Good with Numbers
The zero. The nothing. Reciting the zeros is all about repetition.
Zero is persuasive. Zero is full of ego.
Throw in a goddamned zero, and the other number becomes a zero. Every time. I swear it to you. This is not bullshit.
No matter how old you are, you will eventually be zero.
It doesn’t matter what the other number is, how proud or how big or how small.
Go up against a zero and you become a zero. Every time. I swear it to you. This is not bullshit.
One times one is itself.
One does not project itself onto other numbers, like zero. It is egoless. It is non-persuasive.
Put one up against another number, and it becomes the other number.
One times myself is always myself. One times dad is always dad.
One is how we begin to be something other than zero. One is always longing to be something more than one.
We will continue becoming more than one until we hit zero.
Dad and me. Lying on the bed in a guest bedroom in my house, which is a house where he no longer lives. Staring at the ceiling and doing times tables while I think about dinosaurs.
Let’s do twos, he says.
Can we read the dinosaur book? I say.
Let’s do all of them through nines, he says. Then the dinosaur book.
Dinosaurs lived two hundred million years ago, I say.
Yes, he says.
Is that older than you? I say.
Yes, he says. That is older than me.
How old are you? I say.
I’m thirty-three years, he says.
The crowded three. My dad, my step-mom, and me. Summer vacations. Word games on road-trips in a minivan.
The triad: wrong. The flatted third. The minor chord.
I believe in threes. I believe in repetitions of three. A fun game would be to find three different uses for the word “van.”
We already have one. We just need two more.
My stepbrother made our three into four. He was born in 1984, which is divisible by four, and which is eleven years after the year I was born. 1984 is a year that makes me think of Van Halen and checkered bandanas and Vans sneakers.
Every four is made up of a two, but not every two is made up of a four. Fourteen is not made up of a four, even though there is a four in the number.
Four is nice and round and comfortable. Four doesn’t seem hungry, and four doesn’t want for friends. Among other things, four makes a good placement at a dinner table.
Four-day weekends at dad’s were way better than two. More catfish caught on chilly Dallas mornings at Lake Ray Hubbard. More Pac-Man at quarter arcades. More trips to the video store for VHS rentals. Day one of four seemed like such a long time.
When you recite the fives, you really only need to remember two numbers: five and zero.
Also: every other five is even and every other five is odd.
Aging is best observed in five-year increments. For instance: school reunions are best kept five years apart.
I am eight times five, which is also divisible by four and two. When I was one times five, Dad moved to a different city. Dad and Mom were married two-times-five years. The first five, which may have been the best, were without me.
The last five. The last five. The last five.
I used to count the days by six packs of 7.5-percent pale ale. If you buy two six packs at one time, then you have more ways to divide the days before you need to return to the beer store. One each day for twelve days is the hardest to maintain, but the most responsible. Two each day for six is… optimistic. Three gets you four days. And four gets you three. Six will get you two nights… passed out on the couch. Twelve only gets you one of those, but costs you an additional one in recovery, so it’s like a double wammy.
Reciting the sevens was easy because I knew about football scores. I knew the 14 and the 21 and the 35 and the 42. I’d seen a few 49s but not a 56 or a 63. The 70 and the 77 were virtually unheard of. And the 84 was just crazy talk.
Every other weekend, I flew in a 737 between Houston and Dallas. When Dad drove me to love field to fly home to mom, we’d listen to Sunday football. Sunday is the seventh day. My favorite player was John Elway, who wore seven. On January 11th, 1987—27 years ago—dad and I sat in the airport parking garage together listening as John Elway executed a series of plays known today as “The Drive.” We’d do that when a game was really exciting. Just sit in the car with the radio on listening to the score until we absolutely had to go inside.
I never wanted to go inside.
My dad says eighty is the age. It’s the age for all of us, he says. The men with our last name, we only go to eighty. Then we throw a zero. Eighty is eight times ten or sixteen times five. If you graduate high school at eighteen, eighty would get you roughly twelve five-year reunions.
Great-Grandpa Guilio was eighty and seven months.
Pop-Pop was eighty and five months, just like his brother, Frank.
Great-Uncle Joe, who was terrified by the eight-oh, actually saw eighty-one…for ten days, or two fives.
Dad, who is now sixty-six and good with numbers, has had cancer twice. Sixty-six is twice thirty-three and still not as old as the dinosaurs. It is about eight times a five-year high-school reunion. It is two touchdowns (and two point-afters) away from eighty.
Two months ago, I became halfway to eighty.
Go up against a zero, and you become a zero. I swear it to you. This is not bullshit.