(Psst: Want to see and hear me read this chapter to you? Here’s a video.)
14 27 9 23
Even more of them like 12 and 97 and 6.
Just running around my head. Sitting there doing nothing but also doing everything all at once while they wait for me to calculate them. They don’t mean a damn thing. There’s no hidden message in them, or at least I don’t think there is. But when I close my eyes (or god forbid, keep them open), still the numbers come.
The only thing I can do with them is try to make them make sense and go away. Adding and subtracting until they’re reasonable. 14 and 27 are 41 and you add that 9 and you have a nice simple 50, but then you have that 23 and what are you going to do with 23? You add it on and you’re stuck with 73, which is a really dangerous number. But is it any better than 27? Probably not. At least with the 27 you can divide it by the 9 and you are down to a 3, which is a decent number. Odd, but still just a single integer. And a triad is a good thing, in my opinion. A beautiful chord. A triangle, preferably equilateral.
Solid. I can live with a 3.
But 12 and 97 and 6? Now we have another issue. 109? 115? They’re getting bigger than what I can easily do in my head, so I pull out a pen and piece of paper and do some long division. None of them are divisible by any of the others. So now we’re stuck at 115.
I can only pray that a 35 comes my way. I’d love a 35. Gets you to 150 and then you use that 3 and you’re at 50 which is half of 100, which is even and balanced.
Where is my 35?
I found a 35 once in the gutter. A dirty old dime and a quarter. Each one them so different from one another but still the same. The same form. Concept. Each a coin, with very little inherent value, yet they stood for something more. Something we assigned to them in our heads. 35 cents. I had no idea how much money it cost to make 35 cents, but there it was, nonetheless, 35 cents.
Problem is, you can’t do much with 35 cents, and that dime was so damn dirty. I dropped them down to the pavement where the quarter fell flat and the dime rolled away, to a storm drain and out of existence. My hands felt filthy. Nothing I could see, but surely coated with germs and bacteria and viruses and questions.
I wiped them on my jeans.
And now I wish I had that 35 cents.
Don’t know what I’d do with it though, other than count it. And once I did, I’d have my 35 to make everything nice and neat and orderly. But maybe I already have it, just by thinking about it. Is just the concept of it existing enough for me to buy some clarity?
It’s not like the other numbers exist. Outside my head at least. They’re just concepts. Forms with words to give us some sense of calculation and purpose and categorization in life. You follow the numbers and they make sense. They’re the only thing that makes sense.
The universal language.
If I think about them long enough, they lose their meaning altogether. That is, without a construct to define them. With my quarter and dime, dirty as they were, they still were a solid, real, 35. At least I could present them to another person and that person would likely reply, “Yes, that’s 35 cents alright.”
The numbers in my head though? They’re always changing and come from pretty much nowhere identifiable. Though I remain convinced, regardless of what Kathy tells me, that they did start somewhere—numbers don’t just pop up out of thin air. Thoughts don’t either. There’s always a cause and effect and we just don’t always know what the cause may be. Though we often feel the effect. Or is it affect. The effect has affect and it makes things move on.
Like a wheel in a hamster cage connected to a battery powering the world. The lights go on when the sun comes up and fade away as the hamster dies from exhaustion each day, just to be replaced by a new hamster while we sleep.
But who breeds the hamsters? Who’s in charge of it all?
The answer, my friend, is there is no hamster. Only time and its incessant march.
The numbers can change if you think of them. But when you assign them as values to something concrete—something you can identify and value—like a pile of beans, magic or not.
Planted in the soil those numbers can expand and multiply. Changing forever to bigger and bigger values until we have too many beans to count. The vines wrapping and tangling their way through the world, stretching upward to the giants in the sky who either watch over us, or more likely, just eat us for dinner when we get too curious.
In that castle in the sky where Jack met his goose, he found the secret to expansion. Growth. Never-ending wealth. It’s a secret place that grants us our wishes but we get too greedy and fi fo fo fum your bones are ground and your meat is paste on a giant’s slice of breakfast toast.
That’s what I assume was on the other side of the door. Or, to be more specific, still assume to be there. For I haven’t opened it yet. I’ve tried the combinations. The numbers in my head. But they’re not working and I know they should. They have to. Because this damn door is the pathway to something altogether different.
How do I know? I just do. Because the door is made of light and it’s in a basement full of dark and the only thing on the other side is a wall of worms and dirt.
At least that’s all there should be.
I’ll find out when I get the damn thing open.
4 8 17 6 35.
The first four equal the last.
I enter the numbers.
… and …
The damn door doesn’t budge.