Sunday, February 7, 2016
Numbers: Short Pieces on a Theme
It seems like can opener will be forever written in red dry erase marker up on the whiteboard in our kitchen. We've gone through twenty-two-and-a-half can openers so far. The "half" part is because Mom and Dad can't decide whether to scrap the one we have now. I can hear them arguing about it in the kitchen this very minute. Maybe we should just get a screwdriver or a hammer or something. One of those would work well enough, wouldn't it?
- Caroline Gates-Lupton
What age am I, inside? Twenty-seven. I feel 27. I dream 27. That was the year I felt like an adult. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I felt brave. I had left a bad relationship. I quit an uninspiring, soul-sucking job. I joined the Peace Corps, stuffed my belongings in a backpack and flew to Africa, learned to play the guitar (poorly), looked death in the face (really), and walked away (gratefully). It’s been hard for other years to measure up. So I carry that year with me, every year. Still.
- Edna S. Brown
Already, at sixteen, I was afflicted with affectations: gold-nibbed Waterman fountain pen to sign journal entries. (Single first initial. Period.) Lady Chatterley’s annual vernal reading — unexpurgated. I had a dog named MacDuff and a tree named Salix that wept. I kept a pet persona, nose-in-the-book brown-noser (Ahh, straight A's. Again.), but invested in the chase. Boys. One boy. Minus adolescent guises, I was the sort who would write, e.g., October 19th,1968 entry: I learn that David yearns for me as far as tears and yet — he will not have me. I’ve closed my heart.
- Karla Linn Merrifield
I grew up on simple street. #101. I’d say it to myself before I fell asleep. I used to think of that number and its shape as part of my identity. It was a balanced family home, with strong supports on either side and an always open door in the middle class neighborhood. Our family was comfortable and secure. Suddenly I felt the columns fall when my dad decided to buy his brother's home in fancy-schmancy. We moved into #33. All curly and looking only one way. My dad left us there off balance and I toppled into adulthood too fast and stopped counting.
- Kath Abela Wilson
There was a bulge in her forearm that stuck out like a bullfrog’s throat. She had gotten it caught in an old ringer washing machine when she was a little girl and now at 79, that bulge was big and puffy, and we all wanted to touch its squishiness and poke it down. From her sunken chin, throat strings stretched like the parallel lines of a rope bridge. The softest dried skin hung in fleshy narrows from her upper arms. But it was her smell that we remembered as we
stepped through the door of the now empty kitchen.
- Katherine May
I don't have OCD. Some people would say I do if they knew about my counting. I don't count everything, just important things like the number of stairs to the basement. It is thirteen steps down and, hopefully, thirteen steps back up. This is important to verify each time I go down. You know something is wrong in the universe if the count doesn't match. That's just being aware, not compulsive. And if the numbers don't match? I go down and up again and again until they do match. I want to live in a safe universe.
- Lance R. Robertson
58, that's how old I am. Although I forgot one day last week and thought I was 59.
- Liz Burns
For years, every Saturday afternoon at four o'clock, a bit of anxiety hit me. I finally realized that this was because of a lingering childhood memory of having to walk to St. Paul's Church to attend weekly confession. I had to time my arrival just right. A little bit later and the huge presence of Father Murphy would be encountered outside, ostensibly saying his daily prayers, but with a keen eye out for sinful stragglers. Once inside, faced with the problem of never having committed actual sins, I would make some up, so I could safely confess that I had lied. Then I'd push aside the dusty velvet curtains of the confessional, knees still shaking, and say my penance in the most heartfelt manner I could muster. The world was right again, until the same time the following week.
- Margaret Dennis
I have a daily ritual I've grown to love: climbing the steps of our three-story house. Up 5 steps and I'm at the front door. 10 more steps take me to the landing where there are hanging chimes I like to listen to. 6 more steps and I'm at the second floor apartment door where the love of my life lives. Up 8 more steps and I'm at the landing where I shed my coat and shoes. The final 7 steps bring me to my paradise apartment on the top floor. An ancient friend greets me there. He is a stone turtle named Joe, and he moves slowly, even for a turtle.
- Marty Blue Waters
One of those nights long ago. My dinner on a snack table . . . one of four. Watching the Zenith, turning the numbers on the dial. Every channel showing nothing but loss. Body counts, battles raged and lost. MIAs (Missing In Action). A knock at the door. I hear a voice say "Ricky died in Nam." My friend seventeen, myself fourteen.
- Pat Geyer
8, 11, 15, 22, 28, and if a sixth number is needed, 41. From a numerology perspective, the first group equals 3. Add the last number in and it's 8. Those are my “numbers” — representing birthdays and anniversaries. I did the numerology thing to find “the” number and for the past fifty years I have been playing all or some combination of them in lotteries or similar games of chance. And I have won bupkis! I guess I'm just lucky in love.
- Rainbow Crow
1 is not the loneliest number. The loneliest number is 2 when 1 is missing. Missing in spirit, missing in will, missing in care. 3 is a number that carries with it great potential, but also risk. Will it become a crowd or give birth to a trinity? 4 is a holy number in most world religions. An even, solid, stable number. The basis for belief perhaps in directions and meanings beyond the ordinary.
- Sue Crowley
Braylyn, who is 3 years old, asked me what is my watch for, as he grabbed it off my wrist and put it on his tiny little arm. I said it's to tell the time. Why, he asked. I thought about it. So many ways to answer such a profound question. I thought about whether time even exists or is it just a construct. But knowing he needs order and routine in his life I said to him: So you can tell when it's lunch time, when it's bath time, when it's bedtime. He looked deeply into my eyes. I could see him thinking and taking it in. In that moment he went from timelessness to a world of numbered restrictions.
- Yvonne Fisher
My grandparents lived at 861 Elsemere Place, in an apartment on the second floor of a six-story building. One day I was daydreaming as I climbed the stairs and I walked right past their floor. I knocked on the door that I assumed was theirs, but it was the apartment one flight up. When a strange man answered the door I asked what he was doing in my grandparents' apartment. He said "Come in, little girl," but I could see that all the furniture was different. I stood there in the hallway and screamed until Grandma heard me and came running up to get me.
- Zee Zahava