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Eight This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Eight taps of my pencil. No more. No less. Exact, even, equal. Repeat. I hear others tapping as they try to conjure an equation lost in the maze of their minds. I count the taps as each pencil touches the table. I attempt to discern a rhythm, some semblance of order in their tapping, but I cannot. If only they knew that uneven tapping, in multiples of five and six and seven – but not eight – will be the cause of their low test grades. Some say I'm crazy for believing that eight is a magical number that brings luck and success. Some say I'm superstitious. Doctors say I'm obsessive compulsive.

The bell rings to signal the end of class, and we all turn in our tests. We head to the cafeteria for lunch, shuffling across the grimy gray carpet squares of the main hallway. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight steps. Repeat. I walk at a consistent pace, while those around me speed up and slow down as they side-step around others with a slower gait.

My stomach growls in response to the smell of pizza wafting from the serving line. I sit alone with my two slices, unable to handle the random numbers of the groups sitting at the circular tables scattered in the cafeteria. I eat my pizza, each slice consumed in eight even bites.

I sit amid the cacophony of the cafeteria, staring at a smudge of an unknown substance left from the previous lunch period. Ignoring the stares of other students who question my solitude, I lose myself in thought.

Eight. Eight. The number evokes a memory of days that were more peaceful and less lonely. Eight. Eight times my mother would kiss my forehead each night. No more. No less. Eight blessings for her beloved child's blissful slumber. Exact, even, equal. But those good-night kisses are gone now, just as she is gone, off to someplace better. Someplace without me.

Perhaps she swims in the warm waters of an island paradise. Perhaps she hikes in the Himalayas, high above the mundane world. Perhaps I'll never know. I cling to the number eight in hopes of discovering a hidden message, a map, a guide, anything that will take me to her. Anything that will bring her back to me, and with her my sense of security and my sanity. Eight. It connects me to her. It is my only connection to her. Eight consumes me.

I'm shaken from my reverie by someone sitting down across from me. The newcomer is a girl who glances up at me from the pages of her book and smiles softly, having sensed my surprise. Big eyes. Brown eyes. Kind eyes. As I return to my thoughts, a movement catches my eye. The girl slides a napkin across the table, passing me a cookie replete with chocolate candies, which I count immediately. There are sixteen. Eight and eight. Two perfect sets that complement each other. A sudden calm washes over my chaotic thoughts.

I hesitate, then reach for the cookie.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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honest_iagoThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 26 at 7:00 pm
As someone who has OCD, that's pretty accurate .__. Nice alliteration! It really worked with this story.
 
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