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A question of triskaidekaphobia 0


Sad news, Shaw. Francesca’s grandmother died last week. Nothing to shed tears about. No need to send a Hallmark card. After all, she was 99 years old. Born in 1913, she was four months away from reaching 100. Meanwhile, and perhaps most importantly, she hardly suffered at all, just some pain for about half an hour and then she slipped into a coma. Two hours later she was gone. If signing up for such a death is possible, please indicate the line I need to stand in.

Hours after her grandmother’s death, Francesca mentioned the fact that her grandmother was born in 1913 and died on the 13th day of April 2013. (No superstitions exist in Italy about the number 13. In fact, our 13 is their 17.) She then suggested the recurring number might be more than a coincidence, that there could be something symbolic behind her grandmother’s death.

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “It’s not such a coincidence and, besides, why does it have to mean something?”

Last year we decided to get rid of our bed frame and mattress, the idea being to create more space in our bedroom and to simplify our lives with fewer material objects. After Alessio, a friend of Francesca’s, offered to take them off our hands, we waited week after week and excuse after excuse as Alessio kept postponing the date, until finally he managed to liberate himself of more pressing obligations and rent a truck for Sunday, April 14th.

That morning, while we were awaiting his arrival, I remembered that the mattress had been a gift from Francesca’s grandmother when Francesca and I moved into our apartment six years ago.

When I mentioned the fact to Francesca, she said, “See what I’m saying? It’s uncanny. She died just yesterday and today we’re getting rid of the one thing she’s ever given us.”

“So what?” I shook my head and clicked my tongue. “It’s just another coincidence, and anyway it has nothing to do with the number 13.”

Minutes later, I went into the bedroom, intending to drag the mattress into the entry hall in order to save time when Alessio arrived and, while lifting the mattress out of the bed frame, I noticed an INSPECTED BY sticker with the number 13. No joke. I called Francesca into the bedroom and, as I indicated the pinky-nail-sized sticker, her eyes widened as her mouth clamped shut.

Later, while helping Alessio load the mattress into the truck, I mentioned the streak of coincidences regarding Francesca’s grandmother and the omnipresent number 13.

He laughed out loud. “Coincidences are everywhere, especially when you look for them.” As if to confirm the fact, he glanced down at the truck’s license plate, shrugged his shoulders, and then pointing, said, “There you go. 13.”

The license plate was eight figures long but, sure enough, the number 13 was there.

So, Shaw, what do you make of it. Happenstance? A sign of some underlying pattern or conceptual framework?

I say the whole thing’s silly. After all, how much of every minute, every hour, every day passes without a discernible coincidence? If I consider the many millions of minutes of my life, I can narrow the coincidences down to a handful of curious incidents, which, in the vast scope of time that makes up a life, are inevitable and, consequently, when every once in a while we notice a series of synchronistic events, they can then take on meaning simply because we want them to.

Anyway, Shaw, I’ll tell Francesca and her family you offer your condolences but remember: no Hallmark card necessary.

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