The chick that hatched too early

I was born on the 32nd of October, 1998, the 305th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. When adults ask me what I want to do in the future I answer, ‘I don’t know.’ Or, ‘I haven’t thought about it.’ Sometimes I wonder if this is all what adults think about — to always plan, constantly worry about what’s coming next and persistently become someone else.

I gave it a try. Once I wanted to be a farmer because I used to play a video game about farming. When I was seven I asked my mom to buy me a couple of chicks. I thought I would start with these two and eventually establish my own poultry farm. But there was a problem. I didn’t know if they had the opposite sex because they looked exactly the same. My mom shook her head when I asked her, so I asked my science teacher if he knew the difference between a male chick and a female chick.

‘You know, I haven’t thought about that,’ he said. ‘I guess you have to wait until they are a little older to see whether they’re male or female.’

So I guess I would have to wait a little longer, and if it turned out that they had the same sex, I would just ask my mom to buy me another chick so that they will be able to reproduce. But there was another problem. When I got home from school, I discovered that my little brother took the chicks in the shower and bathed them. The chicks had a long sleep the next day, but mom said that they had died from cold.

‘What do you mean, ‘died’?’ I asked.

‘Died, like they will never be able to move again or breathe because something inside them disappeared.’

‘And what was that something?’

‘I don’t know,’ she sighed. ‘People call it soul. Everyone has it, and one day our own will leave us too.’

As much as I want to know everything there is about death, my mom only gave me vague and short answers, which I hated. I guessed that she too never knew what she was talking about. That’s what I noticed about adults too, that they have a name for something they don’t really know too well and they talk about it as if they’ve experienced it themselves.

I was mad at my brother but I couldn’t really do something as he was only two. But such failure didn’t stop me. On my birthday, my mom wanted to give me a Barbie doll and I said, “Mom, of what use is a doll?”

‘It’s a toy, honey,’ she smiled. ‘You can play with it.’

‘But I have a dream,’ I said, ‘and that is to become a farmer.’

So I asked her to buy me a couple of chicks instead. This time I asked the guy who was selling them to give me a male and a female chick. And so he did, and I named the male chick Marky and the female Sally. I also borrowed a book about poultry from the school library. This time I dreamt of owning a huge farmland so Marky and Sally and all their offsprings would be able to run freely. But no such luck. A week later, Sally ‘died’ from reasons I never knew. I just wanted to think that she went to bed because she was tired.

When I travelled to my grandmother’s house I brought Marky with me, but I couldn’t bring him back home as it was raining hard and I was afraid that he would ‘die’ from cold too. I was really sad, but my grandmother cheered me up and sent pictures of Marky as he grew bigger and bigger.

It wasn’t until two months later when I was finally reunited with Marky. He was as tall as my knee and grew to be a beautiful white hen. He was a ‘she’ after all, but we kept the name Marky anyway. I thought that she would remember me and the friendship and bonding that we had when she was a baby chick. But she forgot the smell of me, and she couldn’t remember how I looked and when I stepped into the house, she espied me and charged. She knew where it would hurt most and seized me by the nape, almost pulling out my spine. My grandmother came in time to prevent further injury. So that was the end of our friendship and my grandmother took care of her to the end of her days, whatever that meant.

I thought I would never make a good farmer so I abandoned that idea. I figured that farming is hard, and it requires going outside and doing physical work. And taking care of animals is no joke. Once I watched a documentary about dogs being rescued from their terrible and cruel masters. It was really sad to watch. And I noticed that the word ‘died’ was all over the documentary.

At the turn of events, I fancied myself as a thinker of death. So I went to my mom and asked for a book about death. My mother went home one day but she said she couldn’t find a book about death, but I might as well find it in the thick book about philosophy that she brought with her. So I spent a year (and by a year, I meant exactly a year) studying this book during my free time. It was very technical as I had to look up a lot of words in the dictionary from time to time, words such as prescient or asceticism or aphorism.

The next year, my mother ‘died’ from reasons I never knew. I felt the same pain in my chest as when my chicks ‘died’ from cold, but this time the pain was magnified by a hundred and twenty-three times. Perhaps she too was very tired, and she went in a long and dreamless sleep. I failed to seek the truth about death, but I did found out that a lot of people in the past pondered about death too. I also discovered that the sex of most breeds of chicken cannot be determined at hatching, although there are several breeds of chicken that are auto-sexing, meaning that you can tell whether their chicks are male or female when they hatch.

When adults ask me what I want to be when I grow up I answer, ‘I don’t want to be an adult because adulthood is cumbersome.’ My mother told me before that the doctor told her that my heart didn’t beat until 13 seconds after I was born. I usually think about this when I’m alone or sad. Was it exactly 13 seconds? It could’ve been 12,999 milliseconds — I never knew. My mother told me that the doctor told her that it was a miracle that I had survived at all. Wow! I was flabbergasted when I first heard this.

In fact, 486 years ago, on the same day I was born, the ceiling of the Sistine chapel that was painted by Michelangelo was exhibited to the public for the first time. However, I must admit that 43 years ago, on the same day I was born, the Vietnam war began. So I guess you choose what is relevant to you and what is not. That’s why I decided I was born on the 32nd of October and not on the 1st of November (In many countries, people celebrate the day of the dead on this day) because I don’t want to be relevant and perhaps it would’ve been better if the egg I was in didn’t hatch.