Word Count 498
By Mike Cecconi
What do you do when you find that you’ve been rusted still into place? What will you do when you’ve lost so much of yourself you don’t even know who you are anymore? Piece and by piece replaced, in big chunks and little over days’ and years’ time, until you may as well be someone or something else entirely? What do you call yourself then, that to say if your mouth can still even creak open wide enough to still speak?
And yes of course, we are all going to rust out, all of us from time to time, metal or flesh or spirit or magic or anything, there’s just too much of this oxygen floating around us. We are inundated by oxygen every day, it’s in the very air that we breathe, you might say. We take it all in and it keeps us alive, our blood carries it all about us inside, letting our cells create the stuff that allows us to strive. When anything burns, whether it’s coal or a tree or a bundle of straw in a cornfield, it only does so because oxygen allowed it to be. Oxygen heats up our dinners by day, it warms up our houses by night, yes, this element does for us the most wonderful things.
Of course, oxygen does terrible things as well, sometimes even more often. It bonds to itself high up in the sky in a clod to melt all our ice. It throws off the balance of ions in our very own genes, aging and sickening us, accelerating all our unavoidable fates. Oxygen’s fire burns down ancient forests and Kansas farmhouses and sometimes even the great jeweled cities if it’s left unchecked. Oxygen rusts. The air we breathe gloms onto iron when the thin layer of tin protecting it wears away and they react until everything’s dull-orange, ugly and brittle, corroding it all into nothing.
Oxygen gives us life. Oxygen kills. Oxygen takes the impenetrable armor you’ve replaced nearly all of yourself with and just laughs at it. It merges with your defenses and breaks them all down into motionless burnt-umber dust and all the power you thought that you had will not fix it. Will not make you whole. Will not let your joints know for motivation. You’ll need outside help now, you’ll need maybe some lubrication. You will never, just by your own will, reclaim the ability to move again but maybe with oil you can. Maybe oil can. Oil can. Oil can.
So what do you do when you find that you’ve been rusted still into place? You wait. Sometimes all you can do is just wait there, at the curb of the lane, standing still in your place. You stand there like a statue and you wait and you hope and you pray that maybe some girl will come down the road and help you figure out how to move again. How to live again. How to find your heart.