A quantifiable attraction, TiltMN

A Quantifiable Attraction

The physical feeling that comes from attraction: It’s indescribable; so powerful it can’t have an official name or definition. You’re in love, and say you can’t live without the feeling. Then say what exactly it is you can’t live without. The smile. The sense of humor? Or just the feeling when they’re near, so powerful and yet, again, so hard to describe. Near impossible to put into words.

A quantifiable attraction to some can’t be thought of as anything else but magic. Like Charles Bukowski in Factotum,

“I kiss her. She answers with her tongue. Women are magic.”

The feeling you get when there are no words to describe the way you’re feeling is called alexithymia. It comes from Greek and defines an inability to find words for emotions.

But if they can’t be spoken, perhaps they can be written instead.

I sit and daydream of sunshine and sand, stuck surrounded by people who use pictures of their dogs for their social media profiles. All I’ve had to eat are stale chocolate chips I found in the drawer of the library at the Burg. All I’ve had to drink is water that tasted like cement and iron. But that isn’t the reason for this feeling deep in my stomach.

I lean my head on my fist because I’m bored and if I don’t it might fall chin-to-chest and into sleep. My eyes are tired, my eyelids are heavy. The warm air and constant drone of the TV up front like a lullaby begging me to stop fighting. Turn daydreams into real dreams. Turn off the sun and stay in the dark thinking about her –

She is beautiful. She looks the way gospel music sounds. Being around her turns hard stone into velvet cushions and silk. Like expecting pain and suffering and getting kissed instead.

She is sitting on the bottom step of cement stairs leading up to an abandoned apartment building on the East Side. There is no one else on the street. It’s quiet. Or maybe it isn’t, it just seems that way because I can only see, hear, feel is what is right in front of me.

“I’m leaving,” she tells me. “I’m running far away.”

“Where will you go?”

She shrugs her shoulders. A breeze pushes past us and blows her hair across her face. She grins. Her hair is long and blonde. She smiles at me and says, “Wherever I want to.”


“I’m free.”

I pause. I hold my breath.

She looks up at the sky. At the gray clouds turning purple at night. “I’m free to do anything I like. I don’t have to go back to the Burg. I don’t have to go anywhere if I don’t want to.”

“But,” I persist, “where will you go?”

“You ask so many questions.” She is still smiling. She says, “You have to learn just to live sometimes without questioning why.”

She pauses, then, for a moment. She looks again to the sky and holds her head there. Her chin raised in defiance. I watch her hair fall across her shoulders. Yes, she is magic. This attraction is real.

She says, “You can come with me, if you like.”

“I want to, but – “

“But what?”

I shake my head. “I couldn’t.”


“I have to look after mom and pop. Pop’s not doing so well. And I know most people don’t really care about their parents anymore but I care about mine. I don’t know what they would do if I just disappeared the way you did.”

“I didn’t disappear,” she says. “I’m right here.”

“You know what I mean.”

The clouds part just enough for the moonlight to cut through and it makes her hair glow like the angels in paintings at church. I don’t go to church but I know what they look like. And I know how they make people feel. She closes her eyes.

“Are you…” I ask, slowly, “Are you a robot?”

She opens her eyes and looks at me. She blinks. She laughs.

“Are you?”

“No,” she says. “I’m not a robot.” She crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue. “What kind of question is that?”

I look down at the ground. “Well you’re too pretty to be real.”

I leave her sitting there at the bottom of the steps and walk back to my house feeling some kind of way I know I don’t have the words for. The words spread inside like fire from my fingers to my toes and then die somewhere in my chest. I want to see her again, I know, more than anything else in the world.

Pop is already asleep on the couch when I get back inside. The house is quiet and dark. There is no one else awake. I turn on music in my room so I don’t feel so alone. I think about her sitting there with her hair falling across her face and smiling at me with her eyes and I think about the way she smells. I think about her bare shoulders that shrug the world away and everything in it without effort.

I stand at the mirror and stare at my face for hours, hoping to find the answers hidden there.

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A Quantifiable Attraction