Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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Three Stories.

September 25, 2011

I.

For the fifth time this hour, perhaps the twentieth time today, my mother tells me that she should’ve been a dancer. She tells only three stories now, to anyone who will listen, which these days, of course, is only me.

She doesn’t alternate between the stories equally. Or with any sort of pattern at all. I used to keep track of what story came when because I was secretly hoping I could find that she was using the pattern of a sonnet, or a really short villanelle. It was a futile exercise, however. Instead of students of poetry, she could be studied by students of physics, as the perfect perpetual motion machine, an example of ever-increasing entropy that never burns itself out.

The first story entered her repertoire before we had a proper diagnosis. It made me uncomfortable from the beginning, listening to her reminisce about a lover who was not my father. I didn’t even fully tune in the first couple of tellings – I caught that she regretted caring about the difference between dish soap and dishwasher soap, but I couldn’t imagine a more boring distinction, so I simply nodded my head and murmured that I understood.

It was during a trip to the grocery store that I finally did understand. As I stood in the kitchen cleaner aisle, trying to decide between Lemon Fresh and Green Apple scents (the former was on sale, but the latter smells so good), my mother started telling the story once again. But after only a few seconds, she started sobbing. The kind of sobbing that leads to hyperventilation, to hiccups, to other people staring. I put my arm protectively around her shoulders, with one eye on the strangers who wouldn’t stop staring, and told her it would be okay.

“It won’t be okay,” she cried. “Danny was the best thing to ever happen to me, and it was my fault he left.”

Danny. I knew that name. Danny was the man my mother dated throughout her high school years and into college. I actually met him once, when I was a child. That meeting had also been in a grocery store. He was big and burly to my five-year-old eyes. He could’ve been a lumberjack, in his plaid flannel shirt and full beard. The complete antithesis to my perpetually clean-shaven and suit-clad father.

And now, here I was, in a second grocery store, and again I had Danny on my mind, and how he compared to my father.

I asked my mom to tell her story again, and this time, I listened.

She told me of the time they stole away to the Ozark Mountains during junior year spring break. They rented a cabin with two other friends and spent the days hiking and swimming. They planned oatmeal for breakfast and peanut butter pita sandwiches for lunch and four bean chili for dinner. And they realized after only one day that they had no way of cleaning their dishes. So my mother asked Danny to drive down the mountain, into town, to buy dishwasher soap.

Danny was a good boyfriend, who followed directions. She asked for dishwasher soap, and he returned with dishwasher soap. This upset my mother, however, for the cabin they rented did not have a dishwasher, and he should have known that she meant dish soap, the kind you use in the sink with your hands. Frustrated, and perhaps embarrassed that she had mistakenly said dishwasher soap herself, she embarrassed him in front of their friends, until he went back outside, drove back into town, and returned with dish soap.

But when he left the cabin for the second time that day, not all of him returned. My mother points to that day as the day he started pulling away. She didn’t see it at the time, but by the time their break-up came seven months later, she could trace all of their problems back to that day at the cabin. When she had taken something beautiful for granted and so lost it forever.

As she wrapped up her story of her fight with Danny, she reiterated how silly and young she had been, with eyes full of the future, and she said she’d return to that day and take it all back if she could, and I said, “I’m glad you can’t or I wouldn’t exist,” and I was only joking at that point because I didn’t know what she’d say next, which was, “Well, no you wouldn’t, but that shouldn’t bother you because you wouldn’t know you wouldn’t exist.” And I said, “Mom, are you telling me that it wouldn’t bother you that I wouldn’t exist, because if so, then that does bother me.” And she said, “Of course I love you,” and I said, “That doesn’t really answer my question.”

The second story my mom tells is of the time she lost her child. When she relives that day, one would think she lost her only child. And I suppose, because it was her first, if she really is back in that moment, then it was her only child at the time, so I try not to let it get to me.

I didn’t even know about this baby until recently. My mom had never felt the need to share with me a miscarriage she suffered in the first trimester of her first pregnancy. But now, as if to make up for lost time, she tells me again and again.

The baby had a name, Christian, which they would have used whether it was a boy or a girl, though my mother knew it was a boy because they say you don’t get as sick with boys, and she never once threw up or felt tired or had any thought at all other than utter joy at the life growing inside her.

Occasionally, though less and less often these days, her eyes refocus on me, and she sees her child who actually made it to term, and she says, “That’s how I knew you’d be a girl. Never have I gone through such misery as I did during my first three months of pregnancy with you.” And I prompt, “But I was worth it, right?” And she says, “Of course, dear.” Then she’s lost again, wondering what Christian would have been like, looked like, where Christian would be today. Her son, Christian. When her daughter is right here, has been here every step of the way, and just wants her mother to be here, too.

Everyone recognizes this disease as one of loss. One that descends quickly but with precision, stealing parts of your memory, parts of you. But what I find so cruel about what it has done to my mother is the ironic manner in which it chose the parts of her to leave behind.

Three stories. That now seem to be the whole of what comprises my mother.

Although the third isn’t much of a story. Just a sentence really. The thought she returns to most often. That she had always wanted to be a dancer, that she should’ve been a dancer, how different her life would have been if only she had been a dancer.

And so all three stories are stories of squandered opportunities, of missed chances, of regret.

My mother who was no longer exists. All that remains behind is the woman who could’ve been, but never was.

So I have to wonder, is anyone left at all?

II.

Our neighbors have called the cops on us three times so far.

Well, to be precise, the neighbors have called twice and the alarm company once.

The first time was when I was weeding in the back garden about a year ago. Weeding has become my mindless escape, an activity I can turn to that keeps me home so that I’m not far from my mother, that allows me to release a bit of pent-up rage as I pull and effectively kill any plant that I determine not fit to be present in my world, and that results in the most aesthetically pleasing creation I’ve ever had a hand in producing.

But my mother does what she can to interfere. That day, I was gardening, and I heard a neighbor, Mr. Allen, calling from the front yard. As I walked around the side of the house, I looked up and was surprised to see he had my mother by the elbow. He had found her at the entrance to the neighborhood, barefoot but with a winter coat pulled tightly around her dressing gown, despite the summer heat.

I was in the midst of apologizing and offering him a glass of lemonade or water when we saw the cop car pull into my driveway. Mr. Allen declined the drink offer, taking the police presence as his cue to leave.

The cops were pleasant, kinder than I would’ve expected, stating that they simply had to check on the report they’d received of an elderly person in distress. One of the policemen told me his uncle had had Alzheimer’s. “Seems like a tough spot. And I wish you the best of luck.” And with that, my first brush with cops was behind me.

The following Sunday evening, there was a knock on my door. Two men from down the street asked if they could speak to me about their “concerns” for my mother. They stressed the danger she had been in and what might have happened had Mr. Allen not reached her when he did, and they told me they wanted my mother placed in a home or they’d report me to the HOA. They flinched as I laughed. I have no money to place my mother in a home. I cannot afford professional help. I receive a couple hundred a week from Medicaid to take care of her myself, and a whopping 70% of that money goes to keeping the house, and if the HOA had any suggestions, I’d gladly lend them an ear.

Yes, I have thought of selling this house. Not a single offer.

Yes, I’m worried about her, too. She is my mother, and I am trying my hardest.

Now if you’d be so kind as to leave, so that I can get back to taking care of my mother.

The men hesitated, clearly unsatisfied with how little progress they had made in this discussion. One of them finally made the first move to leave, and the second took just a beat longer, looking me in the eye and stating, “This is not over.”

I shut the door behind them and looked at my mother. “No, it’s not over.”

After I had finally put my mother to bed, I called Mr. Allen to ask if he might talk to these men and explain that my mother hadn’t been in danger. Or to simply ask if he had any advice. He told me that he hadn’t minded helping my mother, but that he wasn’t interested in getting involved in any neighborhood disputes. He mentioned that a co-worker’s mother had Alzheimer’s, and that it seemed tough, and he wished me the best of luck.

Three days later, I got a call from Social Services. A woman with a kind voice, even considering the circumstances, explained that she was responding to an anonymous tip concerning possible elderly abuse. She wanted to come by the next day to follow up.

I had trouble sleeping that night, more so than usual I mean, my mind racing with possible scenarios of what was to come. The meeting, however, turned out to be the most positive interaction I had had with anyone in months. The Social Services woman seemed to know immediately that there was no abuse occurring, that this was simply a sad case of two people doing their best with the hand that they were given, and that there was nothing Social Services could do to improve the situation. As she got up to leave, she told me that her grandfather had had Alzheimer’s, that she knew it was tough, and that she wished me the best of luck.

Then she stopped. And she asked me if I had heard of the Alzheimer’s Association. She wrote down their website on the back of her card and implored that I check it out.

I did, later that night, after my mother had gone to bed. It was heartening at first to see that there were other people out there in my exact position, but then I realized that I was still stuck in my same position, and I decided I didn’t really foresee any relief coming from this association at all. Before closing the site, however, I took note of a single piece of advice that I would follow the next morning.

And so upon waking, I called an alarm company and requested that they install the most basic system available. I submitted the expense to Medicaid in hopes that they’d see this cost was related to caring for my mother, but they denied the claim.

The day the alarm was installed, I had to pick my four digit code. I looked over my shoulder at my mother and asked, “What’s my birth year?”

“I’m sorry, dear, I don’t believe you ever told me. I’m sure I would remember if you had.”

I faced the punchpad and typed in 1956. And a second time, to confirm.

It took her about seven weeks to get out again. I don’t know how lucid she must have been to not only realize that she needed to disarm the alarm system to exit undetected, but to remember my birth year, and to think to attempt my birth year as the code in the first place. Part of me wishes I had been there to witness it.

Instead, I was taking advantage of her naptime to run to the grocery store. I normally had my groceries delivered, but Safeway had just upped their delivery charge to a minimum of $3.50, and in one small act of defiance, I decided to skip the delivery that week.

I returned home to find Mr. Allen pacing nervously in my driveway, next to the two men from the impromptu neighborhood meeting, two new policemen, and in the middle of all of the commotion, my mother. It took a little more effort to get rid of the policemen this time, though they did escort the two angry neighbors off my property as soon as I asked they do so. They also waited while I called Ms. Stewart from Social Services, and after they confirmed with her that she’d swing by to check up on us again, they finally left.

Mr. Allen brought in my groceries, though all of my refrigerated food was spoiled by that point. And the next day, I paid Safeway $21.97 to bring me $18.47 worth of replacement perishables.

I changed the code to the alarm. I used a random number generator online to come up with the new four digit code, an idea I was quite proud of.

Like my plan to save delivery money, however, it didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped it might. And it only took four days to unfold.

It was about two thirty in the morning, and my mother decided once again to leave. And I don’t know if she typed in my birth year or if she just punched at the pad until she grew bored of it, if she attempted to disarm the system at all, but disregarding the warning that the alarm would sound, she opened the front door and marched outside to greet the night air.

I didn’t wake up until the alarm went off, and then it took me at least a minute to fully process what I needed to do to shut it off. My house phone started ringing as I made my way to the punchpad, and for some reason, I answered the phone before turning off the alarm. The alarm company employee spoke loudly into my ear, asking for the code phrase, but instead of providing the correct answer of “strawberry shortcake,” I shouted, “Mother!” and dropped the phone, racing out the door.

So the alarm company called the police. And as I answered their questions for the third time, I held my mother’s arm in a way that I am ashamed to say created bruises that popped up the next morning. She, in turn, gripped her own hands, wringing them as she fidgeted from one foot to the other and repeatedly asked that we let her go because she was already late. One of the officers finally looked at her and asked, “Late for what?”

My mother stopped, stunned, suddenly uncertain of where she needed to go and perhaps even how she had ended up here.

And as I watched her facial expression change from impatience to confusion to fear, I wondered the same thing.

How did I end up here?

III.

A week after my father died, my mother disappeared for two months.

I was fourteen years old.

I waited until 10 p.m. before calling my grandparents. Who then spent an entire night, a mere four days after putting their son in the ground, calling hospitals in the area to see if his wife would soon be joining him.

I found out years later that she had been in a hospital, just not one of the sort we had called that night. She had checked herself into a psychiatric ward a few hours upstate. Didn’t think to warn anybody. Just drove herself up there one Saturday and drove herself back down eight weeks later.

My grandparents threatened to sue for custody, but once she offered to sign me over right then and there, they backed down, muttering something about a mother, even a sick one, being best for a child.

Perhaps any mother but my own.

But she was the only one I had. Except for those two months, of course, when I
had none at all. And now, when I have only a stranger in a living room.

And at some point soon, she’ll abandon me for the third and final time. I look ahead to that day the way I envision parents look ahead to the day their teenage children will leave home for college. With a sense of excitement for the hours of freedom that will finally be granted, and with a sense of utter dread at the thought of having to fill those hours. Unlike the empty-nesters-to-be, though, I don’t have future holiday gatherings to look forward to, when my house will be filled once again with the people I love. Nor will I have a spouse to lean on when my nights grow long and lonely. The thought of my life after my mother’s death terrifies me as much as the idea of having to face each day that she continues to live.

My mom stops stirring her coffee and asks me if she ever told me the story of how she lost Christian.

In a way, I suppose I lost Christian, too. What a great help he would be right now. He could be the one who gave up his career to care for our mother. Or I could take days but actually have someone to pass Mother off to when evening came and Christian returned home from work. Or, and my heart actually quickens at the thought, as if this were a real possibility, both Christian and I could work, and our combined income would be enough to afford around-the-clock hospice care. An actual professional to take care of Mother. What a life that would be.

Although the thought suddenly strikes me that if my mother hadn’t lost Christian, perhaps she wouldn’t have felt the need to have me. She might have stopped at one child, the way she ultimately did after me.

“I should’ve been a dancer,” my mother says.

Regardless, if she hadn’t lost Christian, everything would’ve been different. Even if she had had a second child, the chances that I would’ve been created are, in all practicality, as close to zero as I could possibly fathom. If anything about my mother’s life had played out differently, I wouldn’t exist.

If she hadn’t lost Christian, I wouldn’t be here.

If she had married Danny, I wouldn’t be here.

If she had been a dancer, I wouldn’t be here.

I wouldn’t be this frustrated.

“I always wanted to be a dancer.”

I wouldn’t be this tired.

“I had the body for it. Everyone said so.”

I wouldn’t be this alone.

“I should’ve been a dancer.”

I wouldn’t be here.

Yes, Mother. You should’ve been a dancer.

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HELLO My Name Is

April 30, 2010

The thing about Luanne was she knew her name was Luanne.

The rest of your friends had names like Chelsea and Olivia and Amanda (never Mandy). There was even Birdie, whose real name was Margot, and you weren’t sure how she got the nickname Birdie, but it fit.

Then there was Luanne.

Her siblings had trendy names. Taryn and Caleb. Her parents were John and Laurie, but that didn’t mean anything because they were from an older generation.

So why Luanne?

She said she didn’t mind her name, and you could tell she meant it. She said it sounded kind and that it made her want to be kind.

And she was kind. It was more than just her monthly shifts at the soup kitchen or her role in starting the school’s Habitat for Humanity club. You all participated in activities like that. You knew it was a good thing to do, and since you did it together, you could even make it fun.

But there was something about her eyes, or maybe her smile, or maybe you’re being too literal, and it was really her ears, the fact that she was such a good listener. To everyone, too, not just her usual group of friends.

She was just a nice person.

Which is why it made no sense at all for her to be the one to die when it was the entire soccer team who was on the same bus that flipped over the same guardrail and rolled down the same hill. Not that you wanted anyone else to die, of course. You just didn’t want Luanne to die.

And you almost lost it at the funeral, when Luanne’s mom walked up there, and you considered walking out of the church before you broke down, but you managed to hold on and stay seated, and you are so glad you did.

Because she finally told the story of how Luanne because Luanne.

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Katie’s House.

April 27, 2010

We decided to drink the tea at Katie’s house because she was camping in Colorado and wouldn’t be back for four days.

Brooke asked permission, so we weren’t being sneaky, which is probably for the best because I’m not sure starting a trip with that sort of negativity would have turned out all too well.

We showed up sometime after dinner, each of us experienced enough to have taken shrooms before, but it would be the first time we tripped with each other.

Brooke had prepared the tea already and paired it with orange Gatorade, my favorite flavor.

The first half hour or so involved a lot of introductions.

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Ten words: the Jasna edition.

April 7, 2010

Writing After the Rain turned out to be more fun than I expected. So I figured I’d play another game. I asked a group of people for ten words. Any ten they might fancy. And I’d write something that used all ten. The very first person to reply offered: shoe, ache, flame, bastard, tea, simple, paint, disastrous, hair, lush. As soon as I read the list, I knew the opening line. Nathan’s real, you see. And he is always late. The rest, however, is purely fiction. Please enjoy my attempt at Jasna’s ten words:


Nathan’s late again, the bastard. I check my phone for the time, then text him to tell him I’ll be inside, at the bar. There is only so long that I’m willing to stand outside, alone and looking desperate. For the sixtieth time today, I wish that I still smoked, as all it would take to make me look like I’m out here for a reason, with purpose, because I want to be, damnit, is a cigarette between my fingers. Life is so simple for a smoker.

As if reading my mind, the guy just past me on the sidewalk offers me a cigarette as he pulls one out for himself and lights it with the flame from a table centerpiece’s candle. I shrug off the offer, head inside, and order the first beer I see on draft. Thank God for alcohol. And for solitaire on my phone.

Four games and one win later, I feel two hands clasp my shoulders and then pull at my hair. I whip around to find Nathan, as expected, and Liam. Not as expected.

“Oh. Hey, Liam. I haven’t seen you since the night of that wild burlesque show down at South Street. What have you been up to?”

Two things. 1. That burlesque show was not wild. It was disastrous. And 2. I don’t care what Liam has been up to. Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care.

And to make sure he knows it, I turn back to the bar and wave to get the bartender’s attention, forfeiting Liam his chance to answer.

Nathan leans over my shoulder, whispering, “Real smooth,” in my ear before focusing on the bartender and ordering three shots.

“Absolutely not, Nathan. The last time we did shots, I ended up…” He smiles as I mentally finish the sentence: …participating in a burlesque show.

“…I ended up with the worst hangover of my life. I had to miss my flag football game the next morning thanks to a headache, a stomachache, any ache you can think of.”

“A toothache?” Liam pipes up.

“No.” I glare over my shoulder at him. “Not a toothache.”

“Didn’t you lose your shoes, too?” Nathan’s still smirking at me.

“No, Nathan. I did not lose my shoes. I lost a shoe. And -”

“That’s even worse!”

“Let me finish. I lost one shoe. And only temporarily. Miriam found it in her car and returned it the next day.”

He’s pissing me off enough that I don’t even feign a proper segue before spitting out, “How was Liz’s party last night? Did you let a crew of lesbians paint your toenails again? They aren’t going to put out, you know. You’re just a boy painting his nails at that point.”

Well, damn. Turns out he did let them paint his nails again. Turns out he’s not embarrassed by the last time it happened either. Turns out I’m the only lush who gets plastered on shots and a Long Island Iced Tea and 3 (or was it 4?) whiskey sours and then makes regrettable decisions. Like stripping down to my underwear in a room full of strangers and then to the buff in a room full of…Liam.

“Shots are up! Who’s in?” Nathan looks at me expectantly. Still smirking.

Who am I kidding here? It’s been three weeks since the burlesque show, two weeks since the 4 am joyride to the beach, and six days since skinny dipping in the mayor’s pool. We were this close to being arrested for that one. But we weren’t. And whatever we do tonight, we probably won’t be arrested either. But it’s Friday night, and I’m in a bar, and I’m feeling randy.

Nothing to do but down the shot.

And then, maybe another.

I’ll deal with the repercussions tomorrow.

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After the Rain.

April 6, 2010

My husband made coffee last night at 9 pm. I usually only drink one cup a day, never after noon. But last night, I went for it. Which meant that not even by 2:30 in the morning could I fall asleep. So I decided to write. Unsure where else to start, I borrowed the title of my friend Kate’s latest blog post, After the Rain, and let the words flow from there. I hand-wrote this last night in the dimmest of light so as not to wake my slumbering husband (so unfair!), but I typed it up today. Before anyone asks, it’s completely fictional. Though I did make sure that the addition of this paragraph brought the total word count to 1369, or 372.


After the rain stopped, I counted to 100, which is 102. Just to be sure that it was really over, I counted to 9, which is 32, which is why I count to 9 instead of 10. Then I realized that I had in effect counted to 109, which is not a perfect square, so I quickly counted 12 more to bring the total up to 121 (112). But this presented a new problem because 12 is not a perfect square. As I started calculating the quickest way to remedy the situation, I heard my mother’s voice calling from the bottom of the stairs, asking if I wanted to go out and play now that the rain had stopped.

I counted to 28, which is the smallest perfect number greater than my age, and because perfect numbers are better than perfect squares, I could allow myself to move from my bed. I headed down the stairs – and let’s just get this out of the way right now. I do not count my steps. Yes, I know that it is four steps from my bed to my door, then three more to the top of the stairs, and then 14 actual steps down (which is the bane of my existence – if ever there were a number with zero redeeming qualities, 14 is it. And it is permanently engraved in my brain because of those steps). But I do not COUNT my steps. I simply know at all times, like there is a flashing neon sign, exactly what number step I am on since the last point at which the sign reset. Something else powers that sign, not any act of counting on my part.

So you can imagine my frustration every time my mother explains to someone new – a counselor, say, or my newest homeroom teacher or the neighbor who just moved in three houses down and does not need to know any information about me, let alone misinformation about me, but my mother will casually explain that I have many quirks, most relating to numbers like the “fact” that I count my steps. And many times, the other person will exclaim, “Me, too!” and eagerly turn to me, face lit up as if we now share a bond, as if we are partners in crime.

And that very eagerness, the willingness to admit to their crime, is how I know it is a different crime from my own. Numbers are my prison, and if I could simply repent and rehabilitate and be reborn as someone else, somewhere else, or maybe not be born at all, I’d take that deal in a heartbeat.

Most people, including my mother, get it wrong in another way. They think my obsession with numbers makes me good at math. And in a way it does. But not in any useful way. My mom might say to me, “How much should I tip for lunch? What’s 18% of $24.62?” And immediately, my brain starts to whir. But it has no interest in calculating a tip. Instead, a typical thought process might occur as follows:

Twenty-four is the age my mother was when she gave birth to me. Sixty-two is the age my grandmother was when my grandfather moved into a nursing home. He was 70. An anagram of 2462 is 2264, which is the street address of the pottery painting store we visited for my cousin Rebecca’s birthday. The prime factors of 24 are 2, 2, 2, 3. The prime factors of 62 are 2, 31. The smallest number divisible by both 24 and 62 is 744. The prime factors of 2462 are 2, 1231.

At some point during the process, my mom will sigh and say, “Fine, I’ll just tip 20%. Even I can calculate that.”

But she doesn’t realize what she has done. Because I will now spend the entire car ride home listing every person I know whose birthdays fall on February 4 or June 2. I will also be mentally checking off every other time I’ve encountered any one of this collection of numbers.

That last activity is usually when I start to unravel. I start to worry that I might have made a mistake while listing the prime factors. I could’ve left one out or included an extra 2. Then I remember the time my mother was pulled over for speeding, doing 62 in a 55, and I can’t remember if I’ve checked it off already.

My mind didn’t always unravel. Before the age of seven, I could go through a list of everything I knew about a number, and when I reached the end, I could move on. But then in third grade, the school started requiring that we say prayers every morning. We’d stand by our desks and rattle off the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father. Usually by the time we got to the Glory Be, I’d be fretting that we forgot to say part of our prayers. I couldn’t remember saying the first verse of the Hail Mary, or any of the Lord’s Prayer. I’d stand there through the end of the final prayer, paralyzed with fear that we might have angered God. I’d wonder if I should raise my hand and alert the teacher of our transgression.

But I knew it was only a possible transgression, an unlikely one at that, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by pointing out that we had forgotten to say something that the other 24 kids knew we had not. I could only solve this dilemma in one way: wait until we were seated again, then repeat the prayers to myself. I could make sure I said all of my prayers and stayed on God’s good side, without clueing anyone else in to my uncertainty. Of course, even saying the prayers in my own head, I quickly realized that I couldn’t be sure if I had again forgotten part of one. So I came up with a way to keep track.

I pulled up an image in my brain. Actually, the image was my brain. Complete with bulges and folds and layers I couldn’t see. And I pictured myself speaking every word, sending it deep inside the darkness of my brain. I watched the words disappear into the folds, and when they did, they made an indelible mark on my brain. I could keep track of the words that had been said, and I could finish all three prayers, knowing that I had remembered every word.

I use that trick to this day. I don’t pray anymore, of course – I stopped that two years ago at age ten, but I fall back on my brain imagery any time I start to worry that I’ve forgotten to cover every fact about numbers I encounter. I don’t need it every time, but once thoughts start to flood my brain, worrying that I’ve made a mistake in my mental checklist, I know I need to start over and make sure I announce each item to the deep recesses of my brain, and this way, I won’t forget.

How nice it would be to forget it all. Instead, I am acutely aware of how many words are on this page. I never said what I wanted to say, and I already have to stop. The story about how I spent my afternoon after the rain didn’t get told, and I suppose now it never will be. I can’t write anymore because 1296 is 362 and 36 is 62, as well as 9 (32) times 4 (22), and it’s the last worthy number all the way until 2401, which is (72)2, and I don’t want to write 2401 words. They’d probably all be about numbers anyhow.