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Pavlov Dawning

You inhale slowly, counting to 8 as the steady chill flows into your mouth, down your throat and spreads through you, balancing the burning in your oxygen starved lungs. With your eyes closed, you pause a beat and with an exhale you say, “It’s all right Daniel. Everything is alright.” The sound his name makes lingers in his ear, playing from one side to the other as he silently stands next to you.

Your fourth grade teacher once taught you how to make a white rabbit disappear. She could see the numbers when you spoke to her. She knew the value for everything. Rabbit was 11 and white was certainly 5.

The product of white rabbit is 55.

  • 5 * 5 = 25.
  • 2 * 5 =10.
  • 1 * 0 = 0.

No more white rabbit. This is very simple. A gray rabbit is much more difficult.

Like her, you’ve always been pre-occupied with numbers and you’ve counted the years since the accident in your own calendar. Today is 1/1/0010, it is midnight, and you are watching the intersection where your best friend died and you did not. You wonder if the numb will fade when the year is larger and more complex.

There is a traffic light here now. The brush has been cut away. Morning Glories have been planted. You watch the breeze pull at his shirt as a car flies by unaware that this moment passes a little slower than the rest of the day. Ten years ago, time moved too quickly, skipping an instant and every year at this moment, the day is slowed. Daniel wonders if you’ve replaced that missing instant. You hold your hand on the bark of the tree that Jason had hit after flying through the windshield. The blood has gone but you rub your face against its roughness, feeling what is still there but not trying to take anything more with you. You had knelt next to that tree, next to Jason as he took his last breath. You breathed for him, counting breaths until there was nothing left to count. You get back in the car and you drive away.

On most days you are unapparent of the moment. Daniel looks at you and you have been making a joke about the intrinsic differences between a DSL and a cable modem. You say 28 8 and he laughs with you.

  • 28*8=224
  • 22*4=88
  • 8*8=64
  • 6*4=24
  • 24*28=672
  • 67*2=134
  • 13*4=52
  • 5*2=10
  • 1*0=0

There is no weight to the day. You smile. You rest.

Sometimes he wonders what a normal day is like for you. He wonders when you drive. You told him that you loved driving the first time you took him to your cabin off the AuSable. 7/23/ 0006. You tell him stories about camping with Jason when you were younger as if the two of you drifted apart and you are sad for it. He read the journal at the cabin, entries with dates from the old calendar, stories of young heroes finding a store that would sell Coors Light to 16 year olds, stories that knew even then that Coors was cheap nasty beer, obscure references that only you can translate about girls and sex and stolen cigarettes. He has seen the dried and sun-bleached pack of Merit menthols that was hidden in the gutter on top of the cabin. These memories are like his but somehow distant, like fantasy novels that he read when he was in 7th grade. The characters seem real but he’s never actually seen them. You have read him all 13 entries and you have said that 13 is prime. You smiled.

 

You had spent the previous weekend at the cabin, then you drove to the spot and tried to find that moment. This was the way you regarded the end of your year. Daniel would go with you because he loved the woods and your company. He loved to watch the fire at night, even though you still bought cheap beer. You would entertain him during the day with the nuances of the small pine wood escapism. He already knew that the combination to the padlock on the door was the day before the apocalypse. The dirty back road leading here is 17 poles from the power station. And you made sure he paid careful attention to the fact that 17 is also prime. He finds prime numbers insurmountable when you speak of them. Your brain is too sharp on that edge and he cannot keep up. He likes to solve problems, but cannot find the divisor to your riddles. And even when he thinks you’ve moved on, the numbers are still there when you aren’t talking about them. You get lost in the patterns the numbers weave through the backs of your eyes, pulling your gaze inward and away.

You have been driving most of the day. From the cabin, to the moment, and now to her house. The signs on the side of the road are your game. Each offers itself, asking you to find a new maze. The stretch on I-96 between 23 and 69 is your favorite. Its product runs from 2208 to 6624 in about 45 minutes. He knows this is the route you take to Katie’s house and that you run the numbers on the digital speedometer and any sign with a number on it along the way. Daniel has traveled it with you many times, but you have traveled it more. These numbers are very close to you and you drive with anticipation, trying not to run the numbers before you get to them.

He talks to you about Katie and for you, K80 is simply an equation. You have told him that this is how you deal with your relationship.

  • 2208 * 6624 = 14625792
  • 14625792 / 45 = 325017.6
  • K80 = 325017.6
  • K = 4062.72

Because of this, you don’t use her name when you talk to her. He knows that you tried for a while, but you always get lost in the numbers once you spoke it. You like the sensuality of 325017.6. 325 is so robust in contrast to 017 and 6, the simplicity of 6. While you make love you think of both the woman and her product. When you remember making love to her you only see the numbers. There is rhythm in sex. You can count the beats. There are no questions about the numbers. When you talk about your relationship you push the numbers back, speaking of abstract emotions. You fidget in your seat as he asks you how things are going with you and Katie. You try to be as specific as possible about your feelings and he sees you squirm. He knows these are things you cannot quantify. These things exist without concrete value. They change without provocation. You feel their weight change under you and you cannot stand upright. You fall without support.

You are late and K80 yells as you finally pull into her driveway. She is standing outside and her eyes are streaked with dry and worry. She tells you there was an accident on the highway and she worried that it might have been you. Daniel stands watching from the side, trying to see into your brain. K80 asks for the consideration of a phone call. Her arms are frantic, waving for your attention and you are far away. She is trying to guide you home. He is watching you move away. Your eyes turn inside and all you see is white. K80’s eyes are red and too loud. She grabs your shoulders. You hang limp, your head sagging to one side. You are not in this moment. He knows there are numbers in your head and wonders where they come from.

There were 4 of you in the car. You were driving 63 miles per hour. The speed limit was 35. There is a difference of 28.

  • 63 * 35 = 2205
  • 96 * 23 = 2208
  • 2208 – 2205 = 3
  • 3 + 28 = 31
  • 31 * 3 = 93

The sun is the nearest star to the earth. It is 93 million miles away. I miss you.

 

Blake Crittenden works as a software developer in Barrie, Ontario. Find him on Twitter: @Cpt_Heck