The Imitation Game

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Creative Nonfiction

Sidewalk chalk of chemical compounds

Question 1: In what ways do you resemble your father?

I held my breath through the initial burn, waited for the clock to turn backward, exhaled. Salvia divinorum. The air around God felt red, so I left the party, down the highway’s fog line heel to toe like a train on rails. At the end of my walk, God receded into a cloudless, starless sky. I unzipped myself like a hoodie, tried to coax It back by exposing the blinding light of a soul whose existence I still question.

Question 2: In what ways do you resemble your father?

Alchemy is the transmutation of forms into forms. Cocaine hydrochloride + some alkalizing agent + solvent + heat = freebase. Increase the pH too high and you get a rock. We start with a spoon and end up inside a nine-by-twelve-inch Pyrex dish. We inhale vapor. He tells me lightning cracks from the walls, but all I see is the beauty of his genius. We chain-smoke cigarettes and sweat from places that aren’t supposed to.

Question 3: In what ways do you resemble your father?

I deny the violence of onomatopoeia. I admit smack through a hole I tear in myself via slow stabbing motions. An indigo orchid blooms scarlet. Petal, stem, and soil descend into insatiable veins. It’s a half-dreamt euphoria that bests sex. I want to deny this inertia. He convinces me time is physical. We mark years through the motion of celestial bodies. 

Question 4: In what ways do you reassemble your father?

One day during chemistry class, I daydream a happy family. I watch a squirrel stalk a bird on a power line. Rain falls like marbles. Here is a memory from my infancy: He taught me that the heat of my hand expands mercury. He taught me to count the seconds between lightning and thunder and convert it into miles. I am counting. The bird escapes just before lightning strikes the transformer. The squirrel pops into pink mist. Silicon dioxide + carbon oxides + heat = colorful amorphous solids. The sand near the road transforms into glass. I think of my infancy and miss him. My classmates believe I weep for dead squirrels.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author


Kiel M. Gregory teaches undergraduate coursework at Binghamton University where he is a PhD student in Comparative Literature. His work has been nominated for inclusion in the Pushcart Prize anthology in nonfiction and Best American Essays. His words and visual art appear in Lips, Stone Canoe, Hypertext Review, and other fine journals. Visit him at