A Striking Resemblance | Chelsey Clammer

But I was talking about lightning.

There. Between us. Magnetic flux. The density of our different desires tethering us together. I am pulled towards him. My compass, oriented. We lie in his field of attraction. I travel and re-travel to him, again. And again.

There’s the metaphor of the magnet. The fact of how each has its magnetic moment. The pull, the touch. The continual drawing closer. Lured into that field—the magnetic one in which I enter, then his urge to me, (though not yet)(the tenacious wait), then we meet, then the two of us tumble together towards the fact of connection, the fact of attraction. His decision. He comes to me. Fact. Magnets interact.

Also, there’s the spark.

What a cliché.

I will use it anyway.

The spark, its force, the need. Magnetic moment. Tactility.

Suppose I were to tell you he only touched me once.

Suppose I were to tell you I haven’t seen him since.

Suppose I were to tell you his hands have yet to recede.

Magnetic. Two energies charging, building, colliding. Then striking. It’s how electricity is conceived.


A tremendous electrical buildup in clouds is what concocts lightning. The electricity stews, brews. And then it is ready. Lightning channels escort it to the ground. The taxiing of manic energy. The surge of lightning leaves evidence of its existence behind, everything touched now magnetized. Its unique magnetic signature stamps itself on the world; then the lightning quickly retreats like part of a couple in a one-night stand, leaving in the air behind it that charged magnetic feeling that something happened here. Perhaps at times we can still feel it. That flash of an influence. There is no going back.


About the lightning.

About how there was that magnetic charge, once. About how he almost came back.

About how he does now, differently. A different kind of flash.

After our magnets (somehow) pull away from each other, the grasp released, the weeks spent alone, and then more weeks spent alone, holed up in my apartment, grieving. When I re-enter the world, I look for him everywhere. Strangers shape shift for a second. Him. That’s him. Maybe. No. I become curious about my attraction to him, how it is I have come to consider the creation of that magnetic moment as something called we. How it is that I continue to feel the crackling buzz of his touch imprinted in my skin. My veins ache.

I dive further into the definition, wanting to know the specifics of this specific attraction—him, his hands, his only chance—to understand it, yes, to make it a part of me, yes, to make sense of how I continue on with the pronoun we, regardless. Even in his absence. We. The intensity that reeled him in. Hands fishing for flesh.

White veins crackle across the sky.


Electricity impresses me. Its tenacity, its persistent return. Resilience.

Lightning striking the skin is a type of artistry. Electricity races through the path of least resistance. Veins like taxis. Lightning penetrates, enters past our permeable membranes, the pores of skin, and splashes into the current of blood in body, the bolt graffitiing its existence through the maze of those veins, leaving dark marks, those tubular, charred replicas of itself. The evidence of tissue damage proves the strike’s accomplishment—an impression left on human flesh.

When lightning strikes skin, when nature’s assault on the body has retreated, when it walks away from its one chance, when the lightning survivor wakes up in a hospital and looks down at her body, what she sees is the tattoo of lightning’s trajectory. How it has revealed her circulatory system. The mark of tissue damage looking like lightning crackling across the sky.


Because I want to talk about lightning.

I want to talk about that magnetic moment.

I want to talk about him.

I want to talk about how he imprinted himself on my skin, how my veins still rattle with him.

How touch is shocking, fast and effective.

          An electric touch translated in my body in the space of two-tenths of a second. The time it takes to realize a touch. Two-tenths of a second leading to a surge of a connection that lasts. This is about him, his touch, his one chance, the flash.

This is how it happens. His touch interrupts the way my body is walking. The feel of the summer night breeze swishing the hem of my cotton dress, kissing my thighs, is forgotten in the moment of his one chance. A touch. An alteration, a new reorientation. First, he compasses me. Here is my body adjusting to the significance of his feet running up behind me (and his quadriceps flex, his hamstrings elongate, determined feet propel him forward, toward me, his body full of movement, of want, of an undeniable, unstoppable magnetic pull. What turned him on? What jolted him in my direction? How did he see me walking alone down the too-dark sidewalk? How did he know this was his one chance? How long did he watch me walking, his plan brewing? An irresistible lure. His feet then running. The violence of his storm.) He pushes the feel of the summer night breeze out of my mind. And sight. His sight. His clear sight of me walking down a street alone at night. There. He strikes. In a brief moment my muscles clench, my neck a nexus of startle that quickly spreads.

Two-tenths of a second.

A surge of sensory synapses. Inside, cells circulating the feel of him on me.

Him on me.

Fingers like magnets.

Then, Hey baby, what’s your name?  His voice like a lover’s heavy breath blanketing my skin.

And there is the fact of his other hand.

As where the hem of my dress shames itself. It is not long enough.

His hand as it finds its way. One set of fingers caressing my shoulder, one set reaching up, underneath, from behind me. The short dress.

Think: bowling ball. He reaches in, tries to break the barrier of brown cotton dress. Thumb there. Finger here. His hands reach, searching, curious as to how much distance within me he can achieve. The stimuli.

Magnetic. Two energies charging, building up, then colliding. Then striking. It’s how electricity is conceived.

Consider the concept of safety, of what the meteorologists advise about when I should seek shelter after hearing thunder. Use the “Flash-to-Bang” method, they say. The number of seconds between the striking light and the rumble of thunder. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Each second, a mile. How long until I should seek safety?

(Two-tenths of a second).

The magnetic pull of him towards me. His hands on me. Tactility.

The spark, a cliché.

I have to use it, anyway.

Suppose I were to tell you he only touched me once.

Suppose I were to tell you I haven’t seen him since.

Suppose I were to tell you his hands have yet to recede.

Suppose I were to tell you I have yet to let down my hackles.

Better to be safe than sorry.

I didn’t react to the sound of footsteps pounding. Then, a grabbing hand. A shaken shoulder. A body electrocuted by shock. Tissue damage.


Long after he is gone, long after he walks away and turns the corner, after three years of therapy, he still strikes me. Again. And again. And again. After he grabbed me, after I did not tell him my name, after I roared, after I turned around to face him, my shoulder then released, his fingers jerking out of me, I looked at the shadows of his eyes.

Lured into that field, the fact of his attraction. His decision. He came to me. Fact. Magnets interact.

I stand still now, on guard, stand expectant, watching him fade away momentarily. I will never see him again. I will see him every day. Years later I will have gone through many lovers. Many hands will touch my clothes, will help to tear this dress from my flesh, in just a flash.

But it will be his hands I remember best. Our flash of a moment lingers. Yes, his fingers.

My body was the focal point of his attention. He chose me to be the one to feel his touch.  Magnetic.


I want to talk about a different man now. Roy Sullivan. A lightning survivor.

And not just a one-time survivor of that rare occurrence, but on seven different occasions the lightning stroked him, jolted him. He survived each time.

And then he died. How? Did the seven doses of lightning’s assault finally overpower him? This man, this “Human Lightning Conductor,” this man named Roy who became a human lightning rod, who found his place in world record books because of the seven times, was not killed by lightning. What killed him was the self-induced gunshot wound to the head at the age of seventy-one. Perhaps it was about an unrequited love. Lack of love. If only he could have seen what did love him, the huge bouts of lightning that just couldn’t stay away.  His body and brain fried from the seven times. Add to that a lover who perhaps wanted nothing to do with his tissue-damaged skin, did not want to look at the sight of his veins tattooed onto him like lightning crackling across the sky. Maybe at seventy-one he got a case of the fuck-its. A flash of a plan. A bang of its execution.

The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000.

Something thought Roy was special. How it always found him. How it singled him out seven times.

Ten percent of lightning victims are killed.

Roy waited until after he survived to die.

And what about me? How I was struck? What are the odds of sexual assault?

One in four.

This strikes me.


I am talking about lightning.

Three million flashes of lightning occur each day around the world. Three million right conditions. (He sees her. She does not see him. One in four women).

Veins crackle across the sky.

The idea of we builds up. I cannot strike it out of me.

The brain continues making the connections, again. And again. And again. And then three years later and then still, the synapses.

And then still, the synapses.

And again.

The synapses.

Snap out of it.

This is about lightning.

There. Between us. Magnetic flux. The density of our different desires tethering us together. I am pulled towards him. My memories compassed.

This is about lightning.



To one day feel the calm after his storm.

Chelsey Clammer is the author of BodyHome and has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and Black Warrior Review among others. She is the Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown and Founding Editor of www.insideoutediting.com. Her second essay collection, There Is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub. http://www.chelseyclammer.com.

A longer version of this essay received an Honorary Mention for The Water~Stone Review’s 2014 Nonfiction contest, and was published in their 2014 issue.


3 thoughts on “A Striking Resemblance | Chelsey Clammer

  1. kirizar

    A disturbing piece. No doubt it is meant to be. Perhaps it is the confusion I feel for the terminology. Romantic novels tend to describe the ‘magnetic pull’ as a positive sexual energy. This writing converts that imagery to an unwilling force instead. It definitely forces the reader to think in terms of the effect of words and language and the ability to mistake them for a fixed meaning–context is everything.

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