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Numbers on the Walls

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Numbers on the walls. That’s all I can see. Numbers without any breaks or interruptions. Numbers in scrawled writing, as if drawn by the hand of a child. I do not know where one number ends and the next begins.
The room is small, so small that I don’t know how there can be space in here for the both of us…the numbers and I, that is.
I try to count the numbers, adding and subtracting, seeing how many numbers I can put together without loosing track.
The numbers must be counted. I must count them.
At some point, the nurse comes by with a little silver tray and a little syringe.
“Six plus twenty-nine, Nurse. What does that equal?”
“Thirty-five,” she replies, squirting a thin stream of liquid from the needle’s tip.
I bob my head and resume my counting.
She plunges the needle into my veins.
“That should do it, Mr. Edwards,” she murmurs.
This is good. The nurse comes at the same time each and every day. She gives me my injection. I go to sleep.
Now, as my eyes are fluttering, I try to add the number of times that the nurse has come to my room with the numbers on the walls. I lose count, start again.
My head hits the soft, padded floor of my cell…but not before I catch another glimpse of my numbers.
One plus thirteen is fourteen.
Now my eyes close. I can’t see my numbers! I begin to feel calm; the medicine is working.
Fourteen plus—I open one eye a crack—sixteen.
Thirty.
I lose count again.
I’m back at zero.
I have nothing.




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