Excerpt: 'Binary Star' by Sarah Gerard
Photograph by Georgie Pauwels
I once thought you were a neutron star.
I thought I was a neutron star.
I could never be a neutron star.
There is not enough of me to be a neutron star.
A white dwarf is the final state of a star whose mass is too small to be a neutron star.
We’re confusing terms.
A white dwarf no longer uses fusion.
It is held together by degeneracy pressure.
This is the only thing supporting it against collapse.
This is also the only thing that keeps it from exploding.
A white dwarf depends only on density. A white dwarf isn’t burning.
It isn’t doing anything productive.
It doesn’t matter that I’m not burning anymore. I haven’t burned for a long time.
I approach my natural state of being. Cold is my natural state of being.
I grow dimmer every day.
Lightness very much depends on will. I have basically starved myself of will. Of
want. Of whether and what I believe.
In being better?
I was born without will. I was born with certain beliefs.
In sacrifice. Humility.
I am mostly devoid of feelings on purpose.
Feeling is fleshy. Don’t touch me.
If you touch me, you have to hurt me. I don’t want you to be afraid.
What matters now that isn’t?
You used to paint. Now, when you paint, it is shapes overlaying each other.
Transparency. Reds, blues. I see through them all.
John is mostly concerned with appearances. In this way we’re alike.
In this way we’re destructive.
We have only ever believed in appearances. Even now.
You have only ever believed in appearances.
A white dwarf cannot exceed a certain mass. I reach a limit that my pressure cannot
You want me to be better.
John wants me to be better.
John doesn’t want me to be better. John doesn’t want to be better.
John doesn’t want me.
Is that true?
John, let’s stop. We’re circling each other.
I feel that the sun is rising. I have made more coffee. It burns in the gut, in the
I move from the couch. I am little but a shadow.
I feel that everything is a matter of because, because John and I talk on the phone but
it is mostly trying to understand.
Now we’re eating ourselves and the star chart moves and everything seems to be
curving around what I want, but I can’t find my way to it.
The Main-sequence chart. Are we on the main sequence?
I’m the center of the room.
I’m fixed. I’m not fixed: I careen.
I’ve been still for too long.
What was I thinking?
I was thinking about women. I was thinking about the scroll.
The online scroll. But traditionally scrolls end in circles.
Clothing tags. Toe tags. Taglines.
We disappear together. Tumbl together.
All seems to move except for me, and yet I feel that I’m in motion. I vibrate against
I’m spinning. I’m spinning. John, I’m spinning.
I’m spinning. I’m spinning.
I’m spinning. I collapse.
There are binary companions we never see.
Like black holes.
When a body crosses the event horizon surrounding a black hole, it shifts to red.
The body’s redshift is its infinite gravitational lensing.
I walk down the street without feeling. I always move without feeling.
It is something I will.
So oblivion is a verb.
I think the pharmacist feels me. He anticipates my needs.
Can I help you?
No, you can’t. I’m here again. You’re in my periphery, so I see you.
You see me. You look concerned.
Are you sure I can’t help you?
The modern value of the limit of white dwarfs was first published in a paper:
“The Maximum Mass of Ideal White Dwarfs”.
Can you explain that?
I stand in the diet aisle. Hydroxycut. Lipozene. Alli. EAC. Metabolife. Sensa.
Zantrex-3. SlimQuick. QuickTrim. Mega-T. Slim FX. PhytoGeniX. Xenadrine.
Thermonex. NitroVarin. Stacker. Labrada. Irwin Naturals Triple-Tea Fat Burner
I stand at the counter. Christina Ricci. Nicole Richie. Portia de Rossi. Mary Kate and
That’ll be twenty.
Mischa Barton. Victoria Beckham. Bethany Frankel. Allegra Versace.
Is that all?
Kelly Clarkson. Lily Allen. Keira Knightly. Ginger Spice.
Credit or debit.
Lindsay Lohan. Lady Gaga. Fiona Apple. Isabelle Caro, who’s dead.
Felicity Huffman. Calista Flockhart. Tara Reid.
Karen Carpenter, who’s dead.
Would you like a candy bar for a dollar?
The Barbie Twins. Lara Flynn Boyle. Paula Abdul. Joan Rivers. Sharon Osbourne.
The ladder is the ribs, the lines in the chest.
The gap between the thighs.
I want the rings around the eyes.
Nobody ever talks about the giant black hole at the center of our galaxy, or the fact that
most, if not all, galaxies orbit supermassive black holes.
It is not good for casual conversation to talk about circling oblivion.
By death I don’t mean individual inevitable conclusion, but the death of any trace of
any of this. Deep death, if you consider that death is a matter of time.
The nature of a supermassive black hole is such that the density of its singularity is
less than that of a smaller black hole. In some cases, it is no denser than water.
This means that a body traveling toward the black hole center will not experience
significant tidal force until very deep into the black hole.
An observer would notice very little change. Once a body crosses the event horizon, it
redshifts, but it never disappears.
Binary Star is the debut novel by Sarah Gerard, to be published by Two Dollar Radio on January 11, 2015. Copyright 2015 by the author. Excerpted with permission of the publisher.