Saturday, June 20, 2009
Before school, he ate square waffles, using his fork to reduce the grid one unit square at a time. Tapping his foot, numbers accumulating in his mind, until his mother said, stop. She the only one able to halt the numbers, his father an empty set since birth. Crisp morning air, 582 steps to the bus stop, license plate numbers to multiply and divide on the way. During math, the teacher would have them do sheets of problems. He’d finish first, counting teeth tapping until the teacher called time. Some days he’d skip the bus, walk home. Leaves falling to the ground, too many to count, gentle flying carpets he wished he could ride. The older kids 716 steps ahead. He’d duck behind bushes and parked cars if they turned around, afraid of their Einstein and egghead torments, pinning his arms behind his back, flipping him to the ground laughing. He wanted to tell them, I can’t turn off the numbers—they’re worse than anything you could do. He counted down sidewalk squares. His house would come into view—91, 90, 89—the sun overhead a hazy orange ball ready to crash through the roof, his mother standing on the porch, furled eyebrows, counting negative minutes beyond when he should’ve come home.