Mercury

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I wrote this based on something I half remember from when I was about six. People always want what is forbidden, don't they? Sometimes its difficult to tell the real from the fantasy.

Submitted: September 15, 2013

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Submitted: September 15, 2013

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Once, when I was 10, my mother dropped an old thermometer she had brought from Shanghai, and it shattered on the ground, scattering little silver orbs across our linoleum floor. When I bent down to examine them, my father shouted at me, “Don’t touch it! These thermometers are filled with mercury.”

The element mercury? I wondered. The planet Mercury?

“Why?” I asked my father.

“It’s extremely dangerous. If you eat it or touch it, you can die of poisoning. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said. “I won’t touch mercury.” And as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew I had to touch mercury. For days, I lingered near the medicine cabinet and asked my mom incessantly, “Wait, those thermometers have mercury in them, right?”

One afternoon when I was alone in the house, I decided to take the thermometer out of the cabinet and made a whole show of pretending to measure my temperature. “I’m so sick,” I wailed to the walls. “I cannot live unless I measure my body temperature!”

I took the thermometer out of my mouth, smashed it on the ground, and watched the mercury spill out, slow and hypnotic, just as I had remembered it. I knelt down, pressed my belly to the ground, and crawled across my living room floor like serpent, inching toward the mercury, daring myself to lick it.

"That’s adorable,” past boyfriends have said when I told them about trying to eat mercury. “Are you sure you didn’t dream this?”

“I did dream it,” I said. “But it also really happened.”


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