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By M. C. St. John
At first, he lost count of the freckles
on her left thigh, the spent cigarettes
in the painter’s palette, the laughter.
Math was never his strength, the sum
of cups of coffee, puns, and touches
all like terms--what variable is bliss?
But when he factored in train schedules
and work times, the difference between
going out and heading home was negative.
One night, he showed her his reasoning
but she only gave him partial credit
for arriving at that answer.
He did the long division again, gave her
the remainder. They spent late mornings
at Star Lounge, the gravitational pull
of her feet to his under the cafe table
made his math fuzzy on rent and bills--
they were all ones and zeroes anyway,
so what was the point in keeping track
of funds as long as his heartbeat
and word count were balanced?
Problem was, the ratio went in her favor,
sketchpads to refined paper, acid-free,
dimensions growing at exponential rates.
Her gardens bloomed from the endorphins,
the take and take and take from his side.
The inequality came close enough for him
to count the crocodile’s teeth.
There he drew the line, did the scratchwork
for his word problem. He told her breakfast
had given him heartburn, and his work keys
were back at his place. At Ashland, he rode
the train alone, reviewing his steps in logic,
surprised at how such a complex number
could reduce to one if he worked it right.