Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like and Stuff I Write: Numerology, Talking to Strangers, Adding to Eleven, and a New-Book Excerpt

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Ever wonder why strangers corner you on the bus to talk about their bowels? Ever wonder why you’re sometimes the one doing the cornering?

It’s in the numbers, of course.

Numerology and the number 11, to be precise. Here’s an excerpt from my new book, The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious, that breaks it down.


Number 11

The orderly’s name is Rich. He’s come to fill the water pitcher. Rich has eyebrows like steel wool and eyes that seem to focus anywhere but here.


“My dad used to scrunch his face up all the time, just like you,” I say. “You shouldn’t frown so much.”

“My wife tells me that too,” Rich says and goes on frowning.

“When my dad died, the lines went away,” I say. “His face relaxed.”

“That so?” Rich says.

“My dad worried about everything,” I say.

“Lots of people do,” Rich says. He jiggles the ice pitcher. He’s careful to look in my direction, just not at me. He aims for a spot above my head. I recognize this technique. I’ve used it myself, many times.

Once, a woman on the street in New York stopped me. “Can I ask you a question?” she said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Shave or wax?” she said.


“What?” I said.

“Your legs, your parts,” she said. “Shave or wax?”

The question seemed important.

“Shave,” I said.

“I thought so,” she said. “I sure as hell thought so.”

The woman didn’t look crazy. She wore a ponytail and a suit. She carried a briefcase and an expensive-looking umbrella. The umbrella had a wooden duck’s head for a handle.

duck head umbrella

Everything about this woman was prim and pulled together, except her mind.

“Another Number 11,” my friend June said when I told her the story. June is into numerology. There’s a theory, she says – if the number of letters in your name adds up to 11, you attract negative personalities. Crazy people on the bus feel inclined to talk to you. They will seek you out and tell you their panty size. They will give you details about their sex lives and bowel habits. They will tell you where they keep the remains of their childhood pets.


I’m an 11. June is an 11. Many of my closest friends are 11s. I’m not sure what this means. Maybe 11s seek each other out so we always have someone who understands why the guy in the kilt with the imaginary bagpipes finds us irresistible.


“There’s one of us,” June says when she sees someone cornered.

“They see us coming,” she says when it’s us.

For years I was on the receiving end of crazy talk. Then something happened. I blame it on age and grief and loss, but who knows. Whatever it was, things reversed. Now I catch myself trying to make eye contact with strangers. I catch myself saying things.

“My father worried his life away,” I tell Rich. “I’m trying not to be like him.”

“Good for you,” Rich says and plops down a few cups and straws.

  1. Before I married, my name had eleven letters. Now it doesn’t. Have I avoided the curse?

  2. I think the rule is once an eleven, always an eleven.

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