I am 8. I go to school with a smile on my face and a set of 24 colored pencils and that is the only number that matters. I share them with Sarah and Dylan and Emily, but am positive that every last one goes back in the box.
I am 9. I'm at the doctor's office for a check-up and she tells me delightfully that I am 4'10" and I recieve that news with euphoria and that is the only number that matters. I tell my dad when I get home.
I am 10. At school, my teacher returns my math test with a thick blue 98 percent scrawled on the top and that 98 is the only number that matters. I hang it on the fridge.
I am 11. I read a chapter book with 429 pages and am ecstatic when my mom hears the news and tells me that she is immensely proud of me. 429 is the only number that matters. I love reading.
I am 12. I return to the doctor's and she explains to me the importance of healthy living. How I should strive to eat well and think about my weight in relation to my habits. The number on the clipboard is suddenly significant, and it is the only number that matters. I skip lunch the next day.
I am 13. I fall in love with the idea of love and chase it to the ends of the earth, or, the science classroom. I draw hearts on my notebook and wonder if boys will ever like me if they learn the size of my clothes or the number on the scale. Those numbers are the only numbers that matter. I get rejected. Twice.
I am 14. High School is amazing because over the summer I got taller and thinned out, and boys talk to me and text me and say hello to me in the hallways and I count them as they pass because, wow, people are interested in my life that don't coincidentally live in the same house as me! There are five boys who I think I could fall in love with and those five are all that matters. I date one of them.
I am 15. I discover that a girl in my class is depressed. I am a generally happy kid and cannot fathom that people would be anything but. I decide that she is attention seeking until I see the number of bright red cuts on her left wrist and I realize that to her, that is the only number that matters. I tell her every day how beautiful she is.
I am 16. I write this with pain in my heart as the numbers that have controlled my life for so damn long are placed before me in Times New Roman and I wonder silently when exactly numbers became the most important aspect of my life. The number on the scale that keeps girls my age from eating or the number of slashes on my friend's wrist that keeps her from coming to school or the number of pills that stops her from attending any class at all or the number of people at her funeral or the number of roses thrown into her casket. Or the single beautiful angel that watches over me now as I write this. Which is the number that will allow me to forget about the pounds, the sizes, the cuts, the pills...the numbers?