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.)