The Life of Numbers
Ever since I was born, I was nothing more to the world than a statistic-I was nothing more than a number. To my parents, yeah, I was their baby, but I was also their first baby. They cried their first tears over me, they talked to my first doctor about me, they looked at me for the first time. They brought me to my first house, my first room, my first toy. They gave me all of these firsts, which led to the seconds, and then to the thirds. Even the holidays had numbers on them in my baby book. First birthday, first Christmas, first new year's.
Attached to everything was a number and I didn't even know, didn't even realize until now. And yet here I am, writing my first piece of work. Again with the numbers.
One day, I was walking along on 7th Street and heading towards the market. My mother had sent me on an errand that day. She said, "Buy four apples, a jug of milk, and a melon." I shrugged and headed out after retrieving twenty dollars from her wallet. I eventually reached the place. As I walked in, the sale signs caught my eye: "Five for $3", "$4.23 per 6 lbs", "10 for $10". Then, I saw an elderly woman struggling to pick up a large watermelon.
As I walked towards her, I wondered who had sent her to get something that seemed to weigh more than she did. "Let me help you," I said as I took the watermelon from her and placed it into her cart. I was straining—the watermelon weighed a ton—but I didn't show it.
"Why thank you," she said. "I wasn't even planning on getting one, you know? But the price was so cheap I just had to get it." I looked at the price. It was a dollar and forty-two cents.
"I've always wondered why people rushed after sales. The money saved from them aren't going to get anyone happiness."
The elderly woman chuckled. "You'll understand soon that we live in a materialistic world, you know? Why, when I was young, all that mattered was whether or not you got married. There was none of this pish-posh expensiveness. Everything was cheap anyway so everyone had everything they ever wanted, you know? Oh, no, Not in this world. Everything's worth more than it is. I suppose you'll understand soon enough."
I nodded respectfully and left her, off to get my own things. I understood most of what she said, except for the part when she started talking about "pish-posh expensiveness". I don't think she understood what I meant about people unable to buy happiness.
I went back home with four apples, a jug of milk, and a melon. I handed it to my mother and read a book until dinner. After dinner, my father cut up the four apples and the melon. We ate them while watching the first episode of the first season of ER.
The next Friday, my mother brought me to the doctor for a check-up. I insisted I was fine and that I didn't need one, but being the worrier that she was, she didn't listen. This wasn't my first check up of the year. This was actually my third in seven months. My mother kept giving me the same reason—just to be safe. That's how I found myself on 1st Circle, standing in front of a big, gray building.
We walked in and I sat down on a hard wood chair. My mother did the same, but she looked somewhat troubled.
"Ma, you okay?" I asked quietly, not wishing to be heard by the other five people in the room with us.
She smiled one, unconvincing smile and patted my head. "Everything's fine, dear."
I nodded and looked away. Everything was not fine. Something was off, something was being held back. My mother was not telling me something and I wanted to know what. The doctor called me in ten minutes later. He did whatever it is doctors are supposed to do on a routine check up. He took my height, weight. He asked me twelve questions. He took my blood pressure. He put me under this machine and he said it was going to take a picture of my heart. Then he drew on vial of blood. I stared at the crimson liquid. I wondered what he needed it for.
We walked out of the office and my mother met us in the lobby. The doctor said he would call us within three weeks about the blood he drew. My mother nodded, thanked him, and paid for the visit, and for the blood drawing, and for the lab for the blood drawing, and for the x-ray. It was a total of $229.73.
It was about five days later as I stood on the corner of 4th Drive and Washington when I heard someone from behind me call my name. I turned to see a friend of mine walking up to me.
"Hey Eric," she greeted. "Where you off to?"
"Off to nowhere," I responded. "I thought I'd go take a walk in the park. Wanna come?"
"Sure," she said. We walked in silence for a while until we reached the little park. I sat on one of the swings, and she followed me, sitting on the one to the right of mine. I wanted to strike up conversation, but I wasn't sure what to say. I usually opted for silence, but I also thought that silence was somewhat uncomfortable with someone else.
"How are you?" I asked, settling for the single most useless question in the world. I say that because no one ever answers it honestly. The golden answer for that question was usually, "Fine" or "Okay".
My friend, Amelia, shrugged. "I don't know."
"Well, why don't you know?" I asked, not knowing whether or not I was probing. She was a friend, yes, but we weren't close.
Amelia sighed. "My parents are splitting up," she mumbled quietly. "I don't know what to think, I guess. Two houses, two lives..."
"Oh…well, at least you get two of everything then. Instead of one birthday present from your parents, you get two—one from each!" I smiled. I wasn't very good at cheering people up, but I had to try, just for Amelia.
She smiled. "That seems nice…two presents for every holiday." Sighing, Amelia continued. "I guess I can just get used to it…as long as I don't have to clean both of my rooms."
I nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I barely clean up my one room."
She laughed. "Boys don't clean up their rooms," she said. "My little brother doesn't do any of the cleaning at all!"
"Hey, that's not true," I said, falling into a pattern of playful banter. "I clean up my toys and stuff."
She rolled her two bright, brown eyes at me. "I don't believe you." I still saw a smile playing on her lips.
We talked some more for about twenty more minutes until she looked at the silver Minnie Mouse watch on her wrist. "Well, I should go. My mom will be wondering where I went off to. I'll see you around, Eric." She smiled at me and got up.
I stood up too, intending to walk her home. My mother always taught me how to treat girls-it was how I was brought up. Amelia must have guessed what I was up to and so she said, "Oh, no. You don't have to come with. Besides, I don't think my dad would be happy to see you. Things are weird back...home."
"Oh." I said again. "Well, then, I'll see you next time."
Amelia smiled. "You're such a gentleman." Then she gave me a kiss on my cheek. Her lips left my cheek as soon as they were on them. Turning to leave, she waved and I watched her walk out of the park. I waved at her back—a typical schoolboy crush. To be honest, I wanted a hundred more of those moments. I didn't even mind the number attached to it.
Three weeks later, just as the doctor said. I heard my mother talking on the phone with him. Suddenly, I saw one tear roll down her cheek. She hung up the phone and saw me.
My mother gave me a one long hug, and whispered "My god, please, please, please" over and over again. She said it so many times that I couldn't even keep count.
Two weeks later, I was in the hospital. Here, I am in the hospital. I'm writing this as I watch my mother and father try to give me hopeful, cheerful faces while saying "I love you" again and again and again. I'm writing this as I watch Amelia walk in, eyes puffy from crying.
I listen to my mother pleading with my doctor, asking, "Are you sure?"
"Even if we get a transfer, I don't know how long the heart would last," I heard the doctor say as my mother continued to plead. "With his defect, it's difficult to say what the outcome will be. I'm sorry, but there's nothing else I can do." I watch my second doctor shake his head, as if he knew me, as if it was a waste that I was going to die.
"So you're just going to watch my son die?"
"You say his first doctor gave him one year to live? He made it past that, but this is how things turn out. I'm sorry."
I suppressed my interest so that my mother wouldn't think I was eavesdropping. My first doctor told me I had one year to live? I didn't know that. I showed him, didn't I, my thirteen years and I?
Well, here I am, my supposed last couple days alive. Here I am, yet again another statistic, adding to the number of people dying. My death means nothing but to my parents, and to my friend.
To the world, I am another life lived by numbers.