I haven’t seen you in a while. And I suppose you’ve never really seen me (remember, I am just one proton). Though I periodically get lonely, I manage to stay positive. This is a joke, Oxygen. You see, I am always positive in an electromagnetic sense (I am a proton!), but my morale—well, with a relentless positive charge comes a great burden. O—may I call you O?—nothing comes easily to me.
When I see you, O, sitting alone in that room with the linoleum floors, I feel a jolt of excitement. I approach you, slowly at first. And the nearer I come, the sprightlier I become, the faster I approach. Shy of electrons, I fall into your orbit, unnoticed. But I must keep my distance, O—if I come too close, then my protic core and your protic core will repel. So I sit near, but not too near. And the sun strikes your colorless valence shell, and sends it swirling—and I swirl with you.
I spend a lot of time here, O, in the stir of your electromagnetism. Positively nervous. You do not see me, but I fantasize that you feel me as I share your quivering shell. And though I have nothing to offer but my protic core, I give it all to you. And for a moment, O, this is enough! Me, burrowed among your electronegativity, borrowing your charge. Bonding with you, if you will. Offering all myself to you, in exchange for the mere pull of your orbit!
And we stay like this for a while, O. We argue about the existence of The God Particle. And what gives us mass. And whether we are a part of something greater—like a particle of dirt suspended in space, or the juiciest fiber in a ripening mango. Or maybe we are floating in the soma of a neuron, deep in a gyrus of a nice old man’s brain, the last memory of his first love.
Sometimes, at moments like these, I feel like I could become a part of you, make you a Fluorine. They say alchemy only happens in the movies, but we could prove them wrong! Pull me in with amine arms! Lasso me with valence shells! Let me ionize you! Let me embrittle you!
But this moment ends, as your associates approach—a Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus. And then comes Calcium. She’s beautiful. Positively attractive, they say. And soon they encircle you, claim your charge, and I am hurled away.
Detached, I watch from a distance. And from a distance, you all appear homogenous. A million atoms, wedged together into clean, stable structures. Bouncing, polar and steady. The microscopic predicating the macroscopic. And when the music flows in like water, you dissolve into each other, and I whirl away, wishing I could just be inert. O, I am helpless; lonely, but positive. Positive, because positivity is all I have, as they say. My only potential, as they say.
But, O, when we bond, I feel more positive than ever. You see, I very rarely feel this way; you polarize me, Oxygen! Together, we can combust, undetectable by the naked eye. Invisible, but strong enough to tear down the Hindenburg!
Upon these buffed linoleum floors, the Natural Laws of the Universe operate in an abstruse way. But when you leave this room, those laws will change, and so will you, and so will I, and so will Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and even Calcium. Molecules are impermanent, yet live each moment as though fixed. They will gain carboxyl groups, become charged, unstable, enter new orbits. They will face different temperatures, magnetism, and electronegativity. And if they try and return to these linoleum floors, nothing will be the same.
After all of this, O, you must believe that I think very little of myself. But I assure you that this is not true. When dissociated from you, I can look out at plasmic constellations, each made of Hydrogen, and know that I possess something that you do not. The vigor of these suns is a product of my own core. And one day, I will combust and blaze. And I will be above you, illuminating your revelations as you revisit those vacant, buffed linoleum floors.
Though I hope this will precipitate a reaction, I know better than to think you will even read this. But I have composed this letter nonetheless, so Hydrogens elsewhere know that while they are alone, they are never really alone.