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There’s a beauty to our numbers that I note with admiration: the shape of cipher 6 and its curving, crescent close; 8, with its weaving, double loop that skaters strive and scratch to mimic; 3, and its ability to complete, to divide as trilogy, to manifest as Trinity; 1 which finds the wholeness in itself, never wishing to flee its core or essence, for the sake of multiplying: One times one times one will always equal one. 2 is the sum of love and the most romantic of all our digits, and in terms of teaching math, it gives a break to all our children: Two times two is four, and the answer’s the same when adding. 7 is Biblical, the time for God’s creation, the length of telling tales of Harry Potter, of Narnia, the complement of 12. 5, the Books of Moses, the fingers and thumb on our hands, giving us ability, the gift of grasp and molding, making shapes from slabs of clay. 4, a pair of couplets, the voice of poems and song, the rhythm and march of the saints. Yet when I come to number 9, my spirit starts to sink: it has such lofty expectations, aspiring to reach new levels, only to fall so painfully short – missing the mark of 10 by just a meagre, single stroke, always being known for “almost there,” remembered for the glory it could have gained but never got, its cousins – 19, 49, 69 – bearing the brunt of all its failings. 99 is but a stepping stone, a grating lapse towards 100, a number we only watch while it rolls, a humble countdown to celebration, unable to give us merit on its own. I spent all of ’99 yearning for 2000, anticipating a new millennium, the fears, excitement we thought awaited us in a dawning, changing world, never enjoying the year for what it was, practicing the writing of an exotic date – January 1, 2000 and eager to see the masthead of that early morning paper, ridding myself of the nines that only accentuate defeat,

thinking I’ll pass some kind of threshold, a singing, flowered archway bidding come, enter, leave what troubles you behind.

Andreas Gripp

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