about the author

Rosanne Griffeth lives on the verge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spends her time writing, raising goats and documenting Appalachian culture. She holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina. Her work can be seen or is forthcoming in MsLexia, The Potomac, Pearl, PANK, Night Train, Keyhole Magazine and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other places. She is the blogger behind
The Smokey Mountain Breakdown.

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Cold Dark Matter

Rosanne Griffeth

He tells her about the dark, secret places in the Universe. It’s his world, not hers. She’s all about words and he’s all about numbers, but she tells him he’s smarter because he gets the words. She doesn’t get the numbers. He explains about cold things unseen, known only by the accidents they cause. It happened after The Big Bang, he says, neat, tapered fingers tapping on the tabletop.

If the Universe were an onion, there might be one skin where he will think, Christ, does everything have to be a metaphor to her and she will think in turn, numbers, that’s all he cares about. Numbers. But that eventuality is merely theoretical at this time.

She pushes the food around her plate. It’ something she does to affect boredom when she’s actually paying attention. She wonders how something unseen can be known and how can there be seventy percent of infinity. She doesn’t believe in the uncountably infinite. Says Hilbert gives her a headache. He tells her it’s what’s left over after the void explodes. But she hears it as left behind. Invisible and left behind.

That’s so sad, she says, and he looks bemused. She hasn’t understood, he thinks, but she’s just spun words around his numbers, decorating his lemniscates with eyes and ears so they look like little cat faces. If he didn’t know better, he’d think she was mocking him and she might be.

Every “s” he says, leaves his lips a reluctant lover, embracing his front teeth. It’s one of the things she loves about him—how his mouth makes words possessive, esses being the most jealous of consonants. But he’s sensitive about it. Calls it a lisp. She wishes he were a girl so she could capture that sibilance on the tip of her tongue with a violent kiss. She imagines it tastes of butterscotch or Brazilian flan, creamy, sweet and slightly burnt. But he is not a girl and they are just friends—which doesn’t really convey exactly how closely they connect. It’s like some ridiculous shit Plato wrote and blamed on Aristophanes.

He tries again to explain cold dark matter, wondering if she flayed open his chest with a flick of her whip would the numbers come spilling forth, making all as crystal as air after rainfall.

But all she can think about is how lonely that sounds—to be left over—left behind, invisible, cold and in the dark.

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