They say you should get to know your enemies. Take a good, long look. Five layers of electrons orbit a crushed core of positive charge. There is hatred living in there, although you might call it quantum instead. In certain quantities it is poisonous to humans, but even the faintest traces are toxic to us.
I bring this up because we are forgetting. Slowly, deliberately, we are taking leave of our senses and accepting this killer as a friend. I saw a girl walking down the street the other day with a silver pendant. It was bound up in glass, of course, so that it could not raise unsightly welts on the flesh of her throat, but in the old days we would have isolated it. Had it burned. The boiling point of silver is 2435 kelvin. Remember this.
I have scars I could show you, although that might be unprofessional. They trace livid arcs from the the inside of my leg to the lower tip of my belly, where a knife once scraped. I don't need to close my eyes to relive that scene. The alley, the men with their leather knuckles and gleaming rings, the whiskeybreath sneer that nearly brought my life to an end.
I tried to fight. Always try to fight. That's when the knives came out, snicking hard on the air and carving straight through my being, but my brothers heard the sound and they ran. My brothers ran and dragged me away and because now the odds were a little more even, the men let them.
I was lucky they hadn't punctured my intestinal lining. As it was, I took weeks to heal.
This is silver. It is an enabler for atrocity, for petty-minded viciousness. Count its protons in your sleep. Forty seven. Forty seven specks in the dark. Forty seven chances to be hydrogen instead. Any more or any less, and they would be safe. But sometimes nightmares come true simply because they are nightmares.
What I fear the most—more than the faces of men, grinning and shaven—is that we might come to accept the burn. That we might taste it on our skin, the way you can taste fire on your hand when you run your fingers through it, and we will do nothing. We already allow this metal to creep into our fashion and our stories. What are we trying to prove?
I have my own suspicions about silver chique. When I see silver buttons or cufflinks domed in glaze—or worse, worn bare, daring them to slip against skin—I see one of us pretending to be human. Deciding that what we are isn't valid. Or that the suffering out ancestors bore (shot at, hunted, driven into the woods,) wasn't worth remembering. That it was just dredged up hurt from the days when things were different and we should just put that past us, alright?
Things are still different. They will always be different. There is a history graven in our hides that the changing eccentricities of fashion cannot erase. My son will be the son of a man who was assaulted by men, and his son will be the grandson of the same. Down the march of generations, there will always be that link to pain.
I can hear you think it, loud enough to echo in my ears. We're making progress, aren't we? It's not like when you were young. And maybe it isn't. I read that pulpy book the other day. You know the one. It treated us like misguided children, but we weren't the villains.
We can be heroes now, too, so long as we fight our own. We can police ourselves with the same brutality that they used to. How grand.
My bitterness is out in the open, but I don't want you to forget this. We have our enemies. They are embedded deep into our structure. The touch of silver will sear you, for now and always. Wrap it in glass, wear it on your clothes, keep it close to you. Fine. But always know that the company you are sharing may turn on you yet.