Do Numbers Matter?


I think in numbers.

Today is week number two of unemployment. Tomorrow, I am hopeful I will have a final paycheck deposited in the bank. It will be for half a month’s pay or about $433 gross.

This evening, I drove to the local grocery store with a frugal list of needs. I approached the self service check-out and was interrupted by a clerk collecting a basket and acting friendly toward me. I muttered an answer.

I really wanted her to leave because I was embarrassed about paying with my food stamp card. I have $44 on account for the month of March. Rather than face my own personal humiliation, I used my debit card instead. I bought $16 worth of groceries – eggs, pumperknickel bread, sliced ham, mayo and cream for my coffee.

Tomorrow, if I get that paycheck, I can breathe a sigh of relief. The $16 check will be covered. And, next Monday when I travel to the university dental clinic, I’ll be able to pay the $75 charge.

On my way to the grocery store, I stopped at a Hess station. It has free air and my back tire has a nail in it, causing a slow leak. Saving $1 on air will make a difference.

Small things matter in my number world.

For example, how much does it cost to plug a tire? And what if the plug doesn’t work?

For example, can I pay my Comcast bill and my natural gas bill during the same week?

For example, if I don’t pay the $40 to MetroPCS, will I still be able to use the Google voice account of my previous employer? Can I do without phone service?

This month will be tough. I’ve already checked the numbers. I’ll get the final paycheck and my pension check. That’s it. Of course, I do have that $44 in food stamps.

Sometime in April, I’ll get my first unemployment check.

I wonder if I’ll lose weight. This is a number I’m happy to subtract. I can loose a few pounds of flesh. I object to loosing my front tooth though. That came out Sunday morning. It was adangling for weeks, the result of a gum infection, and no health or dental insurance.

Now I count the remaining teeth. My dental clinic bill should be lower.

Have you had a tooth fall out? It’s quite an odd experience. I examined it. Curious about how it detached itself. The next day, I saved it in one of my wooden boxes. Turns out that it won’t be lonely. There’s another old tooth in there. Two teeth out.

Smiling is inconvenient. Talking has a lispy air. I speak with my head down. I’m thankful for the internet. But recognize, when I look in the mirror, there’s no way I can interview.

That one tooth has caused many pounds of worry. I can’t weigh the worry. But I feel it.

Scattered throughout my home are letters. Unopened. I do not want to count the amount owed. I am in free floating denial. I understand immediate gratification.

I have a pile of anger. It clutters. My personal albatross.

Humiliation is several layers deep. I hear the encouraging voices of friends. They emerge through these piles and layers and countless coffees. Yes, I’ll get through this. I smile. My close-lipped smile. I hide my missing teeth.

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