I buried his cold corpse with parched and sapped hands, as I began to sense all the numbers on my body convulse. I counted the inches, then solved the precise circumference of the land around the headstone, and placed the paper with all the calculations near the cemetery as I left. Two more numbers pierced alive onto the skin of my wrist, as I noticed a couple of veins bulge blue and green.
No one would ever believe me when I say that mathematics has brought me to multiple near-death situations. Whether it was the gold-plated blade of my supple measuring tape, the fine sharpened protractor point next to the compass, or the obsessive older brother that was born into the same womb fifteen years before I was. My brother was a mathematician. A cruel left-brained creature whose mind was an acute calculator. He solved every mathematical statement from the root, analyzed crucial computations and formulas for hours, dissected integral equations, while he fused terms and definitions from the algebraic methods textbook day and night.
When people think of obsessed artists, they might recall their elementary school art teachers who introduced them to the notably gifted yet mentally ill Mr. Vincent Van Gogh. I was taught that he allegedly sliced off a section of his left ear during his time as a painter, but I knew that my brother was way more intense than that. Because the last time I checked, Van Gogh didn’t beat people up because they didn’t know what the three primary colors of the color wheel were.
But Aaqil wasn’t an artist, he was a mathematician. When I was younger, he used to write a series of multiplication tables on a piece of paper, and demand that I memorize all thirty problems in exactly fifteen minutes. If I didn’t come back within the set time limit and restate the equations correctly, he would punch me horizontally across the face; the fist-print gradually scarring into the correct answer on my cheek. Now, anxious that if someone might ask me what the radius of x^2-6x+8y+y^2=0 is, I'll immediately recollect the bruise on my lower right thigh, slashed and pricked into the shape of the solution that I wasn’t previously able to decipher: the number five. At the time I thought that scars and blisters were the worst that it could get, but my predictions at that fickle age were rarely accurate, because Aaqil was not a math problem.
There was a brief moment in my life where I thought I had evaporated into the sky. I gasped for air as Aaqil’s right hand choked my neck, the blade of my measuring tape grasped securely in his left hand, stained with the blood of my mistakes. I jittered uncontrollably and felt the veins in my body deteriorate and fissure between my bones.
My half-sister, Nina, went through a similar situation. Her boyfriend was a chemistry geek, and periodically stayed with Nina for his own selfish pleasures. Yet, she remained with him, breathing next to him every single night, embracing his peculiar touch, while I kept taking advanced calculus classes with my brother, solving many tedious equations, embracing its brazen complexity. Whenever someone questioned Nina's relationship with her boyfriend, she always responded with the same sentence. "Nobody knows him like I do, no one understands him like I do.” She believed that she could change him. Fix him. Search for the bases of his problems and solve them, like a math problem. Aquil was not a chemistry major though, he was a mathematician.
Even when he would sit at his desk while laser-focusing on the solutions, he would gape at the paper with bared teeth. I convinced myself he was just born like this: rigid with the lack of ease or purity. His body is buried under the cemetery miles away from my home, but I am the moth to his invisible flame. I just hope one day, I'll find a river to wash the numbers off my skin clean, find a compassionate, tender, and civilized heart of a man that sits in the back of a creative writing class, majoring in theater arts or journalism. Not like my brother, who was inexplicably and viciously addicted to arc length formulas and polar tangent graphs.