There is a small space.

Its carved out from both time and the contours of the universe. Its a small spherical volume that erected at any point in time and any point in space. The coordinates can change according to whim and chance or spiral around a specific location and time of day carved out by habit and force of will.

The space is a small, Perhaps it is clean. Perhaps it is well lit. Perhaps it is not.

In times past you could venture into the world and mark it out with a package of cigarettes on a rented table. You paid rent in the form of coffee or cake or a glass of wine. Then you smoked. You smoked to demarcate the boundaries of the ritual space. It was summoned from a cloud of ash and the geometrically increasing probability of a foul death. You smoked to push other minds away and their nasty, uncouth bodies. You smoked and drank coffee and tried to forget about your own body.

Today the cigarettes are forbidden and more of an invitation than a ward against strangers.

Still, we go out and try to find that space. In the world. Outside the place where we have a lock and a key and more control. Going out into the world and finding that place where only our own gravity exerts its pull is a challenge but one we imagine to be pleasant.

Artist’s rendering by Nicolle Fuller/National Science Foundation

For women its far more difficult. Despite every sign and signifier, despite every unsubtle demand for others to fuck off and die, others persist in violating the boundaries. I am not a woman so I can only believe what they say. Many say this and they say it often so I have no reason to doubt.

In the time of plague we are not given the option of going out into the world. The feeling of your own gravity is punctured by a microscopic entity that claws into the center of your body. I cannot find the space away from others as they exhale a probability of infection. Clouds of swirling risk. Even walking feels like moving through these unseen miasmas. Its no place to find refuge.

I’ve spent half of my adult life living alone. Its more difficult to find the space when you have possession of a key and a door and a certain square footage all to yourself. Perhaps that why we go out among others to find our own gravity. It requires an awareness of the presence of others to find your own space. You cannot define boundaries in a void. The walls and door defined the edges of the void. There was no place to be found within it. No other minds. No other gravity to exert your will against

We still need to find that space. Alone or overwhelmed by our equally entrapped family. That small sphere where you can only feel your own gravity. Find an hour where time is yours. Eat pickled herring on garlic toast. Feign demonic possession. Take a bath and glue the door shut. Do what you need to do.

I’m sitting here with my glass of tea, engaged in a battle of will with the cat. The 11 pound ball of fur, fangs, and indifferent needs for attention pushes against my sphere. Even the pale yellow eyes of the cat provides enough of an other presence to make the boundaries of my space clear.