There is silence in the house and a white pleather couch stares at me. It sits there white and opened armed waiting for my embrace. My legs are crossed and I am wearing my new brown Converse All-Stars. In the other room my lover is working on a drawing in her black sketchbook. My small half-witted dog rests its undersized head on his front paws and looks longingly out the window, which is colored in by winter. Lunch is soon to be served someplace in the world. I feel as if I should have some sort of conversation with the white pleather couch. Maybe ask it how it manages to sit so still all the time. I feel as if I should take off my clothes and lay down on what looks like its very comforting white cushions. Then maybe I will feel safe and satisfied. My half-witted dog now growls at a bird ravaging around in the bird feeder. I am not annoyed or angry because the metallic hum of the heater quiets my mind. I am a bit impatient to do something, like throw myself into the womb of the white pleather couch or finally accept an old childhood challenge and see if I can go fit myself into the refrigerator. But it is almost evening and I have important things that I still need to avoid doing.
Defrosting My Wife
I came home last night and found my wife frozen in the backyard. She was lying on her back, lifeless, with one arm in the air. It looked like she was reaching for something. At first I was not really certain what was going on. My brain was unable to make sense of what I was seeing. In a state of denial, I asked my wife why she was laying down on the wet, cold earth. As I walked closer to her I realized that all the color had drained from her skin. Her eyes were open but nothing on her body seemed to move. Standing over her I said, “Honey?” and I gave her a little nudge with my foot. She did not respond. I then reached out for her arm, which was stretching towards the sky. I was wearing gloves so I could not feel how cold her hand was but I did notice that her arms and hands were completely stiff- as if hardened into place by rigor mortis. It was at that point that I realized something was really wrong.
“Honey!” “Honey!” I shouted as I bent down beside her. I could feel the cold earth on my kneecaps. I put my hands on her chest. I could feel her slow breathing but I could not feel a heartbeat. I then placed my ear up against her heart and my ear felt like I had just pressed a piece of ice against it. My ear began to freeze as I searched for her heartbeat. Finally I found it and with a great sigh of relief, I took off my gloves and ran my hands over her face. There was a thin sheet of ice that covered almost her entire body. I took off the frozen glasses that she was wearing and when I patted her face a few times to try and get her to react, the sheet of ice that covered her cheeks, cracked. “Honey!” I kept yelling in an attempt to get her to wake up. I sat beside her for a second or two trying to figure out what to do. I looked into her eyes, which stared up into the dark and murky winter sky above. Her pupils were dilated. It was at this point that I realized my wife was frozen.
In a panic I began to shake all of her limbs. I took her arm that was pointing towards the sky and moved it back and forth. I shook her other arm, her legs and when I did so I could hear the delicate cracking of ice. It sounded like the separation of polar ice caps. My intention was to break the sheet of ice that entrapped her. I wanted to get her limbs moving so that blood could begin to flow into the frozen parts. While I was shaking her limbs I kept saying over and over, “can you hear me? Can you hear me? Come on wake up. Wake up!” I took off her shoes and moved her feet around in my hands in the same way that someone would rub a stick when trying to make fire. And then the miracle occurred. My wife very gradually moved her eyes and face towards me and said, “honey?”
“I’m here baby, I’m here,” I said as I scooped up her frozen body in my arms and carried her into the house. I set my wife down on the couch as she continued to say “honey?” over and over again. She was disorientated and the only word she was capable of saying was “honey.” Once I had her on the couch I grabbed all the blankets off of the bed and I placed them on top of her. “You are going to be okay baby, your going to be fine, you just need to get warm.” I turned on the heat, and boiled some water in the kettle on the stove. I then kneeled back down beside my wife, took her still frozen hands in mine and massaged them. I kissed her ice-cold face, trying to warm her skin with my lips. I whispered into my wife’s ear that I was going to take care of her and there was no need for her to worry. There was a slow pulse on my wife’s face and in her hands, which I knew meant that blood was beginning to flow back into these areas. I then got up and took the boiling water off the stove.
As my wife was defrosting on the couch, I was amazed by how well I was responding to this very scary and strange situation. I wondered how it was that my wife ended up frozen in our backyard? I poured the boiling water over several dishrags. I then let the dishrags cool down a bit before I placed them on my wife’s forehead, chest, hands, feet, legs and stomach. I knew to do this because I had remembered reading somewhere that it was best to do anything to warm up the body of a person who was suffering hypothermia- hot towels and heating pads were recommended for this purpose. As I was placing that hot rags over my wife’s body she seemed to be gradually thawing out. Her vocabulary increased from one word to many. “What happened to me?” she would continually ask. All I could tell her was that I cam home and found her lying on the ground, frozen in our backyard. She was able to reach out for my hand. I could feel the life being reborn within her. As the minutes passed by, her speech sounded like it was coming from a mind that was no longer frozen.
After awhile of kneeling by my wife’s side and waiting for the hot rags, the heater, the blankets and my own massaging hands to defrost my wife- I was very relieved to hear her say that she needed to go to the bathroom. “Are you sure you want to get up just yet?” I asked. “I’m fine honey, I feel much better now. I just really need to pee.” “Ok,” I said and then told her that I was going to make a large pot of hot vegetable stew for dinner. “Sounds good,” my wife replied as she attempted to make a half smile and slowly lifted her self off the couch. She made a few pain filled grunts as I helped her get up onto her feet. She stood up slowly, like someone who was getting on his or her feet for the first time after surgery. I held onto her arm and gave her support as she very slowly put one foot in front of the other. It seemed as if she had bricks in her legs. Every step was very hard for her and I told her to take her time. “It feels like my legs are asleep,” she said. “It is ok, that is just the feeling of blood rushing back into your legs.”
Gradually my wife’s legs loosened and became stronger. She did not need to lean on me for support and was able to walk into the bathroom on her own. “Yell for me if you need anything,” I said as my wife shut the bathroom door. I could hear her put down the toilet seat and then I heard the torrential flow of urine into the toilet. I wanted to give my wife privacy so I walked back over to the couch and cleaned up the heap of rags that were all over the couch and floor. I noticed that the couch and blankets were soaking wet. The pillows on the couch were like a very wet sponge. I was surprised at first. Why was the couch soaked in so much water? I gathered up the rags and put them in the kitchen. It was then that I realized that the couch was soaked because my wife had defrosted there. As the ice melted away from her body it turned into puddles of water, which were now being absorbed by the couch cushions. I heard the toilet flush so I went back over to the bathroom door where my wife appeared. “How are you feeling honey?” I asked. “Cold,” she said. She shivered and still seemed weak, so I told her that she should get into our bed. She agreed. Slowly I helped her into bed. I took some blankets out of the hallway closet and covered her body and neck in them. I kissed her forehead as she looked at me with a smile on her face. “You are my hero, you know?” she said to me. “I’m no hero,” I said. “I am just glad I came home at the right time.” “Me too,” my wife said and then she shut her eyes. I kissed her again on the forehead. I felt so grateful that she was alive. “Get some rest, when you wake up I will have a hot bowl of soup waiting for you,” I said and then I left her alone.
The Counting Man
I count everything. There are 17 dirty dishes in my sink. My bed has 3 unmade sheets on it. I have 7 pair of shoes in my closet, 11 pairs of pants, 4 jackets and 16 black t-shirts. This morning there were 403 oat grains and 82 almond pieces in my bowl of oatmeal. Outside my window there are 9 trees and one of the trees has around 674 leaves on it. Two days ago I sat by the window of my house from 9am until 6 pm and counted how many people and cars passed by. There were 1,209 cars and 11 people on foot. This is how I keep myself pre-occupied during the darkest time of year. I do not know how my need to count things developed since I never particularly enjoyed mathematics. I prefer words over numbers but for some reason around this time of year I have this very deep desire to count things. When I read the New York Times in the morning I will count how many times certain words are used or how many stories there are about violence or the economic recession. Maybe counting is a way for me to feel informed. I am a solitary man and it could be that counting is my connection to a world that exists outside of me.
Every morning when I awake I do a twenty-minute meditation. I count my inhalations and exhalation all the way up to ten. When I get to ten I count backwards until I reach 0. I repeat the process until twenty minutes is up. My therapist believes that my obsessive counting is the result of my morning meditation. She says that the practice ingrains in me a connection between peace of mind and numbers. Maybe she is not wrong because it is true that right before Christmas, when the skies turn black- I notice that I begin to slip into a slight depression. My anxiety seems to be more active than any other time of year and counting everything maybe a way for me to calm myself down. When I finished the therapy session the other day, I told my therapist that she had 94 books on her shelf, 17 pictures on her wall and 12 wrinkles on her forehead.
Yesterday I killed over 3,035 ants that were crawling around in my bathroom. I had no choice. I am not a violent man but ants all over my soap, my towels, my toothbrush and the toilet paper is intolerable. I felt guilt after I killed so many ants so I set a limit for myself today. There are still ants all over my bathroom floor and ceiling but I have decided that I will not kill them all. I will exterminate 2,000 of them. I will spend the afternoon counting and killing. Once I reach 2,000 ants I will let the rest go for the day.
For dinner last night I ate lentil stew and managed to eat 1,023 lentils. It takes longer to eat when I have to count every lentil that enters my mouth. But maybe, just maybe this is why counting is good for me. Whether I am killing, eating or breathing counting forces me to slow down, to become present in the moment and be completely focused on what I am doing. I can not say I dislike this about counting. Normally I go through my life with very little awareness of my present moment experience. I am pre-occupied by what I need to get done, where I need to go, how I need to be- like a hamster chasing its own tail. Counting seems to wake me up from this never-ending dream and forces me to be here now.
My wife has been exercising in the other room for 41 minutes. I have been writing this for the past 28 minutes. I am using two fingers to type. The electrical heater by my feet has been on for 92 minutes. I have tried to count the rain drops that are falling outside of my window but so far it has been nearly impossible for me to get an accurate count. There are just too many rain drops to capture. Today I plan on going for a walk. I will walk for 80 minutes and during that time I want to count every single thought that enters my mind. I will divide these thoughts into two categories positive and negative thoughts. I want to know how many of my thoughts are negative and how many of my thoughts are positive. I can not take credit for this exercise- my therapist had the idea. She has observed that I tend to be a pessimist who sees the glass as half empty. Her idea is that possibly if I can become aware of the flow of negative thoughts through my mind I will be better equipped to turn these negative thoughts into positive ones. Since I want to be a positive person, who exists in joy rather than despair, I have been doing this exercise for the past few days. Yesterday I had 609 negative thoughts and 98 positive ones during an eighty minute walk.
I am assuming that once spring arrives I will no longer have the obsessive need to count- but for now I am surrendering to the obsession. I enjoy counting in the same way that a person enjoys their work. Counting keeps me preoccupied and distracted from thinking about too many other things. Like the Hindus, I also believe that thought is one of the most toxic elements that exist within a human being. Thought torments us and drives us around in the same way that a motor controls a car. When I am fully immersed in counting I am no longer thinking. I am in what certain scientists refer to as a state of flow. Clarity, peace of mind and focus take the place of habitual thought and it is habitual, unconscious thoughts that cause a person to lose control of their life. So I will continue to count. There are 13 unpaid bills, 8 pens and 2 notebooks on my desk. There are 9 plants in my writing room and 11 sticks of incense on the table besides my desk. There are 6 strings on my guitar, 1,902 dollars in my bank account and now at the end of this narrative I have written 1,083 words.