“Two hundred miles from the surface of the earth, there is no gravity. The laws of motion are suspended. You could turn somersaults slowly slowly, weight into weightlessness, nowhere to fall… You will break up bone by bone, fractured from who you are, you are drifting away now, the centre cannot hold” (100).
This passage from Written on the Body speaks volumes. The repetition of words related to science, physics, space, and motion (such as earth, gravity, laws of motion, weight, bone, etc.) is critical to understanding this moment in the novel. The laws of motion are considered by most to be absolute, unchangeable and fixed. However, just 200 miles from where we all stand on Earth, everything we think we know about physics is wrong. We are rooted to the earth through gravity, but in a moment, we can be lifted from normalcy and brought into weightlessness with nowhere to fall.
Much like a scientific fact, the narrator thought they knew everything about Louise and everything about their life together. Yet, because of just one sentence, everything crumbled to pieces. Not only was their life with Louise shattered, but even the narrator themself was “fractured from who [they] were, drifting away now” (100). When something as easily accepted and important as gravity, or in this case, true love, breaks, who you are breaks with it.
As another student mentioned in class, “the centre cannot hold” comes from a Yeats poem titled “The Second Coming”. In my opinion, both the poem and the novel’s passage refer to absolute chaos erupting from the seams of the world. Louise was the narrator’s world and imagining a life without her was like imagining life without the laws of motion- impossible.