There are 206 bones in the human body.
You were born with over 270 bones, though many of those later fused.
I was not.
I gathered my bones one by one.
It's amazing what you can pick up, if you know how to look.
The comfort of a warm breeze.
The ache after a long day's work.
A knack for rhythm.
Though I guess my first, a fascination with bones, says it all.
It was slow going at first. I'd manage to glean one or two a season. Some winters, I'd get none at all.
I didn't really get how they went together, back then. But that turned out not to really matter.
See, bones know how they connect, even if you don't. A gentle caress connected to a soft kiss. A stubborn indignation connected to the pain of a black eye.
One of my last was a role in society. Once I had that, the rest followed easily.
Thirty-nine years ago, plus a few weeks more, I picked my 206th bone. That is how I became human.
Some would tell you there is more to being human than bones, but they are quite mistaken.
It was strange, at first, being human.
It's not that I was out of place. I had everything I needed to fit in. It was like being caught in a whirlwind. I was less alien to other humans than I was to myself.
It was stranger still to fall in love, to bear a child with more bones than I. To watch them grow and change. To grow and change myself.
To be human is, after all, to change.
Bones grow brittle with age.
Bones I thought would always support me began to weaken, to give way.
It seemed a small thing, at first. Do I really need all 206?
I hardly missed the sweetness of fresh-picked blackberries.
But not long after was the eye for storing things efficiently.
And then the confidence in singing.
I tried everything to hold onto them, then, but it scarcely helped. Perhaps it's akin to a fresh-caught carp. The tighter I grasped, the more they slipped.
But then, I thought, who am I to fight what must be?
I was no longer needed. I could face the future without shame.
I left them in corners and in the hollows of trees, at crossroads and at bends in brooks. I took my time, savoring a last few seasons, until I left the satisfaction of the crunch of fall leaves in a bucket outside a barn.
I sped up a bit as I neared the end.
Tomorrow, as dawn breaks, I will cast away my last bone.
Who knows what I will then become?