According to the Laws of Thermodynamics, the sum of the world’s entropies creates a central zero. If I position my feet just right, heels pressed against bags of dog and cat food, my ten-year-old body fits inside the kitchen pantry. I stand silent, watch through the dark brown wooden slats, elbows nestled between cans of tomato sauce and tuna, head cushioned by cereal boxes. Outside the pantry, my parents pace across the white and blue linoleum as they argue. Through the slats, I can just make out shadows as a body crosses in front of the flickering overhead light. The Law of Conservation of Mass states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Mom’s tears slur her words, anger my father further. He slams down whatever is in his hand. And since I can’t see it, I guess at the sound of its weight hitting the table or counter—a mug, a magazine, his fist. Only once do I hear the sound of muscle against flesh. My father’s voice fills the house as my mother’s shrinks, softens, disappears. When they’re done, the door slams behind my father as he storms out of the house. My mother retreats upstairs, turns on Food Network. I know she is hiding under a blanket. I stay in the pantry until the silence is too much. The gravitational force at Earth’s center is zero. I fill my head with their accusations, their blame until they drown the silence out, until the pantry feels too full and I leave.


Tianli Kilpatrick holds a Master's in creative nonfiction from Northern Michigan University and a Bachelor's in creative writing from Allegheny College. She is an Asian-American writer covering topics that range from adoption to trauma. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in The Portland Review, DIAGRAM, Sierra Nevada Review, Gravel, Split Rock Review, and others. When she's not writing, she's riding horses or boxing. She lives and writes in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.