Up to now, how many gallons of rain have I seen fall?
If I could add up all the stairs I've climbed, would they exceed or fall short of all the stairs I've walked down. Superficially one might conclude that they must equal out (unless you died upon walking up or down a flight of stairs before returning to ground level)—and they may—but it is not inevitable, even without death interposing itself, as even the most cursory examination of the particularities of the question will reveal. For instance, there were times that I took an elevator or an escalator up and the stairs down, or, conversely, for any number of reasons, perhaps a mechanical failure of elevator or escalator, for instance, or a desire to "get some exercise," that I took the stairs up and opted to take the now repaired escalator or, having tired myself out on the climb up the stairs, decided to reward myself by taking the elevator back down. And how do you count—or do you—falling down the stairs?
Even if I added up all the sneezes in my lifetime would the actual elapsed time even exceed a minute?
What about orgasms? Have I sneezed more times than I've orgasmed? If so, why?
Last night I dreamed that I was talking to Padgett Powell. I told him that I had found his email address online, not his personal email, I assured him, but his email address at the university where he teaches. I told him that I first thought of writing to him after reading his book—not the book I'd just finished, "Typical," which he saw me carrying, but an earlier book. Here I found myself embarrassedly drawing a blank. I couldn't remember the title of the book I meant. "The one," I finally said, "about the talking dog." He acknowledged, without himself mentioning the title, that he knew the book I meant and that's when I woke up. The first thing I thought upon awakening was that Padgett Powell never wrote a book about a talking dog.
I want to write a book called "My Life Among Gnomes." So far, I have only the title.
The cat makes it clear that she wants to sleep on my lap so I move the computer over to the arm of the couch. This requires me to bend uncomfortably to the right, putting a good deal of twist and tension on my spine, throwing my shoulders out of alignment, and causing me to make a lot more typos than ordinary.
How many horns have I heard blowing, sirens wailing, babies crying, dogs barking, teapots whistling, doorbells buzzing, alarm clocks beeping, phones ringing, toilets flushing—is it any wonder that I'm a nervous wreck so much of the time?
How many aspirin have I swallowed? How many xanax? How much anger, injustice, sadness, resentment, regret? How much bullshit have I choked down?
How many spoonfuls of Pepto Bismol?
My book will start: There is a general conception that gnomes are exceptionally priapic creatures, leering, brutish, dirty little men, always ready to jump your bones, to take advantage of any circumstance to bend you over and stick it home. But I can tell you from experience that they are quite the opposite. They are a Puritanical, even prudish lot, however shockingly well-endowed, even taking into account their small stature. I'm ashamed to say how many times I pranced around in front of them in the flimsiest of nighties in the hopes of arousing their supposed legendary lust, only to have failed miserably, effecting nothing but averted eyes and lips pursed in distaste.
Okay so now I have the first four lines.
The cat falls asleep almost immediately on my lap.
Upon rereading them, I cross out the first four lines of my book "My Life Among Gnomes." What trash! So now I am again left with only the title. It may be this is as far as I get, that this is a book that consists of only a title. Is it possible for such a book to exist?
How many words have I read? Do they equal or exceed the number of words I have written? Taken together, do the number of words I've read and written equal, exceed, or fall short of the number of words I've spoken? I have always endeavored that the number of words I've spoken should be lower than the number of words I've read and written. Ideally, the number of words I've read should exceed by a great number both the number of words I've written and especially the number of words I've spoken but I know this is not an ideal world and that I am a far from ideal specimen of human behavior.
Can I at least hope that the number of words I've read and heard exceed the number of words I've spoken and written?
I can hope, but I'm afraid I hope without any particularly good reason—with hope only, in other words.
For example, in the time that I have been writing what you are reading now, I've heard very little but the voice in my own head and read nothing but the words—well over 800 of them already—that I have written. As I see it, I've been tipping the balance in the negative direction again. What is it that I think I have to say that is so important, anyway? Surely nothing that I've written here.
The doorbell rings. The cat wakes up on my lap. I don't move from the couch.
Nothing happens. Whoever was at the door goes away.
The cat puts her head back down on her paw and slowly closes her eyes. Once again she is fast asleep.
I resume typing.
I have never lived among gnomes and yet somehow I remember doing so. It only comes back to me as I write. What percentage of my life have I forgotten? What percentage have I made up? How much of it is worth remembering? What, if anything, has ever happened? How many words will it take to recall it? Why gnomes?
I plan to go upstairs soon.
Fourteen steps up.
I do not plan on collapsing in the shower. I do not plan on being carried down by paramedics. I do not plan on falling down the stairs, tripping on a bit of loose carpet or being shoved from behind by a gnome.
So, fourteen steps down.
Today, at least, it equals out.