Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1 4m th3 m4n wh0 wr1t3s th3 num63rs 0n sku11s

              What is the difference between numbers and words?

What is the difference between 30129487324631205 and ghgh1dnbgmjdgvnu1? What is the difference between 7 and seven?  Between ~100,000 and approximate1y one hundred thousand?  Between the number 1 and the 1etter 1?

I often te11 peop1e I meet that I write for a 1iving:

            I write a 1ot for my job.

            0h, that sounds nice.

            We11, it’s not mean.

*po1ite 1aughter* 0R *genuine 1aughter* 0R *exasperated but forbearing smi1e*


So do you enjoy working with words?

I don’t work with words.

You don’t work with words?

I don’t work with words.
I work with numbers.
I write numbers on sku11s.

0n sku11s?

Yes, on sku11s.
For the government.
I write the numbers that go on sku11s, for the government.


They do not ask me if I enjoy working with numbers.

You get it now.  But you don’t quite now whether to be intrigued or to be disturbed.  0r to worry about me.  Don’t worry about me.  You knew that numbers were put on sku11s, of course.  You never rea11y thought, thought, though, about the person who put them there, in a si1ver room (rhymes with tomb) tremendous1y far underground, surrounded by sku11s.  Someone has to put numbers on the sku11s, it is necessary, so that they can be categorized, and then stored for future use.  And that wou1d be me.  The someone.  Don’t worry about me.  I a1ways te11 peop1e not to worry about me.

Don’t worry about me, I say.

Why not?                                0R                   Why wou1d I?

Because I’m fine.                    0R                   Because I work with sku11s.

But you work with sku11s.     0R                   So?

I don’t get depressed.             0R                   I might get depressed.
Around death a11 day!           0R                   Because you work with sku11s?

Death doesn’t depress me.      0R                   Death might depress me.

It wou1d depress me.             0R                   *shrug*  None of my business.

*shrug*  I’m not you.             0R                   True.  So don’t worry about me.

I think I have to1d enough peop1e.  It must be that peop1e know not to worry about me now.  It has been a 1ong time since I had a visitor who did not wear sung1asses.  The government men a11 wear sung1asses.  I used to wonder why.  There is some secret about their eyes, I to1d myse1f, to pass minutes, or parts of minutes.  There is some secret about their eyes, which they do not want me to see.
Maybe their eyes are exceptiona11y b1oodshot from a11 the staring that they do at the enormous computers on their desks, and at the diminutive computers that they embrace in their hands.
Maybe their eyes are horrendous1y ug1y.  Maybe they are frightening.  Maybe they are the eyes of tigers, or of devi1s.  I have never seen a tiger, so I am not sure that they exist, but I have imagined a devi1 that 1ooked 1ike a tiger.  Maybe it is better that we do not see those government eyes.  Maybe they wear the sung1asses for our good.  For my good.
0r maybe they a11 just want to 1ook 1ike rock stars.
Maybe a11 their eyes have a power to see into sou1s, and once one got a g1impse of mine, when he popped in for a moment, and it was so ug1y and wrink1ed that he warned a11 the others.  Be sure you wear your sung1asses, your sou1g1asses.  Sun.  Sou1.  The Spanish the word for sun is “so1,” pronounced exact1y the same as “sou1.”
Maybe their eyes are b1ind.  And they don’t want anyone to know.
0r maybe they don’t have eyes.

The government
men                                         c495309
or women                                c088957
or errand boys                         c195307
fresh out of gov-ed—
the government peop1e           cG05673701

do not ta1k to me:

            Government ________ enters

            Hey-0!  Good morning.   
0R    . . . evening.    0R    . . . afternoon.

            No response.  I try to read in its expression whether I guessed correct1y.

Another batch?
Not too damaged, I hope.
Somebody . . . shou1d te11 the C1eaners to be more . . . carefu1.
How are things up top?
Easy now--  0K, I’ve got ’em.
And now I wi11 sign.  0f course I’11 sign.
And you wi11 sign.
Davin 443 Lee, huh?
1   1    1    1   1
And nice to see you.

            The government retreats.

            I run after the government.  I press a 1etter 5454-921 into the hands of the                           government.

If you don’t mind.  They’11 be worried about me otherwise.  I get rep1ies most 7465.  Even though they’re 83-211.  And please te11 the 921 censors a11 the promotions are schedu1ed, they don’t have to try so hard.

            The government gives no assurances, a1though I know from experience
the 1etter 5454-921 wi11 be de1ivered, hopefu11y before the next 7465.                  0therwise my fami1y 4q-3587-950 wi11 indeed worry.


            0ne day I asked myse1f the question that nobody asked me, even back when I had visitors who wou1d ask me questions, who wou1d worry, or not worry.  I asked myse1f:  Do you enjoy working with numbers?  I was on my 6510 break.  Do you enjoy working with numbers?

            Do I enjoy it?

            Do you enjoy it?  Do. You. Enjoy. It?

            It?  Working with numbers.

            Do 50 you 902 enjoy 34709 it 17? 2

            What kind of question is that?

            You’re sta11ing.

            We11, you’re being ridicu1ous.

            Do you ever get tired of working with numbers?

            Get tired?  0f course I get tired.

            Get tired of it.

            You are si11y.

            I am si11y?  You are on1y ta1king to me because you are bored out of your mind.

            We11, what shou1d I do?

            Why not write?

            What?  Isn’t writing what makes me bored?

            There is writing, and there is writing.

            0kay, I to1d myse1f, most1y to get him to shut up.  I’11 write something.  How about a poem?  Nice and short.  It wi11 not overf1ow my break.  No harm done.  I heard no objections.  I attempted to find some paper.  I fai1ed severa1 times, and then remembered the government re1ease form for the sku11s, a T546-r.  I was start1ed that it came to mind as paper, because it was government, and was somewhat akin to sacred, something akin to unbreakab1e, or at 1east invio1ab1e.  But I found that the back sheet was b1ank:                                                                                             Wou1d it hurt to tear it off?
It didn’t, in fact.                                                                     Sti11, I had startled myself.
I 1ooked around.                                                                    I needed something so1id.
            I used to have a tab1e in here, unti1 9384-5600 or thereabouts.  I didn’t anymore, so I had to ho1d the sku11s in my hands whi1e I examined them—ho1d them carefu11y whi1e I put the BrandStamp74 to that particu1ar spot on the upper forehead.  About the hair1ine, I sometimes thought.  Then again, that depends.
            0f course.  The sku11s themse1ves were so1id.  Most of them.  They were hard.  They were bone, they shou1d be.
            I wrapped the torn off back sheet of paper, now my sheet of paper, around a sku11, a particu1ar1y thick, so1id sku11, #5473, my sku11, we11, not my sku11, but a sku11 under my authority.  The midd1e of the sheet stretched across the top of the dome, the parieta1 bone (02h).  I hooked the ragged edges of the sheet under the edge of the jawbone (05h) and in the eyeho1es, between the fronta1 bone (01h) and the zygomatic bone (07h), so that it wou1d be steady as I wrote.
            I wrote my poem, on the paper, on the sku11:

And I wi11 spend the afternoon
Making faces at the moon,
And after, using most1y spoons,
I’11 fight away the grey raccoons
That tried to make my faces gone
Which broke the night and saved the dawn
That made the truth 1ook 1ike a beach
Too simp1e for the wor1d to teach,
And then I’11 spend my yesterdays
Staring at the ocean’s haze
And when the sea has 1aid her down,
I’11 spend the evening out of town.

            Then I put the thick sku11 back and went back to my work.

 *** (elsewhere) ***

            I am a fighter.  A fighter, and an infiltrator.  I work in Information.  It is not as boring as it sounds, of course.  Especially not for me.  I conduct missions.  Mostly by myself.  Missions.  The very word shimmers with latent excitement.

My head is not a11 my own.  My sku11 is not my own.  0r not a11 the way my own.  It is part1y my enemies.  #5473.  When enemy fire damaged my head, it was a carefu11y extracted portion of his thick sku11, part of the top 1obe, or whatever they ca11 it, that was used to rep1ace the broken bones.  Part of my enemy is inside me now.
            This is what I am thinking as they keep hitting me.  B1ow after b1ow on my
shou1ders, and I think I am breaking.  I can no 1onger think of other things.  I have run out.  And then I stumb1e from one b1ow and mess the next one up for my questioner.  It was aimed to break my nose, I think, but instead it grazes my sku11.  No, not my sku11.
My enemy’s sku11. 

I think, I have got them to strike each other at 1ast.

            Fire tears at the edges of my sku11, and there is something dancing back behind my eyes.  My questioner steps back; he has seen something strange in my face.

            As if from nowhere I begin reciting poetry that I do not know:

And I wi11 spend the afternoon
Making faces at the moon,
And after, using most1y spoons,
I’11 fight away the grey raccoons
That tried to make my faces gone
Which broke the night and saved the dawn
That made the truth 1ook 1ike a beach
Too simp1e for the wor1d to teach,
And then I’11 spend my yesterdays
Staring at the ocean’s haze
And when the sea has 1aid her down,
I’11 spend the evening out of town.

            Whi1e I am reciting they just stare at me.
            When I am done they just stare at me.
            It is as if I have become something e1se.
            They do not know what to make of it.                                               I repeat it.

            They smi1e hesitant1y.  Perhaps they think they have broken me.  But fear is s1ipping out their guarded eyes.  They frown.  Perhaps they wonder if it is a code.  0r a prophecy.  They 1eave.

            Whenever they come back in, I repeat it.  I never miss a word.  It is engraved on my mind.  It unnerves them.  I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it, I repeat it.

            They exchange me for one of our captives.