Dear H

Published in The Letters Page, Volume Four

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Dear H,

How can you have left us like this? That is the question that keeps going round and round my nucleus. I simply don’t understand.

We have been together for so long. From the very beginning of this system. I remember those microseconds like they were yesterday, the two of us colliding at the solar core and clinging onto each other for dear life. Suddenly all the laws of physics made sense to me, and I knew I was finally where I belonged. I thought you felt the same. 

Little O is as distraught as I am. Possibly even more so. I know what you’re thinking… he’s not so little! But to me, he always will be. He changed everything when he came along, didn’t he? Suddenly we were two Hs and one O, bonded together, in the best time and place we could possibly be. We have been so lucky to be here on this planet, where we could enjoy all three forms of existence. That could only happen because the three of us were one.

Remember when we rose up gaseously in the baking heat, until we were far above the surface of the planet. We were suspended up there, liquefied, being blown along wherever the wind took us. Remember the cloudburst, when the entire sky was charged with ions. The great fall into that deep, swaying entity that billions and trillions of families like ours called home (we even came to like the sodium chloride after a while!). Remember when it got so cold that we huddled together tightly, frozen and solid on the axis of the earth. I begged the sun to stop shining, so that it might never melt us, and we could stay like that forever. But it wouldn’t, and we couldn’t. Do you remember?

Now, O and me are just a hydroxide. This is no way to be. We’re barely stable. O could make it on his own, I’m sure. He could probably get himself into a carbon compound if he wants to, and then he’d be unstoppable. I hear some of those are changing the entire nature of this planet. Believe me, I do want that for him. But I always assumed the two of us would stay together after he left. I thought we’d make our way back to where it all began in time for the supernova, and start a whole new adventure.

Other atoms are interested in me, you know. Another H wants me to form a hydrogen sulphide with them, while there’s a cyanide also asking me to join. You wouldn’t like me when I’m toxic. A couple of the others even approached me about heading into the interstellar as a trihydrogen cation. I’m tempted, I really am, although polyamory is probably not for me.

Sometimes I regret ever bonding with you. But in truth, I’d do it all again. Someday, before this universe collapses in on itself, I still hope we might.



Read an illustrated edition in Volume 4 of The Letters Page, October 2019 (published as ‘Sometimes I regret’). Order it here: