There were fourteen different sighs in my vocabulary, he said, ten times a week. Ten times fourteen is one hundred and forty, and one plus four is five – and five is one of five numbers that doesn’t make me nauseous, like dirty four. How he’d say the number arbitrarily just to watch one of my fourteen sighs gag from my throat.
Plums and arpeggio on his tongue. Plums that were a quarter size of his whole palm. Plums that could fit two at a time inside his mouth. Making me count math like a commoner, or stagger away from him with eyes rolled double on sigh number three. Two sighs for one. Elicit one sigh, get one free.
I learned the hard way to keep individual, inconspicuous, use language to skip pentagrams around dialogue so whomever is trapped on the other side of the conversation hears everything without absorbing anything.
Philip taught me that. He memorized my fourteen different sighs and directed my speech until nothing I said made sense to anyone – not even him three quarters of the time. Not because it didn’t have substance, but because the common person was prone to dragging their train of thought through the surface of every conversation. Anything that contained more than one or two layers of consideration was instinctively dismissed. Even the term “black” when used as a fall fashion trend triggered in me the urgency to remind anyone in my vicinity that before existence itself was created, there was nothingness, and nothingness was black.
I had to wear brown and call it a day.
Of course, this backfired on me later in life when I had four husbands, three friends, two enemies, and zero people who knew what I was talking about, ever. Philip had died. The cat I named after him died. And all I had left were fourteen different sighs that allocated me into maps to create the sum of division.