellstern is a writer and cre­ator. She is a grad­u­ate from the MFA in Creative Writing pro­gram at Northern Arizona University. Her mul­ti-gen­re work is accept­ed for pub­li­ca­tion in lit­er­ary jour­nals such as Hotel Amerika, Blotterature Literary Magazine, and Flint Literary Magazine. Her essay “This Weather Report Brought to You by Autism” was pub­lished in The Narrow Chimney Reader: Volume 1. She enjoys work­ing on her art instal­la­tion the Telepoem Booth, where mem­bers of the pub­lic can dial-a-poem on a rotary phone in a 1970s style phone­booth (TelepoemBooth.com.)