C is for Cosmic Wanderer

By Carole de Monclin

I’m not alive.

Yet at my finest, I contribute to the wonder of life, infinitesimal though essential. For without me life couldn’t be.

Born within the heart of a star, I came into existence before the universe reached the last stages of its infancy, only to be scattered across the void by the explosion of my creator turned supernova.

Adrift amid interstellar dust, an inexorable pull sent me swirling in a whirlwind of matter and blazing heat. My meandering ended when the gravity of a world in creation enthralled me.

For millennia I floated aimlessly in the winds, until an alga absorbed me, stripped me of the two atoms of oxygen I had acquired sometime along the way and made me its own. As simple as that I became part of life, and a new adventure began.

I waltzed for eons from one life form to the next. I flew above majestic forests, crawled blindly underground, drifted with the currents, swarmed in the heat, reveled in the scent of decaying flesh, swayed in the breeze, dashed across the savanna and swam upstream. I sat on a queen’s throne and wandered the poorest slum.

My journey has been a glorious one and never kept me away from life for long. The beauty of my participation lies in the endless flurry of combinations I can form with other elements. I belong to the perpetual flow of organic matter from which every living organism, however unique, borrows its basic components before returning them when they’re no longer needed.

The cycle goes on ad infinitum.

At least it should. But I have become a prisoner.

Although I haven’t known the misfortune of being trapped deep inside the crust for centuries, I share the fate of those unfortunate atoms that traded one cage for another when they were drilled and, instead of reentering the cycle, were polymerized to fashion a plastic bottle.

After turning into a blue pigment, I was mixed into that same bottle, soon carelessly disposed of and buried without hope of being recycled into the perpetual flow.

Time is inconsequential. I’ll know freedom again someday. But when I do, and my wandering resumes, what will be waiting for me?