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Story listed as: Fiction For Teens | Theme: Survival / Success | Subject: Memorial / Tribute | Published here : 02/06/2018
Embracing My X 
By Angelina Cao
Born 2004, F, from Portland, Oregon, United States
Embracing My X
Embracing My X

May 23 2016 Shock
Fifty days to live. Fifty days is all I have left. Fifty days are the only words I can hear echoing from the doctor’s mouth, sitting in this cold, sterile room. When the words fifty days enter my life, they turn my world upside down and back again and wring it in and out. Fifty days are the last words said to me of the life I knew.

What is happening?

My parents sit rigid and stiff beside me. They mask their concern and bury their hurt through the stick-straight lines of their backs and the nearly invisible lines their mouths have pulled into, but I show my shock by slumping. Hunching with glassy eyes, staring blankly while clinging on the last shred of dying hope. We can only watch the man across us, eyes stretched into sympathetic lines, mouth moving silently, dressed in crisp, white, and neat clothes. It is us three against only one man, but why does it feel like we are against the whole world?

May 24 2016 Confusion
Familial Idiopathic Contis Herren Basal. An extremely rare disease passed on mainly through family, and incurable. I still do not know what is happening as I sit in this white bed listening as a nurse talks reassuringly. The world goes on around me like normal, but mine has stopped, frozen in time, hanging on for fifty days before it is fated to fall.

White everywhere. The room is crisscrossed with swirling tubes, filled with the soft beeping of monitoring machines, bustling with people who come and go, with the same smile on their faces. For now, I want to see no one but myself. I want nothing but to sit alone, staring into this empty darkness, and to wait and wait and wait for everything and nothing at all.

May 25 2016 Love
Mary Smith and James Jackson. These two names hold the most meaning in my life, now more than ever. They are the ones with the titles mom and dad, and they are the ones I have loved most in this world for twelve years.
Now they sit across from me, eyes reflecting my own, so glassy and dark that I can see my own reflection. We were never a family with vocal words, only sounds and movement and the unspoken language. They merely touch my shoulder carefully like I am made of imported crystal.
But it is enough.

May 30 2016 X
When I was in school, my least favorite subject was math. I hated how there were so many different formulas and equations that only came down to one thing, and how it would never matter again after the problem was solved. Instead, I liked art class the best. I loved how every line and every curve came together to form something amazing, and how each mark was different and unique. Each drawing held meaning important to the artist, and unlike math, x was never the only variable to solve. There were limitless answers and never right or wrong; only yourself and the pencil in which you could lose yourself.

And yet, I sit facing a blank sheet of paper, holding a newly sharpened pencil determinedly. This time, they march in straight, uniform lines like ants crawling across my paper. This time I do math, and the only answer here is x.

After many struggles and what feels like hours, an answer is circled at the bottom of this page, staring me in the face like an ugly creature that has reared it’s head after thousands of years. July 12, 2017. A Wednesday fifty days from now.

July 12 is my x. My deadline.
But this time, there is no answer at all.

June 3 2016 Blank
The nurse clicks away at the keyboard, her blood-red nails the only point of brightness in this white, colorless room. The shades of white and lack of color seem to beg me to paint colors over them. Splashes of royal red, the color of the nurse’s nails against the walls, streaks of sky blue across the windows, a vibrant hue of luminous purple illustrating the sparse furniture.

But the nurse keeps on typing, the colors do not appear, the walls stay formidable and emotionless, and the only color in this blank canvas of a room is the doctor’s nails, clicking, clicking, clicking. Clicking my life away in an empty, vast drawing that is only partially colored.

June 5 2016 Only Us
People come and go, whether it be friends, close relatives, people I do not know but they claim to be close, people I have never seen before and people I have only spoken to once. They wear different clothes and they have different faces, but I can remember none of them. I can only remember when my best friend came, dressed formally like we were attending a funeral, and showed no emotion or sorrow at all.

“Hello,” she said.
And that's enough to break us both down in tears, sobbing and clutching each other tightly. We don't notice the people who leave quietly to give us space, the patients who stare, or the nurses who lower their eyes. In that moment, even if it is only for a second, there is only us.

June 8 2016 Smile
My parents embrace me in a hug that lasts for eternity and only a moment. Right here, in the warmth unique to only two people, in the comfort found only in the shelter created by Mary Smith and James Jackson, is the moment that I realize the true importance of only today. I do not know whether to cry, or to smile, or to pretend to do either.

But when we break apart, the people across from me have smiles on their faces, grins a little too unnatural for the adults I have known all my life. They offer no consolation and no pity, only discuss lighthearted topics like the weather. I am confused, but I play along, relieved to find an emotion I can feel. We have a conversation as normal as when my life was vibrant and rich with color, when I could run freely chasing butterflies, and when I was blissfully ignorant and my x was forever infinity. My parents finally leave with one last smile, and I close my eyes and smile in return, happy that they are not dragged down with the weight of my condition.

When I open my eyes, I see not my smiling and light hearted mother and father walking cheerfully to their car, but downcast and melancholy parents.

I think for hours after they leave, and finally find a resolution. I will not give in to tears, and I will not give up. I will stay strong and fight, not for me, but for my friends and family. I will fight for the luminous colors I want to see one more time, the faces that I want to make smile again, the world that I haven't seen, and the wonders that I have left to experience. I smile, and this time it is real.

June 11 2016 Butterflies
Today I sit by my sketchbook for a long time, pondering the sharp pencil held in my hand. I turn it to every side, but no matter which side I touch to the paper, the sketch turns out too hard, too soft, too crooked. The window casts shadows over my sketchbook, and by the time the shadows have grown long and dark and long again, the butterfly on my paper stays stubbornly lifeless.

I have loved butterflies since I was little. I watched them fly away every day, envious of their freedom and beauty in life. Amazed that they were once mere caterpillars, like powerful deities compared to mortals. From a young age, my butterflies have evolved from circles around a line to fluttering wings against shadow, like cocoon to elegance.
Like life to death, then life again.

June 18 2016 Despair
The doctor reads monotonously off his crisp clipboard, the emotionless voice in stark contrast to my inner turmoil. Vision loss. Muscle control loss. Hallucinations. All these are side effects of Familial Idiopathic Contis Herren Basal. All these are steps to my x.

Will I really not be able to see color again? Will I never be able to admire the beauty of art with my eyes ever again? I cannot draw, I cannot write, I cannot control anything with my limbs or mind. I will not know reality from dreams, or dreams from reality. I have lost total control, and it seems that there is nothing else I can do before this world forgets me forever. What I fear most is having no control, yet slowly it has become my truth. When I open my eyes, this white room no longer seems like an open canvas. It feels like a cage, but no matter how far I run, I cannot escape it.

June 25 2016 Coping
Birds and bugs alike dance from my hands and fall upon the creamy stationery paper. I have worked my hand and pencil relentlessly from when the sun peeked cautiously around the mountain’s intimidating peaks until the sun was at the highest point in the sky.
While feathers and scales flow from the tip of my drawing utensil, I watch the playground and small children climbing over the bars and nets like agile monkeys from my hospital window with a detached fascination. It has been nearly a month since I was admitted to this hospital, but I rarely had time to think about the outside world, or rather I rarely wanted to contemplate what I once had.
I think of old friends, old enemies, old acquaintances, and teachers. People are not the only subject that cross my mind as my house, my school, buildings where I attended extracurricular classes, places along the road that I never paid attention to before but are crystal clear in my head now flicker to life in my mind.
Now I can have none of these, only one empty white room. But at least I have memories of these places, where I can treasure and repeat forever in the dark of the night, alone and with only myself and my memories. At least here with my sketchbook, my past, and myself, I can cope with the weight of the future. At least this is what I tell myself, as bees and butterflies lull me to sleep.

June 28 2016 Acceptance
I stare listlessly and make no move to acknowledge the nurse who comes in, emitting monotonous clicking sounds of high heels hitting the polished ground. However, when the clacking sounds fade away and the soft scuffling of frantic sneakers invade my ears, I turn around. My best friend has come to visit me again, and this time her eyes have a steely glint to them which signals that she isn’t leaving until she gets what she wants. We embrace and chat about small talk, but as soon as my best friend begins her pep talk about positivity, I zone out, avoiding her gaze and fiddling with the frayed ends of my shirt.

“Hey. I mean it,” She scowls, hair swinging loose from her ponytail as she tilts her head to meet my gaze. “If you truly have no control and no way to gain it back, what use is there in pining after the impossible?”

I try to brush it off, but her voice echoes throughout the hallways and rooms of the hospitals, ringing in my ears and pounding in my head even long after she leaves. What use is there pining after the impossible? No use, I realize, stopping my agitated tracks down the hallway. I had been chasing a fallen path for so long and refused to believe that it was no longer a path, that I didn’t realize how futile my attempts were. If there really is no way out, then there is no reason to hurt myself climbing after it. I should feel sad and heavy, but instead I feel that an enormous burden has been lifted off my shoulders as I return to my room. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I feel finally free.

July 1 2016 Peace
When the nurse brings in the food, I thank her for the first time ever. When the doctor comes to check on me, I comply obediently without complaint as best as I can. I have decided to take my best friend’s words to heart, and I know now that in my last days, I will keep the promise I made before. I will live in only now and not worry about the future, because why worry when there is nothing to do? I want to cherish the last of my days in this world.

The symptoms of the disease are catching up, the slight buzzing in my ears turns to soft roars of ocean waves, but I ignore them all. I ignore the black streaks of side effects trying to grab me from behind, I ignore the black hole looming in front of me, and I stand still, peacefully, not waiting or worrying or moving. Just being.
But the longer I stand there, the clearer the visions become. Bugs and distorted hospitals fill my dreams tonight.

July 10 2016 Soon
Bees fill up my entire room today. What were a few bugs hovering cautiously in the corner yesterday, today storm in by the masses. The beating of their wings and soft rustling of their bodies building up like a eternal ceremonial drum in my ears. They buzz closer and closer, much more menacing up front than from far away, and I frantically try to writhe away. The chant of their wings and the looming sense of danger overwhelm me, but my limbs seem immobile and giant vines and snakes slither around my feet and arms, or perhaps they are doctors, or perhaps they are branches, but all I know are the bees coming closer and closer and closer until everything goes dark. When light graces my vision again, I shut them out again by squeezing my eyes shut. I comfort myself with the flimsy thought that this is a dream, this is not reality, and I force myself to be reassured. But the colors of the ebony black and neon yellow bees are so vibrant, the details so real, and the sound and smell and sight so clear and sharp. If all I live in is a hallucination, than what is reality anymore?

July 12 2016 Last
When I open my eyes, I do not know whether I am waking up or simply exercising my eyelids as snakes hiss at me from every corner. I cannot tell if it is night or day, light or dark, because the window leading to outside is clotted with some kind of greenish slime, dripping slowly across my sketchbook lying peacefully on the table. Normally I would have leapt up to salvage the remains of the butterfly sketches I poured my heart and soul into, but I lie here instead in silence, trying to stay right here, right now, even if it is a hallucination.

Because today is July 12, and today the tally marks marching across my notebook reach their destination. Today, I solve my x. And tomorrow, it will not be today for me. Math numbers and numerals dance across my eyes, and I feel a faint sense of triumph, whether from medication or raw feeling I cannot tell. This equation has become my life, and I have finally solved it.

The first splash of color snags my vision, and I watch the most beautiful butterfly perch on the side of the window. Its wings are spread out majestically, and every scale of glowing blue forms together to create an ethereal creature. I reach out longingly, wanting my sketchbook, my pencils, to sketch this beauty to paper, and the first true silence I have heard in a long time floods through my ears.

The butterfly opens its wings to fly away, and I attempt to catch it one more time before the sunlight reflects off the vibrant scales and it vanishes, and then-
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