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by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

The door was locked. The door still is locked, the weight of numbers pressing against it.

Bad credit scores, delinquent. Delinquent, the numbers whisper, as if I’m a character in a bad 1950s teen movie, where everyone wears leather jackets and calls the teacher Daddy-O. Delinquent, delinquent, even though I had a 3.95 GPA. Even though I’ve never gotten into a fistfight, don’t have a police record, never did stints in juvie. Delinquent, because the numbers proclaim it to be so. Because late fees and interest rates are the give all end all for black-and-white business obsessed soulless cretins. Can X pay this? Great, let’s butter him up. If Y can’t pay, pressure. Mark him delinquent. Never mind stories of being out of graduate school, trying to assemble the pieces in that jigsaw puzzle called professional life. He’ll just have to suffer, suffer, do without this, subside on crackers and onions nightly.

I’m thirty-three. I have a name, and the name is a number, case number X, case number Y, case number Z. Or a misspelled name, butchered while numbers deliver bad news and fit a new pair of fetters upon me. Not enough income, another set of numbers whisper. No credit cards for you.  No apartments, no world of your own to inhabit. You’ll live at home in perpetuity, retreat, retreat. I push back against numbers, to batter the doors. I proclaim defiance. I will not be defined by numbers. I mock the lickspittles, mock them in words and images upon pages. Stories and poems declare war on numbers. They speak of jobs and economic booms, but with so-called booms come the numbers. The wealthy consume champagne and caviar, preserving numbers in the form of phallic tax cuts.

Numbers from the past taunt me with what-if scenarios. 860 SAT crippled, kept me from private schools, scholarships. It’s all gone, but is it really gone?

And of course, when I die, it’ll be more numbers. X debt, Y debt, who wants to pay off the funeral bills? If I’m being defined by numbers, I’ll dictate the number of mourners, the number of songs to be played, and the number of companies that I’ll pay off. The Funeral March for a Marionette will play, while the numbers march in the parade, and Alfred Hitchcock will proclaim good evening and welcome me to the realms of all deathly things. But they’ll be more numbers from the afterlife. Number of fellow corpses, number of strikes against me in the afterlife. Number of years to wait until I feel loved. Surprise.