You and I Are Chemicals Not Yet in Equilibrium (A Theory)

Ru Nguyen
9 min readMar 12, 2021

I left my calculator home on Monday and took too long to finish my chemistry test. You came out to your parents. Nothing feels right. Our skin crawls. We video-call for hours and I neglect my friends, trying to satisfy the craving for your touch but never getting there. Because physics doesn’t work that way. You write about the discomfort of your flesh and I get the privilege to read it first. I want to help, I do, but the organic teaching of something like the twisted philosophy of accepting yourself can only be done through a role model. It’s fucked that no role model was ever there for either of us. I am still unlearning and relearning myself, and I’ll share my theory with you.

It’s funny to think we exist in bodies. Bodies, particular, peculiar vessels to anchor our existence on this earth so our consciences don’t freely drift away. Bodies that are just avatars for us to dress up however we want. Bodies that harden to be strong to carry the heavy labour of our ambitious to-dos. Limbs that mature in awkward ways and skin that roughens to endure the wrath of judging eyes. Faces that are born pretty and not pretty and penises and lack thereof to determine the X-ed boxes on your birth certificate. Breasts and uteruses to be sex objects or the divine tools to make new life. Bodies that are seen.

I was born in December, a surprise to my parents. Under the watchful eye of God I was their daughter. It humours my family that my mother has an obscure fear that she was given the wrong baby. Her DNA has failed to make an exact duplicate of her. I tell you we don’t talk much now but there was once a time when we shared simple conversations. We’d watch TV and everytime a disabled person came on screen she’d remind me “be grateful how normal you are”. As if disability, different, abnormal was a disease. Grab my hands in her motherly care; she’d roll my knuckles between her fingers. I had artist hands, fragile ones, none of her clubbed thumb in sight. I don’t think I’ve ever looked my parents in the eyes. It’s still too hard. I repeated their words under my breath and screamed and cried too loud to block out the world that was overwhelming me and stop it they’d snap and they’d yell until I did. Nothing is wrong with this family except for brachydactyly type D. Smile and hide it.

Hold it in the intricate circuit connected to the central head, tying in your five senses so they can be made sense out of. Don’t you ever feel like some of us were born with our wires disconnected? Sometimes missing, sometimes short. A circuit sometimes overused or lacking a power source. We often forget to analyze the things we observe. Mostly these things are insignificant, but some are inklings to a much bigger secret. My computer started blue-screening months ago. For some lucky points of history, the data has been recorded, filed away to be dug out on euphoric sprees and reanalyzed this present moment so I can say “this has been me all along!” Dig out my own journals and open the letters dedicated to my future self too early. I find the ramblings of

I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself. I want to die. I want to kill myself. I want to be unborn. Kill me so I can be. I want to be my brother. I want to be reborn. I want to be the older child. I should have been the older child. People tell me I should have been, so why wasn’t I? I should have been the only child. Only one. I want to be reborn — just so I can be seen — as a boy. As a boy. As a boy.

Bodies of molecules and chemical reactions. That’s what your thoughts are made of, did you know? Reactions, one sextillion of them happening in the brain per second. The abyss of your mind is not infinite and your memories take up precious real estate. Your capability to rule the world can be represented on a periodic table. I wish we were born with the chemistry of heads matching the chemistry of our figures. I wish the two sciences understood each other. The brain knows how to think but the body never needed to be taught. One is smarter than the other, one knows to find clarity in times of turmoil, and one cannot be changed although we try so damn hard. One is an expert of control.

On Tuesday, you forget your wallet and your phone is in your left pocket instead of your right. Neither of us sleep well and I couldn’t understand logarithms. I’m just tired I’m so tired I get tired telling people. But for what reason, I still won’t sleep early. Our beings are too needy. They need sustenance and rest and love. We get bored too easily and waste our short life away sleeping eight hours a night in our beds. Bodies want comfort; perfect temperatures and woundless tissue and the touch of others. Don’t fuck with its homeostasis. But I neglect to mention our minds cope with boredom using challenges it makes up for itself. We make challenges to bring discomfort to uneasy stagnancy in a vessel that enjoys comfort. A confusing contradiction that exists in dynamic equilibrium. We think we’re so smart, problem solving, trying to keep outdoing ourselves, create systems and constructs of power order so we can fool ourselves into artificial happiness, give our persons more purpose in this existence.

On Wednesday I want to hear you laugh. A real one from your stomach like heat to a fire. I want to be there to witness the spark that starts it. Snap snap snap the people love you, they really do. They love how the sound of your words register in their ears. The way our hands carry themselves to make magic happen is something that always leaves me awed. It is the ideas we develop and the actions we carry out that make people love us. It’s what makes me love you. It’s what makes me love me. Smile and feed the fire, warm our hearts — your lunch is getting cold. Don’t forget to eat.

Bodies for ownership. Bodies that are yours but often taken away by nonconsenting others. Bodies that signal “she’s a girl” and “he’s a boy” and “she’s a slut” and “he needs to eat more”. We are entitled, territorial, prideful, integral, and jealous. Look at the mirror in the morning, pick out your stomach or arms or acne and decide to hate or love yourself that day. Look in the mirror and believe that what you look like represents who you are, how strong, how feminine, how masculine, how true. They say you can detach yourself from your beauty but can you really? Not for long. It all comes running back. That’s just what I believe.

I developed anorexia in March. My frame was too much for me and others and I thought what better way to fix that then to simply make it disappear? Less of me was less of the one thing that made me most disgusted, uncomfortable, sick. Watching the weight drop and my belt cinch a notch or two tighter made me so fucking happy. A direct and inverse correlation on one chart to graph My Size v. My Ambition v. My Delusion. Purge until I can’t swallow. Stuck in my head and no one could tell me what I was doing was wrong. Shut down my bodily functions and yet still expect my cognitive ability to not get the same. Smarter than me, my body would recover before my mind and I would lose the battle. Accepted a necessary defeat. Love yourself, I say. When will I start practicing what I preach? Now now now now now now. I believe it I believe it —

Wednesday night: my ribcage is compressed and aching, skin is itching and my hands are where they shouldn’t be. There are things you can change about your body and things you cannot. It is a matter of picking the battles to fight. My mother doesn’t like what I’ve become. Chills of fear shoot up my spine and my eyes swell red. The tears that soak my homework filled with hormones to escape the trap of my mind. My chest is hurting but I can’t peel off the strangulate fabric binding my identity together. Because I’ll fall apart.

Bodies of organs, of security and violation and hurt. An organ once raped will bear its scars forever. Bodies for handling like temples or jewels or pets. Or neglect. I don’t want to get started on how our bodies hurt each other. I often wonder if my dysphoria is caused by the pure misogyny and indecency hurled upon female bodies. My brother always had it so much easier. Had I grown up in a place that empowered women and celebrated femininity, would I feel any different? It’s nature versus nurture all over again — it’s a balance of both but theorizing won’t get us anywhere because what is is what has always been. Unreal constructs birth real consequences and gender, the binary, beauty, virginity, race, culture, power, success, nuclear families, intelligence, social cues etcetera etcetera holds no reason. Perhaps your Y-chromosomes mean nothing.

Thursday: I see your embers are still burning. Thank you for spreading your fire to mine but it can only be myself who restocks the wood. I always forget to shut down my laptop. Maybe that’s why it’s broken. Always overloaded with tabs. The burnout is catching up to me and I’m approaching zero like a fucking asymptote. (I really should review exponential rules again.) Let’s pick a day. We are stubborn planners, goal driven over-exerters and we always get what we want. Let’s cut our hair or grow it out and pierce our skin because there needn’t be a reason other than the fact that it makes us feel ourselves. Let’s dress in our favourite skirts and take selfies in the sun and recharge our dead batteries.

The laptop analogy isn’t working anymore, because it didn’t break down from overuse but a hardware problem. Computers know their purpose and have one purpose and without all its manufactured parts they are useless. There are a million copies of them and one that sticks out from the standard model is defected and removed from circulation. We can and do treat humans like that, but people aren’t broken when they are not straight, not cisgender, not neurotypical, not skinny, not feminine or masculine, not the standard. There is no standard — we made that up. We are not defects. (Haha, notice the laptop analogy never worked; it is a matter of physics, not chemicals, though we never treat things how we should.)

In a closed system, a reaction will begin aggressively and slow down when time goes on. You can manipulate many variables to speed up the reaction, but with time, it will fizzle out on its own. For some of us, all the catalysts and extra stock has been used and introducing new energy into the system is too difficult. For none of us, all variables are controlled. Your equilibrium can shift almost purely by chance. I think I’m still waiting for my system to reach equilibrium. The activation energy has been put forth into accepting myself, but it might take years before the ingrained prejudices and insecurity is rinsed from my soul. And I’ll wait.

Tomorrow — I forget I can’t write experiences I haven’t yet lived. Tomorrow your body and mine will carry us through another day of our mediocre existence/of our world domination/of all of the above. Our bodies will make everything we wish for possible and that already is a beautiful thing. You can make peace with how you look or you can change it or both and I think by understanding that you have the choice and power makes your battle already won. Our bodies are just chemicals that are supporting life to the best of their ability and we don’t need to prescribe it to anything at all. Don’t disregard the magic of your chemical reactions either. Your body whose compliments brightens days and whose thoughts change perspectives (always for the better). The facts that your being is just that but also so much more exist in tandem.

I’ll see you tomorrow.