about the author

bl pawelek has been to a million places in life and has forgotten most of them. But he is here now and trying.

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rotation and the self

bl pawelek


She once asked me why I glanced skyward all the time. I told her I only did when I was indoors. She did not understand.

She still tries. It is admirable.

“What is your favorite line from a movie?” she asked.

“Saigon...shit; I’m still only in Saigon.”

She stopped with her wine glass in mid-air and looked at me. I took a look up.


There are five blades. They look like quality wood, and I like the dark brown color. Reminds me of camping in the Sequoia forest, of a wood necklace I used to wear when younger.

The glass underneath the lights looks difficult to make. Looks impossible to make. I wish I knew how. But the fan looks beautiful above me, beautiful in the room. Possibly a little oversized but the beauty in its grace and slow movement is overwhelming.

I like it when it is slow, maybe sixty revolutions per minute. From below, counterclockwise and from above clockwise.


She had once claimed that I was the most selfish person she had ever met. I was younger then and did not know better, but I do now, and she was spot on. When you stay within your ‘self’ for years at a time, it seems inevitable. You cannot blame me.


I used to

—stare directly into the sun

—listen to the ringing of the ears and try to find a pattern in the noise

—sit in a hot, dark shower and wait for the colors to come

—force my body to cover immense amounts of light to see if I could suffocate it all

—relax, slow my breathing, slow my pulse to one beat per minute.

I should not say ‘I used to.’


“These things are important to me,” I say.

She gets up once more and heads for the door. She has left me before, and today she will leave me again. I always think she will not come back. Sometimes I am not happy when she does—it always seems like I am so close when she comes in the door again.

When I hear the door shut behind her, I take a breath. Of course, my head hurts. I cannot remember before the pills for the pain. Yet, I get up and walk to the bed. Turn on the fan—thirty revolutions.


Components of motion perception, retrograde rotation, rotational illusion, and instant center of rotation. The scientists have all the cool names.

Basically, when objects rotate quickly it is very easy to trick your eyes to “see” the object rotating on a different plane, rotating in a different direction. At one hundred rotations per minute, it is simple; at sixty tougher. I have worked my way down to thirty rotations a minute, and I can still force the ceiling fan to spin in an opposite direction.

What will happen when it takes one minute for a complete clockwise rotation of the fan’s five blades? Will I still be able to make it spin the opposite way? I can’t wait to see it.


Of course, I tell few people of these things. Only when there is a breakthrough, and even then, I am typically scared to. When I was younger, I used to, but it does not take long for the teeth of words to bite deep.

Plus, there was The Failure. Years after a crucial success in my thinking, I proved myself wrong: prime numbers moved after all. It was devastating, and I have questioned myself from that day on.

That keeps me pretty tight-lipped.


In the movie, the soldier rests in his bed staring at at the fan. “Saigon...shit; I’m still only in Saigon.”

I like to think he was thinking exactly what I am thinking now. The progress will come. The movement will come.

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