I counted eighty-seven cell phones today.
Eighty-seven cell phones, thirty-four watches, and forty-two purses.
Seventeen of the phones were the new touch-screen PDA kinds. I hate those types of phones.
Twelve of the watches were digital. Four of those were on a Velcro wristband.
Three of the purses were carried by a guy.
I keep all of this written down in a log book I carry with me.
I've been doing this for almost thirty years – counting things, that is.
It's not even something I really intentionally do. I find myself keeping track of everything around me. I get on the subway, I count how many glasses I see – how many black shoes – how many newspapers.
I used to just count glasses, when I was a child. I could keep track of it in my head. As I got older, I started counting other things – keys on a keychain, certain colored shirts, types of shoes, coffee mugs, or hats.
It was too much to keep track of purely by memory, so I started a log book.
If I forget a number of, say, cell phones in a room, I become incredibly uncomfortable, almost claustrophobic.
When I get home, at the end of the day, I go over my day's logs and tally it all up. When I fill a book, I file it away.
I have close to twenty years' worth of log books.
These days, I count a much wider range of items than I used to, so the books fill up faster. A hundred-page log book can be full in less than a month, sometimes even two or three weeks.
Today, I counted cell phones, earrings (males and females separate), nose rings, sandals, keys, rings, watches, purses, belts, jeans, newspapers, glasses, hats, high heels – You get the idea.
It was a pretty busy day; I have four pages' of logs.
I know that my obsession with counting isn't normal.
That is, I know it isn't now. I didn't know that at first. Until I was 15, I thought it was just something people did. A classmate asked me why I was looking around the room so much, and I told her there were three ponytails, and seven pairs of glasses in the room.
That was when I found out that everybody doesn't count the number of objects in a room.
After that, I didn't tell anyone else.
By the time I was twenty, I was counting windows, piercings, pockets, drinks. Anything, really. That was when I decided to start keeping logs.
After I got my first logbook, I stopped limiting myself, and I'd keep track of everything possible.
It's strange how free it made me feel. But at the same time, it was time-consuming, and confining.
For instance, it's difficult to focus on a lot of things. I try to avoid driving because I count dashes in the road, or bumper stickers, or people using their cell phones in the car.
I have a bag of M&M's in my apartment. It's one of those 'party' bags with lots of individual sealed mini-bags. There are fifty-three of those bags in it, with an average of seventeen M&M's per bags.
I've been to the doctor before. He prescribed me some medicine. I got a bottle with thirty-eight pills in it. I was told to take one twice a day.
That was two years ago. The bottle's still in my medicine cabinet. It has thirty-two pills in it.
I stopped taking the pills after a few days because my life felt too empty. I had nothing to do. I'd ride the bus, and I'd want to write down how many tattoos I saw, but I didn't want to. I didn't care.
So I stopped. Counting, to me, is more than just an obsessive disorder. It can even be a sort of meditation.
While I'm counting popcorn kernels, or leaves on a plant, or M&Ms in a bag, everything around me seems to disappear. It's just me and whatever I'm counting. The world fades away, goes on mute, and moves off into the distance.
It's a double-edged sword. While I count, it distracts me from anything else I could be doing, but the trance-like state I transcend to at times can be so overwhelming, it's almost like a spiritual awakening.
I have an entire room full of bookshelves, with all my log books indexed by date. Twenty years of books, all filed away in my apartment. Twelve or thirteen books a year. That's nearly three hundred books total.
Three hundred notebooks, completely full of lists made by me, lists of articles of clothing, or windows, or steps taken.
The majority of my life has been spent writing those notebooks. Is that all my life adds up to? Thirty years of counting?
I counted eighty-seven cell phones today. Ten years ago, I'd count maybe twelve. At this rate, I'll have to stop counting them. There will be too many.
Maybe someday I'll take the medicine. When I'm ready to, they'll be there, sitting next to the seventy-six pills of aspirin, waiting.
Until then, I'll keep counting.