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An Amateur Alchemist

al·che·my \al-kə-mē\
1 : a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, the discovery of a universal cure for disease, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life
2 : a power or process of transforming something common into something special
3 : an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting

I spent a generous portion of my adolescence trying to blow up our house.
Well, more specifically, our bathroom.

Due to the dubious influence of Mr. Wizard’s World (I mean, really, what business does any adult have teaching children how to blow stuff up anyway?), I fancied myself an amateur alchemist. A shaving gel cap became my beaker. A cup of rubbing alcohol, some baby powder, a smidge of aftershave, a splash of Avon Skin So Soft. Stir with a toothbrush handle and…


Little wonder that my family, generally oblivious, grew suspicious of any activity behind a closed or—heaven forbid—locked bathroom door. Although I felt certain that my chemistry experiments were my secret (thinking back on it now, I’m sure they must have noticed we went through toiletries like we did toilet paper), I had to ensure the security of my potions. After all, if I did succeed in blowing up the house one day, wouldn’t it be important to protect the information from someone who might want it for nefarious purposes?

Day after day, I tried to find the perfect concoction, certain that eventually, a hiss, fizzle, puff of smoke, and boom would prove my genius.

However, none of these bathroom compounds proved as combustible as my internal world. The intense fears of abandonment, self-loathing because of my dark skin in a pale world, scars from abuse—all threatened to create an explosion exceeding any I could create with those paltry powders and lotions.

4 responses to “An Amateur Alchemist”

  1. Avatar lee lee says:

    Amanda, thanks for sharing this! I love the idea of “alchemy” as both child’s play and {a} child’s harm. And by love, I mean in a writing sort of way…not in real life. 🙁

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      i know what you mean by “love.” to me it’s the same as saying you love a movie about something tragic. the english language can be so limiting sometimes. i’m sure in like, german or something, they have special endings that alter the meaning of a word like “love.” for us, it’s all based on vocal inflection and context. nuance is a thing of beauty–too bad we don’t have more of it in our language. ~~acb

  2. kfrayz kfrayz says:

    nothing was better than the day i learned how to make a volcano erupt in my kitchen as a child…science RAWKS…

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      ah, yes–the good ol’ volcano trick! i still use that now, but only to unclog my drains. too bad my drains aren’t clogged more often. although i suppose that’s a good thing… ~~acb

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acbauch123 About acbauch123

Amanda C. Bauch, writer, editor, and teacher, has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently working on a young adult novel and a memoir. In her “free” time, she works as a freelance dissertation editor and formerly served as Assistant Editor for Relief: A Christian Literary Expression. Her short fiction has appeared in Tattoo Highway, Bent Pin Quarterly, The Hiss Quarterly, and nonfiction pieces have been published in Writer Advice, Empowerment4Women, as well as two print anthologies, Tainted Mirror and MOTIF: Writing By Ear. She also won an honorable mention in the 2007 Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoir Contest and second place in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest. Her viewpoint often derives from her dysfunctional family history, relationships, Christianity and spiritual issues, and random nonsense.

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