Today is HE 1, as in the start of the Hurt Era, the day after the hurt was born, as in a narrative device for marking the passage of time since a transformative event that I’m copying straight out of a book you lent me this summer (the only one of them I read). I suppose it depends on which calendar you consult. If we’re being honest, then the hurt was written in the stars a while ago, but I’m marking the date with the eclipse, with the apocalyptic lining up of time and place that finally spelled the end and thus the beginning. I guess it’s more convenient that way. I don’t have to admit as much.

Most calendars count years, but Einstein’s theory of relativity (which we touched on in my science class, which I wish I had told you more about) tells me that hurt exerts a gravitational pull. Hurt attracts you, asks for you and of you, demands that you lean into it. Hurt dilutes time: a day when you’re hurting is endless, the kind of unfortunate truth that makes you set your alarm for 7:30 with the promise that you’ll get out of bed and eat breakfast for once only to go back to sleep for three hours just so that you won’t have to feel for so long.

At the center of hurt is a black hole. You are sucked into its field, suddenly (though haltingly) and inexorably, a wary but morbidly curious seeker of novelty, and when you get to the singularity, you are greeted only by lack. Hurt, in other words, is your chest. Hurt is the spot right between your ribs. Right above your belly. You are suddenly aware of its presence. You find that there are no bones there after all—that the traditional association between hurting and breaking is perhaps not entirely accurate—but that there is a soft little cavity. You discover that the cavity is no longer stuffed with Post-it-Note declarations and thought-that-counts trinkets and future plans. Hurt is no hunger, for hurt also robs you of your appetite. Hurt is merely emptiness. The absence of what was.

What happens when you get to the other side? Scientists have long known that once light crosses the event horizon, it can never return. But only recently—BHE 105, to be precise—did they learn that light can emanate from behind a black hole. Out of hurt comes new matter, a brilliant and bracing kind of wholeness. It’s the stuff of dads saying I love you for the first time in months and moms hearing you cry for the first time in years. The stuff of text messages from distant friends who aren’t as distant as you thought and impromptu games of pity pool. The stuff of stolen, guilty, retrograde hugs and lots of gloriously painful growing. And, at last, the sound of the violin.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.