"She said that when she was younger, she loved only even numbers. That's why..."
|She said that when she was younger, she loved only even numbers. That’s why, for 10 years of her life, from age 8 to 18, she did everything in evens. When she needed to pass through a doorway? That’s right, she’d do it twice. She needed to buy a new shirt? She would buy two or four of them at a time. Needed to bake a layered cake for a friend’s birthday? One year, it was 8 layers, another it was a whopping 16.
Yesterday my fiancé walked into our apartment to a kitchen floor littered with scattered glass. No questions asked. He took the broom from its hiding place and helped me sweep up the mess. “We don’t have a cake pan,” I said, and he could hear in my voice the residue of my earlier desperation. “Is there something else you could make?” Together, we baked 240 Financiers; she loved almonds just as much as she loved evens.
She had a knack for telling the most embarrassing stories about herself in a way that made you love her even more. “I really don’t know what was going on in my brain at that moment, but anyways, there I was, an hour late and thinking to myself: there are only two options right now. So I…” And the three of us leaning in across the restaurant table, in rapt attention, roared back with laughter.
“Can I help you?” No, I really don’t think you can. I tried to wipe away any smudged eyeliner before turning around. “Yes, actually. I need two of these,” I said, and held out the purple cashmere scarf for her inspection. No questions asked. The store clerk hurried off to check the stock in the back, and returned, breathless, in less than four minutes, scarf clutched like a prize in her fist. “Anything else for you today?” “No really, that’s all.” She loved purple just as much as she loved evens.
Once, I asked her what her favorite number was. “It’s 8,” she said. Why? Because it’s a small number, but it’s somehow nicer than the other smaller even numbers before it. I said, “But you know 8 is two to the third power. It’s a perfect cube.” But cubes have a delicious symmetry to them, that’s how she could love it anyways; the isometry group of the cube has 48 elements.
The air in the florists shop was thick and dizzy with too many scents, but the woman working the counter had a head-full of the most calming white-grey hair. “Do you have any questions about our flowers?” “Yes, do you carry Calla lilies?” I tracked the sympathetic knitting of her wrinkled brows with all the precision of a mathematician. “How many do you need?” ‘’Eight, exactly.” She bound them in luxurious ivory ribbon, no questions asked. She loved lilies just as much as she loved evens.
Back in grad school, we shared office number 238 for four years, so I knew her wardrobe as well as my own. Ever practical, her favorite items of clothing had the perfect pockets, and she was generous with her sartorial wisdom. “You should get this dress from…It’s a life-changer.” That particular number was made of technical fabric, wicked sweat away faster than you could blink, and had built-in shorts underneath with a pocket on the left hip. She wore it at least twice a week, sometimes more. She knew the navy color of it made her eyes sparkle. “Get the green one,” she said.
I ordered the black one. The green wouldn’t go with the purple scarf, and anyways, who wears green on the day they have to bury their best friend? Eight pews back, I can still glimpse the matching scarf and bouquet of lilies I nested in the casket. The Financiers are waiting in the reception hall for the grief-stricken hungry. All I can seem to think of in the moment is the poster board of puns we started in our office just those few years ago. I begin to run through the entire list. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere; the undergrads are still learning how to function; We’re lowly grad students, so we can’t afford to binomial… Her brother is sitting in the row directly in front of mine; I tap his shoulder. “Hey,” I say, “She can’t even, right now.” And he chokes on his laughter.