The drink in my hand was more for show. It felt like the number 37 to me. Uncomfortable and indivisible.
I’ve never understood how people like the stuff. To me, it’s always tasted the way the inside of a bread bag smells after a few days on the counter in the summer. The pungency and the moisture just starting to set in. The disappointment on your face when you realize you wasted half a loaf. A turquoise 16. Wasted potential.
“You’re really nursing that one!”
The beer was warm now as I stared blankly at my co-worker. I had heard some variation of that line tonight at least once more. Yet his face was just as blank as the other person who commented, trying to start conversation with me. Should I tell him he reminds me of 808? Rotund like a snowman? What could I possibly have to say to these people?
Eventually some awkward laughter or coughing ensued and he left me to my wall to flower as I pleased. Perhaps he thought the music was too loud for me to hear him (It was too loud for my liking anyhow).
People tend to make excuses when interactions don’t go to expectation. They say “Oh he’s just awkward or shy”. But I’m not those things. It’s just that they are full 3’s and I’m a flat 7. It’s really not that complicated.
I know I’m not easy to talk to. Even if I was, I prefer my solitude. Yet, I find myself feeling lonely and dragging myself to these encounters. It’s almost a form of voluntary punishment at this point. I want to be understood, but then we all come out and hide our round faces in square beige masks. The numbers don’t hide though.
“Does anyone even know anyone! I mean really know them?”
I realized I spat that out loud. Oops.
Some people near me seemed to shuffle away a bit. The absence a nostalgic 12. I’ve been told I read too much into things though. Been like this since I was a kid. Maybe they just felt like shuffling. I can never stop my mind once it starts.
That’s why I get lost sometimes in these social situations. I don’t know if I’m in my head or in the room. My head can numerate it all but I forget where I am. I do know my way of perception is not normal anyhow. As though it’s all a giant board game and everyone was read the rules except me. Maybe I’m playing the wrong board game. Conversation feels like snakes and ladders. Every time I open my mouth I go down a snake, 2. Everyone else seems to be climbing further away from me, 5.
Still, it’s probably more like chess. Conversation is a strategic navigation. There’s this old parable about a man who is given a reward from his king. He chooses to have one grain of wheat placed on the first square of a chess board. Then 2 on the next. Then 4. And so on. The king laughs it off as a meager prize. Of course he ends up with 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 pieces of wheat. I wonder how many of these 3’s here would laugh like the king in the same situation?
The room started to go dim and silent. I’m not sure how long everyone had been staring at me. I could feel the energy shift. The 482 of the room melted into an 11 stacked on a 9. Minds were coalescing for everyone but me. They all burst into the happy birthday song. 3 out of 4. A waltz. Never noticed that before.
“Make a wish!”
How long had I been standing there since the song ended? The blurred 45’s on their faces told me it was probably long enough to have made things awkward.
27 candles. I closed my eyes. The air escaping my lungs as the sharp flames subdivided.
The room was dark now, but for the brightness of their 5 on 5 claps.