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Most Common

Cuts Deep

By Nickolas RudolphPublished 2 years ago 10 min read

Arjun sat at the breakfast nook in his kitchen. To call it just a kitchen is an understatement and doesn’t do the size nor capabilities justice. This room was the culinary equivalent to the chemistry lab Arjun worked in. One thing Arjun enjoyed more than working in a molecular research lab and occasionally for a forensics lab, was cooking. During his many years of school, obtaining a doctorate in Chemistry and a bachelors in Physics; working as an assistant to the Baltimore Medical Examiner's’ Office; and teaching Chemistry to high school students as substitute teacher, Arjun learned to cook.

Not just to cook but to create mixtures of tastes that were as unique and precise as a master composer creates the harmonies of a symphony. Mixtures that produced the same result of conversations every time he had the occasional dinner party. Conversations that began with amazement and ended with the suggestions he went into the wrong career. When he cooked for someone he asked questions ahead of time. What flavors they liked, their comfort foods, which smells reminded them of their grandma. And with that knowledge he would make a three course meal that was tailored to the audience. Familiar but also something new and interesting. He often said it was like curating a mixed tape for his friends.

Arjun appreciated the sentiment of his friends, thanked them but never argued that his ability to create such delicious food was a direct result from his scientific method and forensic procedures. The planning, the research, the methodical measurements and recorded results. All of the skills he has learned as a scientist has made him a good cook. The ability of observation and deduction has seen him through his career and many social and cultural endeavors. His passion to learn, to create, and to share has been something he has been able to count on for many years now. Until now.

He looks around his kitchen and for the first time he has no desire to create, no wish to expand his repertoire. For this fleeting moment Arjun only wants everything to burn. He wants to destroy something. Deconstruct an ordered object and slip it into disorder and finally into oblivion.

Around the room there are little reminders; pictures and ticket stubs stuck on the refrigerator, handwritten notes on a dry erase board, silly crafts sitting on the shelves, mugs, and any other object that could hold meaning to two people. This mosaic of things that once worked a summarization of their relationship, now seemed like the background radiation of some distant cosmic event. And like some object of dense gravity the ring sitting on the counter, just three feet away, pulled all his attention.

In his mind a strobe of memories pass by at incredible speed and with it every little bit of emotions fights for dominance until he is standing at the peak of their relationship and staring down the slope of descent of the last two months. From this vantage point he can see himself sitting in his kitchen now and the events of the descent are becoming clearer as he begins to consider his observations.

Two months ago Spring was coming to an end and he had just received an offer to join a research team at John Hopkins University. More exciting to him than that was his decision to ask her to marry him. Arjun thought it was interesting that he was more excited about asking for her hand in marriage than getting a position at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. It had been his goal for over nine years. He had been working so hard for his entire adult life to get here and now as wonderful as that was, it was shadowed by his decision to ask her to marry him.

He was not particularly nervous because their feelings for each other, their love was irrefutable. And now he was ready to ask her. He sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and waited for her. Like every Tuesday for the last six months she got to his apartment between four and four thirty. And like a well rehearsed scene from the theater, the sequence started. The key inserted then turned in the front door, a few steps and shuffles upon entering, and the sound of the hanging of the keys, purse, and jacket. Arjun smiled at the familiar sounds and thought about how he was prepared to hear them for years to come.

“Hello?” she called.

“Hi honey, I’m in the kitchen.” Arjun replied. He took another sip of the tea as the sound of her steps came closer. As she entered the room he inhaled and as if the taking in her aromas eased his excitement.

“Hey there” she said with a smile and walked over and kissed him softly on the lips.

“Hey, how was your day?” he asked. It felt like a dishonest question. Not that he didn’t really care or not that he did want to know but with another question, the important question nestled on the tip of his tongue, everything else will seem routine. He listened to her for a few minutes and let her bleed the day off so she would be relaxed.

“Are you okay?” she asked. One of the things he loved so much about her was her almost empathic ability to tell when something was off. This made her a great counselor for children. This talent also led to him telling her for the first time that he loved her. Right here in the kitchen in these exact same stools. “You seem like you have something to say” she finished.

“Yeah, well two things really” he said and could feel the little box with the ring in his pocket as he shifted in the seat. “First, I got the position at John Hopkins, I start this coming fall semester.” He rattled off as if he was telling her about some mundane event of the day.

“Oh my god that’s great!” she said with all the sincerity and excitement to be expected. She knew how important this was to him, to anyone. She had been his cheerleader during the past several months as he went through the application process, always encouraging him, always reassuring him. “Are you happy? You seem distracted. Is there a catch? Is that what the second thing is?” she asked. So perceptive he thought.

“No no, I mean yes I’m beside myself, really” Arjun said now standing. “It's just this news pales in comparison to my other news.” he said, feeling the rush of excitement.

“Okay, are you pregnant?” she joked and they both laughed which Arjun appreciated because it released some tension.

“So, I have been thinking about something for quite a while now and have looked at things as I always do from a scientific viewpoint.” Arjun said.

“Nerd” she jested and received a smile.

“Yeah I know, and well I also looked at things how you told me I need to every once in a while, using nothing but my feelings” he paused. He was now standing in front of her and reached out with his hands to hold her’s. “Everything that I am currently, my job, my house, education, all of it has been the result of hard work.” He saw her head tilt a bit. He knew he needed to get to the point. As he often did he was in danger of rambling on and losing focus and momentum. Though he didn’t think he could do that now.

“And while that is all good and I’m proud of all that, it is no match for how I feel when I’m with you and how you have given me something I could have never learned in the finest lecture halls or can explain with any discernible theories. You have shown me something truly supernatural, something I don’t want explained and only want to continue to feel.”

Her face said it all. A mixture of surprise and anticipation. Anticipation for the question that hung only a few seconds away. Like Arjun had decided, some traditions were important for certain occasions and so he got down on one knee. He reached in and pulled out the little box and opened it exposing her to the ring.

“Honey, will you marry me?” He asked. She said yes and for the next few minutes they embraced and cried and talked about their love and happiness. Arjun’s excitement which he can now admit was a bit of nervousness was subsiding and it was now replaced with pure joy. His smile was pinned in place as he watched her admire the ring.

“Oh my god Arjun it’s beautiful” she said and touched his face with her other hand. “It's huge, how can you afford this, is this too much, I mean I love it but I don’t want you to go into debt for this.”

“It’s actually way more interesting than that, I made it,” he said. She looked at him with a questioning face. He expected that, it is an odd thing to say. “I’ve been growing this diamond in the lab at work for the last two month”.

“Wait what do you mean, it's not a real diamond?” she said, looking at it more closely.

“Oh no it's completely real, diamonds are more common than you would think and the ones that come out of the ground have been made millions of years ago by chance. This one was made especially for you by me.” He could tell that she still wasn’t understanding so he went on.

“You see diamonds are just carbon aligned in a perfect lattice to form these crystals. And carbon being the sixth most common element in the universe, diamonds aren’t at all special; they are merely marketed that way.” He could tell she was considering it. “You see we have the technology now, well we’ve had it since the 1950s to make diamonds and they are often used in science labs, and not often put into circulation in the jewelry business, mostly because people think they are fake.”

“I even used the precision instruments in the lab to inscribe our names microscopically on one of the cuts. You’ll need a microscope to see it but it will be there forever now.” he went on. “This ring that now represents my love for you will endure until the sun becomes a white dwarf and engulfs the planet. This totem of us will be constant for the next seven billion years.”

Arjun spent the next few minutes going into the process of how they are made and how jewelers can’t tell the difference when they examine them side by side. He convinced himself she was understanding and tried to move on to the important part, getting married. Though he felt there was something left unsaid.

Over the next several weeks Arjun noticed subtle differences in her behavior and expressions when she looked at the ring. When they told friends and she showed them the ring she was reluctant. Somehow the conversation got around to him making it in a lab and the conversation about carbon went on.

Towards the end she almost seemed embarrassed. They seemed to not be doing as well in other areas of the relationship anymore and Arjun couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the ring. She wasn’t that shallow he thought, she was above all of those silly societal norms and typical expectations. Right? He asked himself again and again. This led to a chip being on his shoulder he would ignore.

“Dude, apparently your fiance mentioned that she didn’t like her ring” a friend said while he and Arjun were out for a few drinks.

“What? What the hell does that mean?” Arjun said hurt and letting the drinks soften his filter.

“So, it’s fake right?” the friend asked.

“No it’s not fake, it’s as real as any other fucking diamond”, Arjun said slamming his bottle on the counter. “What about this is she not getting?”. They continued talking through the night and it became clear that the process in which a diamond is made is what matters to some people. The natural way seems to impress some people more. Arjun couldn’t believe the hypocrisy of it all. Someone preferring a diamond mined in a poor country by under paid or forced labor, and sold to fund dictators or rebels or human trafficking. He hoped this would all just blow over.

As the weeks passed, they fought and made up several times until the final argument that led Arjun to sitting in his kitchen alone. The ring with the diamond that could outlive all of humanity sat on his kitchen table. A sphere of negative energy seemed to permeate around it. Arjun wanted to destroy it like he destroyed their relationship. After an hour of arguing the chip on his shoulder finally fell into the words “I had know idea you are so shallow that you would prefer a diamond mined by children in Africa rather than one made by the man that loved you.” Realizing he just said “loved”, past tense, as in “no longer”.

With that said and unable to recall, unable to apologize for saying, and knowing full well he now truly felt that way, she left. She removed the ring from her hand while looking right at him, placed it on the table, turned and walked out.

Arjun sat there in the void for a few minutes before he remembered to breathe. His eyes blinked away the dryness of shock and they ripped and teared for the next hour. After the shock wore off the rage entered but was stifled by cold measurement of his options. Would he futilely try to win her back, knowing it wouldn’t work and it would only be a gesture of desperation. Would he be a cliche and throw it as hard as he could into the Chesapeake Bay. No, he decided to sell it to a scientific instrument company that could use its almost unbreakable surface to drill or polish or conduct heat.

In the end, every time Arjun saw the “C” in an equation, referenced number six on the periodic table, or thought about what most objects are made of, what one third of the gas we exhale is, or what is the main component that is killing the environment, he thinks of her. Once the woman he loved seemed so unique, like no one else he’d ever met. Now, he knows she is most common.


About the Creator

Nickolas Rudolph

Speculative Fiction and Commentary. Family, learning, investigating, music, and edgeworks are his passions.

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