Mass is not all that bends space.

You can tell in an instant that the rules don't apply to her. It's not that she's beautiful exactly, or that there's anything about her bearing that says "all eyes on me"; it's some kind of shimmer of energy around her, some signal of a force that could shove your shaking knees from under you. Gravity. Poets drip about the light of the beloved's face, but this is a pull too strong for light to escape.

Here's what I thought about black holes when I was a kid. Scene: an intrepid soul in a spacesuit steps from his craft and drops feet-first into the unknown. He is not sucked in; there's no effort, no pulling involved. He simply falls, like stones fall, like cities fall. The light reddens, then is stripped away. Finally he is hovering on the edge: event horizon. If there were light to see by, you would see him stretched out on the pulsing darkness, relaxed as a swimmer buoyed up by the sea.

Below the event horizon, he keeps hurtling downwards, terror increasing because he knows not only that he's bound for the singularity (the infinitely dense point at the center, which in my childhood imagination is a ferocious-looking ball bearing of hot black metal) but that his image is floating serenely somewhere above. Anyone looking to find his fate would see him whole, a snapshot in the act of falling, long after he has been crushed into the hungry core.

Even knowledgeable people think, or thought at least, that black holes could be shortcuts across time or space or between universes. Jump in: if you're not pulverized, you might end up somewhere that you could otherwise never see. (He says: "I need to sleep with her again so I can write another story.") It seems foolish, risking death for uncertain transport -- wouldn't we rather, several times over, bear those ills we have? (I'm writing now, because I'm writing about her, and I never write anymore.) But then -- the lure of discovery, the chance to do the impossible, at only the risk of succumbing to infinite pressure. (He says: "She's a siren. Sailors, stop your ears.") Nobody would ever know if you made it or not. Still, wouldn't it be more foolish not to go?

She turns from one and takes another, an indiscriminate force. (Nothing is immune to gravity. That's why we dream of flying.) Her headlong walk doesn't whisper "want me"; I've memorized her faces (head thrown back to laugh, cheeky pursed lips, sudden profile shot when anger whips her head around) and there's no look she gives that says "you are no longer operating under your own power." But the fall begins, somehow, and you're locked, one after another, in orbit. You can stay there, falling constantly towards her like the moon falling towards the earth. Or you can plunge.

And we're mostly not stupid, but everyone's fooled: the figure you see at the event horizon is not tumbling but hovering. He hangs in space, untouched and whole. It's safe. It's safe. It's safe.

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