Writing Exercise: By the Numbers

Our lives are so full of numbers. Dates, identification, expenditures–and yet I find, in my writing, I almost never number anything. Part of this is a fear that I’ll get the number wrong–I don’t want to say that something cost $1.69 in case it ought to cost $3.50–but also because that kind of information seems useless and mundane. But today, I’m challenging myself to use numbers in my writing, in part because the protagonist of my current project is a numbers person and likely to numerate the world around her.

So here we go. Numbers…

There are sixteen people in the room, including myself, and not a single one of them is looking at Chloe but still she sings. She sings a song I knew when I was a little girl, “1,2,3,4,” but she’s not singing the Sesame Street words and I find it discomfiting, the way she skips past numbers, the way they’re used just for rhyme, the way none of it makes any sense.

After a minute I have to look at her, even if it makes me uncomfortable, even if I wish I could disappear. She’s got Bobby’s guitar and she’s remarkably good at playing it, though I doubt she understands the chords she strums, the notes she plucks, or the way they’re ordered. I doubt she understands the rhythm or knows the name, doubt she could tell the difference between 3/4 and 4/4 time. But now six people are watching her, including me, and then seven, and by the time she’s finished her song there are thirty-one people in the room, all eyes on her, all heads nodding along or swaying to the music–all except for mine.

And Grayson. When I find him in the crowd, he’s looking down. He’s still. So that’s two of us.

It’s nice not to be one for a change.

Share yours in the comments!

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