Thursday, December 30, 2004

Day Five: "Try counting to two thousand."

Day Five.

One, two, three, four, five, six...

I started counting in earnest when I was seven or eight.

Nine, ten, eleven...

I was in the back of my dad's car.

Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen...

We were on our way home from somewhere, and there was a programme I wanted to watch on the telly.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen...

I guess I thought it would make the time go quicker if I counted. I guess I thought we would make it home sooner.

I was wrong. But I got to two thousand.

Try it. Try counting to two thousand. It takes about thirty minutes.

I still count to this day. Every time I cook I count. I can time an egg by counting. I can time most things.

I'm counting even as I write this.

Thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight...

So what happened to twenty to thirty-four?

I was counting while I was writing, hence the discrepancy. I can even count while I am doing other things.

Once I tried to count to a million, just to see if it could be done.

I forget where I got to. I fell asleep.

Later I worked out how long it would take. About six hundred and ninety four days (give or take a few). That's nearly two years.

It takes a particular kind of obsessive mind to want to count to a million, and to then work out how long it would take.

But there is something deeply reassuring about numbers. They measure out our world for us. They give us a sense of scale. They move across the universe in an orderly manner, like a line of pensioners in the post-office queue.

One hundred and eight, one hundred and nine, one hundred and ten...

They are succinct. They are precise. Each number has a meaning. Each number is a relationship.

You are never alone with a number.

I have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. Two eyes. Two ears. One nose with two nostrils. Two sides to my brain. Two sides to my body. One belly-button, one soul. One body made up of countless parts.

I am counting the words as I write.

There are one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight words in this text so far, if you don't count the words I have just written.

That's the trouble with numbers. They are always moving on.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven...

I must have lost count somewhere.


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