if numbers had faces

Lately, I’ve been thinking about numbers.

When I was a kid learning math, every number had an association, a face, and/or a personality in my mind. I had a relationship with certain numbers: 2 worried me–I could never write it right–but 9 was an imaginary friend. I wrote this almost-poem about the numbers I remember from my childhood:

1   Loneliest with a line slashed through the L
2   A beatific couple strolling through the park hand-in-hand. They wear tartan raincoats and wool scarves slung over one shoulder, and when the fat red ball rolls across their path, two leather loafers descend and crush it like an uninvited beetle.
3   Not the simple toss of one ball into the air while shifting another from hand to hand. Add speed, then another ball, one moving hand-to-hand and the other into the air, so that the emptiness before you holds it for a heartbeat and, with faith, the air becomes a playful phantom.
4   A ragged woman bearing a heavy load teeters at the crosswalk: left foot forward, right forward, left back, right back, and repeat, fore score foursquare before she can forge the street, safe and slow as a tortoise.
5   Hold your hand flat, palm at 45 degrees, extended before you: you may catch another hand or the direction of the wind or the bus might stop or someone might drop in the change from their pocket. The fifth possibility is nothing.
6   The boy closes his eyes to make a wish. “I wish I were dead,” he thinks, then thinks it again to reverse the spell.
7   The figure leaning against the sill made up of a swarm of cells that buzz like flies, birthing and dying. The veil lifts coquettishly and settles in the wind.
8   She’s pregnant. Just look at her. Infinity propped up to join the procession.
9   Three times three is nine. Three times nine is 27. 2 plus 7 is 9. The magician reaches one white-gloved hand into the darkness and pulls out a fat, red ball.
10   Press your hands together, bow your head, and don’t move until something good happens
11   because I know I don’t know: The world cracks open like an egg and something new crawls in
12   but the moon whirls and rolls in a slow waltz towards tomorrow, pulling me along

As I read this over, I realize that it probably only makes sense to me, which makes me think about who I’m writing for, myself or an audience.  Whom do you write for?  Do you ever post things that you wrote to yourself?  If so, do you ever regret it?  

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. macdougalstreetbaby

    The boy closes his eyes to make a wish. “I wish I were dead,” he thinks, then thinks it again to reverse the spell.
    That’s the beginning of an amazing story.

    I write for my circle. I regret posting pictures of children that aren’t mine. I wish I could say I’ll stop but it seems unlikely. They’re just so damn cute.

  2. MSB is so right. This is a short story collection. You already have the first line of all 12 stories and the title of the collection.

  3. Oh, and to answer your question—I write for my great great great grandchildren. Mine and yours too.

  4. This is so damned smart, Anna. A book in the making.

  5. I particularly like number 7 🙂

  6. I’m always writing for an audience, even when I’m writing for myself. I’ve posted some of my most personal stuff and I often regret it when it isn’t understood or is thought to be the opposite of what I meant or felt. That cuts deep, but how do I hold back the personal when the part me that craves connection is starving?

    I agree with the others who said most of these would be great first sentences for stories. Even if using them that way doesn’t work for you, I want you to know how much they thrilled me, whether I understood them or not. I love 9,11, and 12, but for some reason 4 draws me in the most.

    • Words are my biggest challenge. And I can’t even talk about spoken words (ha); even the written ones that I get to mull, weigh, and shape, even those are hard enough. This means I will always be an outsider looking in, because the ones with limber tongues take all prizes. But. Still. The tortoise woman in #4 is the only one moving forward.

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