Sunday, May 19, 2013

Arsenia (ahr-SEN-yə): the feminine derivative of ‘arsenio’, meaning ‘virile’, in Greek

It is true that her skin is prematurely gray, and that she is unable to break into sweat or produce a personal scent. But they love her because she is quiet and unambitious, and therefore naturally able to transform into what the other girls want her to be, simply by taking her place beside them, pretending to listen. She answers their little notes on scented stationery, and attends their birthday parties, which grow more elegant and elaborate as the years pass. In this way, she becomes one of them, despite her obvious differences.

But none of this matters to her really. Only one thing enthralls her: her secret ability to disappear at will, when the conditions are right. There is nothing she loves more than to stand before the full-length mirror in her steel-colored bedroom, take off her clothes, and watch herself blend into the wall. 

Soon, the girls in school begin turning into women. She knows this by the knowing glances they exchange and the way the smell of cheap cologne intensifies, when a boy passes by. They each discover, one after the other, that they can make the things they touch bloom. The world beckons, beautiful and dangerous, and they lose interest in her. She remains herself—even though, somewhere inside her, she is certain, a world is ripening quickly. 

One day, scrolling through the Periodic Table of Elements, she notices the element As. She googles its properties and reads through a litany of noxious qualities. She sees herself on the computer screen, and, electrified, recognizes her true element and purpose. The world bursts into flames. Or is it only her young body that explodes, in that exuberant moment of deliverance, and turns into a pile of ash and air? You and I will never know. 

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