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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 18 page 07

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“Day after day, all you did was count?”

Michelle laughed, took a sip from her drink, and said, “No, of course not. I showered. I ate. I used the washroom. I exercised. I slept. All while maintaining the count. I would go grocery shopping, get my hair cut, things like that, too, all while maintaining the count.”

Unsure if what she was describing was impressive or crazy, Jeremy nonetheless complimented her ability to do it.

Michelle smiled back, thanked him for the compliment, and continued. “But there was a lot of things I didn’t do, couldn’t do, because of the count.”

“Like what?”

“I couldn’t talk to other people. I couldn’t watch television. I couldn’t use the computer. I couldn’t even turn on my cell phone.”

“Why not?”

“It was too distracting,” she said. “On the third day, after I passed one-hundred thousand, I turned on the television. I remember there was a commercial on, something about life insurance, and after a few seconds I started to feel all tense as I was trying to focus on both the commercial and the count. So I turned the TV off, and as soon as I did, the tension disappeared.”

“So what made you keep counting?”

“I liked how I felt when I was doing it, so I figured why stop?”

Jeremy nodded, charmed by the simple logic.

“As the days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months, I kept setting a new goal. At first it was five-hundred thousand, then a million, then two, then three, then ten million, and the whole time I kept telling myself that the moment I stopped enjoying it, I would stop, but I kept enjoying it, and the stress stayed away.”

“But you eventually did stop, though,” Jeremy said. “So what made you stop enjoying it?”

Michelle sipped her drink, put the glass down, and said, “I thought about counting to a billion, but it didn’t take me long to realize that was impossible. So I scaled it down to one-hundred million, but that would have meant at least another year or more. So I went down to fifty million, and that’s when I realized it was time to stop: the moment I was not only planning for the finish line, but was trying to draw it closer.”

Jeremy took another sip of his drink, smiled, and said, “So just to recap, you were stressed out one day over great news that you still haven’t told me about, you started counting, realized it got rid of the stress, and you ended up doing it for over a year?”

Michelle smiled and nodded.

“That is the most interesting thing anybody has ever told me,” he said.

“Thank you,” she replied.

“What did you do when you finally reached twenty-five million?”

Michelle grabbed her drink, took a long sip, draining the glass completely, put the glass down, and replied, “I went out for a couple of drinks.”

Getting up from her stool, Michelle walked over to Jeremy, leaned in, kissed him on the cheek, turned, and started to walk away.

“Wait,” Jeremy said, “so you just finished counting today?”

Without answering, Michelle kept on walking. Watching the distance between him and her growing with every step she took, Jeremy gulped what was left of his drink, put the glass down, hopped off the stool, and bounded after her.

“You know,” he said, once he caught up, “I once wrote out the entire dictionary.”

Michelle smiled and replied, “I’d love to hear about that.”

Together, they walked out of the bar and caught a cab.