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A Meaningless Exercise

By Mandy Chen


Tuesday or Thursday this week I woke up an old man. I looked in the mirror as I brushed my teeth and found the once vibrant wires crestfallen and frosted. My hair was a wedding cake. It was funny and I would’ve laughed but for my aging heart.

At breakfast Mum and Dad had no questions, did not look surprised. I supposed they were used to transformations by now. Dad was talking about coins.

“It’s fallen drastically. Just last week one bitcoin cost over twenty thousand. Now it’s worth what, five thousand a coin? Well, well. Simply drastic.”

Dad loved the word “drastic,” and the word “drastically.” They had a dramatic effect.

“Incredible, even.” Dad continued. “Who would’ve thought? Though it is not at all unexpected.”

“Why not?” said Mum.

“Well, bitcoins are practically worthless. What can you do with a bitcoin except sell it? And what’s the difference between a bitcoin and, say, a batcoin?”

Old and used to the ways of the world as I was, I understood immediately. Value and rarity are interdependent variables positively correlated. Things matter because they are rare because they are different. There is no difference between a bitcoin and a batcoin. They will all end up like the tulips.



I was sitting cross-legged in Jing Yulin’s bedroom, playing a game called “Favorites.” Yulin would list two things and I would have to choose one of them. Supposedly it revealed one’s temperament, given enough time and choices. It was an ingenious game for icebreaking. I did not have any preference for anything and chose randomly.

“Rain or sunshine?”


“Blue or black?”


“Apples or strawberries?”


“Oh my,” said Yulin, “we’re exactly the same.”

I panicked. “If I’m exactly the same as you, how am I different?”

As soon as I said it I realized it did not make much sense. I tried to clarify. “We should be the same person.” But that also did not make much sense. So I said, “Only one of us should live.” What I meant was we could not coexist, being the same person.

She looked and looked at me. Her eyes were soft boiling. When she spoke again it was something different.

“Why are you so keen on knowing the weather?” she said.

“I try to record everything I can.”

“But the weather?” said Yulin. “Does that matter?”

I said nothing.

“Why do you record everything you can, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “So I don’t forget, I guess.” Because when I forget I do not know who I am. And it is important to know—I mean remember—who you are. Why?

Yulin shook her head and stood up. “Come on, let me introduce you to my brother.”

Yulin’s brother was in his bedroom next door. He had just fallen asleep face down on an open book called Planet Earth: death by forgetting. He was seventeen years old and looked nothing like Yulin, which was unfortunate. Yulin was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.

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