Eighteen. In the numerals 1 and 8, I see a story. A thin man and the roly-poly wife. Of silences and space. Or, perhaps another story. The thin sister and the plump brother. Of a childhood squandered. And yet, I see something else when one and eight combine and become nine—a number that unlocks the universe.
To me as a child, 18 was the number of possibilities. I could shrug aside that horrible, diminishing descriptor ‘minor’ and now be ‘major’. Eighteen was when I didn’t have to have my mother in tow at the library if I chose to borrow ‘adult’ novels. Eighteen was when I could vote and as I had legal rights I could even choose to leave home if I wished. At 18, I fell in love. With a man. With life. With the prospect of tomorrow.
I saw 18 as the escape number. It was the light at the end of that rather difficult tunnel called the teenage years—fraught with unsuitable choices whether in books, boyfriends, educational streams or sartorial styles. I threw away the red ribbons that fastened my waist-long pigtails and chopped my hair short. I bid adieu to lanky school boys and invested my emotions in an older man. I decided my dream for life lay in the uncertain realm of the written word than in the steady security of a profession. The number 18 was about courage and taking life on full head with not a second thought.