First draft/ try at an experimental/ lyrical nonfiction piece. Not so sure about it. Help and comments appreciated.
Run Until You Finish
In Lavoisier’s bell jar, a bar of metal experienced a lifetime in three hours. Through tubes probed on either end, hydrogen pumped in, eddied around the bar and stripped away decades of youth at a time. Pinpricks of rust surfaced within the first hour. Here and there, little marks of character like the tattoo your librarian covers up with a Band-Aid each morning, or a man’s false finger drumming on a counter--small details that make a person look like they’ve got a story to tell. The flecks of rust christened the metal bar with years of maturity in the time it takes an infant to put together his first cries.
If you were in Lavoisier’s jar, you would start at one end, sweet as a child’s breath, and sprint down the expanse of the jar, into your future, leaning forward while you’d run just to get there that much faster--so your youth won’t take so long. You’d hit all of your growing moments with staccato fists as you pump your arms harder and harder on your way to finding out what it’ll all add up to.
Now, you would be a child at night, walking downstairs for a cup of water. Reach in the dark for each stair with your sock feet. You fall, chin-down, losing your balance and your two front baby teeth.
Now, you’re a shy girl sitting on the pilled armrest of a crowded couch, in a house you’ve never been to before. You adjust your skirt and take a sip from the tervis tumbler a friend gives you, tells you it’s the good stuff. But it gnaws at your chest while you wonder if you’ll ever grow to like that feeling.
Now, you’re in an abandoned tobacco field, end of summer, lying on a quilt and looking at the sun. You realize the young man who took you here, the one who said he’d be back in a few minutes, has been gone over an hour now, and he’s never going to come back.
You’ve experienced this all, but you don’t feel an ounce wiser. Life in Lavoisier’s jar makes you dizzy--unsure like a newborn colt’s legs, buckling at the shock of themselves.
But you’ve already got some marks to show your journey—the scar across your left calf from the time you snuck out of your bathroom window and fell from the lattice outside your house, a liver-colored cigarette burn on your shoulder, an empty spot in your mind that you keep trying to fill—but you’ve been living so quickly, you can’t remember how they got there. You’ve got stories to tell, but no way to tell them.
By the second hour of Lavoisier’s experiment, the metal bar was the same shape, but entirely covered in rust. All of its sheen gone, rendering it unrecognizable. Still, Lavoisier kept the hydrogen turned on high while he took notes on the bar’s loss of identity.
Living at this pace, you’d never get to know yourself. Every time you’d pass mirror or a row of windows on a building, you’d look different. And as much you’d want to stop for a breather, just a few seconds, to re-count the freckles on your cheek, examine the new gray hairs, you can’t. Time in Lavoisier’s jar moves so quickly, you have no choice but to run until you finish.
Now you’ve thrown yourself headlong into job where the only conversations you have are with the automated voice of a printer. You have to push its buttons for it to talk back. You spend the rest of your abbreviated days hitting the red button just to hear the machine say, Cancel. Cancel. Cancel.
Now, you’ve been married for twenty-three years, but you got here in such a rush, that every morning, you’re still surprised to wake up next your husband, who stretches his sleepy arm back around your waist after you push quickly away.
Now, you’ve felt your back crane down with the weight of seventy-nine years as you struggle to lift your shovel and dig holes in your backyard. You are alone. You could be digging graves for all your friends you never got to know. You could be digging escape tunnels from the bombardment of years. But the truth is you found yourself here so suddenly, you have no idea why there’s a shovel in your hand, or how it got there in the first place.
In the third hour of Lavoisier’s experiment, flakes of rust floated around in the current of hydrogen like plastic bags catching the wind from passing cars. That’s all that was left in the jar. Little relics, too small to do anything besides wade in the air that was killing them.
In the last hour of your life in Lavoisier’s jar, the hydrogen would whip away at you, tear off the coat that covered your aching bones, tear away at the memories of what you were. And with a one last gust of fight left in you, you try remembering one more time:
Remember that vacation your family took to Vermont when you were just a child. When you stood knee-deep in a creek and looked down at all the life in the shallow water, little bugs squirming to the surface on the first and last day of their life. And after hours of looking in the water, you found a heart-shaped rock and held it tight in your fist for the rest of the trip, just to feel like you owned something.
Remember the end. Right before your parts where thrown to tread in the air all around you. When the end didn’t look like you thought it would. Mature is the last thing you wanted be. You had no stories to tell. You’d kill to start over. From the beginning. To pace yourself. You didn’t know what you wanted. You were confused. The end didn’t look like you thought it would. Not a pinhole of light to walk into. Instead, the sun from a window. Beams of it pouring right through you, through the curves of the jar, fishbowled and warped.