Every once in a while, I’d see you in the distance while I was driving down the street.
I may have seen you only eleven times in my life, and I know a part of you is essential in all of my living cells, but as I said, I’ve only seen you from afar.
Once, I saw you outside my bedroom window after the first snowfall covered the land in a blanket of white. That’s when I saw you walking outside alone, looking for your next meal.
I know you can leave me with a sour taste, but I know you are needed in ATP, DNA, RNA, and it aches me to see you suffer so.
I think I saw you with your children as I sat out on the balcony of a father’s house — I watched you in the distance, but I didn’t watch you alone. After a while someone said to me that you looked peaceful, but at another time they would have shot and killed you instead.
As I said, I only see you from afar, so I try to learn of how you were created from such large places, at temperatures higher than anything we could imagine.
I tried to learn, because one day I was told to go outside, and that’s when I saw you laying down among the trees, never to walk away from my home again.
I’ve always only seen you from afar, and suddenly, as you lay there, I could see your organs shriveled and sunken in after your skin had pulled away as you wasted away. Suddenly I could see traces from your capillaries, and I could trace your rib cage, outline your spine.
I know the heat that created you. I know you’re highly flammable, and I know that when you start to burn you’re impossible to stop. You fire bombed in World War Two, and the only way they could stop you was by dumping dry sand on you, because you’d burn through the air, and you’d even burn under water.
That’s why you’ve been used in fireworks and in flares. That’s why you’ve been used for illumination and flashes in photography.
So they call this momento mori, I thought, when I grabbed my camera to photograph you in your final resting place. Because even though I’ve seen you, I’ve needed you, and I’ve known the damage you can do, I needed to photograph you right then and there. I’m sorry. I needed to remember you this way.
Every once in a while, in the middle of the night, I wake up in massive pain as one of my legs convulses, and it feels like my leg’s in a vice grip as my muscles cramp at me defiantly until I attempt to stand to battle the pain, while I hold on to my bed frame, struggling until the pain ends.
And that’s when he tells me “Leg cramps? You’re low on Potassium. You should eat a banana every day.” So if there are bananas in the house, I’ll eat one the morning after one of those leg cramp episodes, because even though I’m a vegetarian, I’m really not that fond of bananas.
So then I have to remind myself, you need Potassium, and bananas are apparently high in Potassium.
But wait, I take a multi-vitamin daily, that has to have all the Potassium I should never need. So I read the label on my multi-vitamin jar, scan for Potassium, and see that it only has two percent of my USRDA…
Wait a minute… That doesn’t make sense. So I look for Potassium supplement jars, And as a rule they don’t exist. (At first glance on line Potassium Hydroxide is available after you fill out a hazmat waiver form, and besides, Potassium Hydroxide is used for livestock, and Potassium Chloride is an injectible for pets.) And that’s when he tells me, “Oh, they don’t sell supplements of just Potassium, because it’s toxic if you take too much, So, since it’s a a health risk they won’t sell it.” And all I could think was that if I took a ton of multi-vitamins, that would probably be toxic too… So then in frustration I looked to find the average amount of Potassium in a banana.
It was three percent.
Really? Three percent? That’s all I need to stop my leg from cramping at night? Then why is the USRDA For Potassium so high? And how bad for you can Potassium be that they won’t put enough into multi-vitamins, and they won’t even release it as a supplement?
Then while shopping, I looked at a flip-top sale can of Chef Boyardee at Kmart for a dollar. The can was for whole grain lasagna. I looked at the back label with the Nutrition Facts, and saw that it had ninety-eight milligrams of Potassium, which was twenty-eight percent
So even though there is a ton of sugar and salt and fat in a can of Chef Boyardee, should I start shoveling down that pre-processed pasta instead of a banana when my leg cramps at night?
I mean, if I can find a surplus of Potassium in a pre-packaged can of Chef Boyardee Lasagna, maybe I should look for Potassium in other sales at the front of this local store…. So, let’s see. Jolly Ranchers don’t have Potassium. Swedish Fish don’t have Potassium. Willie Wonka Nerds don’t have Potassium. Nestle Goobers don’t have Potassium. A can of Green Giant Sweet Peas doesn’t have Potassium. A bottle of Italian salad dressing doesn’t have Potassium. A bag of rigatoni noodles doesn’t have Potassium. And I really doubt I should be living off of cans of Chef Boyardee whole wheat pasta lasagna. (Besides, I think I’d be too afraid to even eat lasagna from a can. Really.)
So I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to figure out why you need Potassium in your diet so much if I can’t even find it easily in foods… And since they say bananas have Potassium, I looked into it: since Potassium is needed in all living cells, a depletion of Potassium in humans can also lead to cardiac problems. But from what I’ve found, Potassium is needed in plant production, because it’s found in many vegetables as well as fruits (like bananas, I suppose). But the way we mass farm now in this global economy, it’s even leading to a depletion of Potassium in the soil… And the thing is, Potassium is usually found ionized in salts, meaning that it’s water solubility gives Potassium many chemicals in it’s ionized form… (Which I suppose is good for us humans, since we are over fifty percent water.) And this is the weird part: because Potassium is so water soluble, it is never actually found as the pure elemental Potassium. The English first called Potassium “Potash” (derived from an old Dutch word for the way it was extracted, after evaporating solution in a pot to leave traces of Potassium like ash), and was first primarily used in the production of glass, bleach or soaps (which seems totally fitting because of it’s water solubility). Then a German researcher introduced Potassium into fertilizers, which is awesome for us humans who need Potassium for our cells, so Potassium could be in all of our plants and fruits, but now it seems due to our mass farming that Potassium fertilizers won’t be enough, especially when in this modern age we usually opt for processed foods lacking Potassium instead of fresh fruits and vegetables.
And yeah, because of it’s solubility with water, it can react with some of the elements like hydrogen (producing a ton of heat) or halogen (detonating with a bromide), or even have explosive reactions with sulphuric acid.
That just totally reminds me how Potassium, like so many elements we need in our lives, can also have terrible repercussions when mixed in just the right way with just a select few elements… Because if I can get Potassium into my body in just the right — and natural — way, maybe then I’ll stop having muscle spasms at night, reminding me that I’m deficient in the element that all my cells so desperately need.