- Yes.
- The truth.
- Are you sure?
- Sure about hearing it?
- Because there are some things.
- Once you have heard those things.
- You can never unhear what you heard.
- There is no “undo” button for those revelations.
- There is only the Maginot line of blissful ignorance.
- A line that demarcates the only two states of being.
- The life before you hear what I will share with you.
- And then right now, when I tell you about summing arithmetic sequences.
- Adding the first 50 integers in a sequence to figure out the total.
- "Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two"
- This equation is not as pointless or as simple as it may appear to be.
- “Class, these equation will help choose be a women of pow-wuhr,” Sister Florencia would tell us.
- She said this about every topic she taught in class. Everything was important, and so nothing was.
- Especially not how I would feel during the personal “extra tutoring” sessions with Sister Florencia after evening Mass.
- I would chant the equation over and over again until my heart stopped smashing hard against my upper teeth.
- I would chant the equation over and over again until I could feel my soul step back from my body.
- I would chant the equation until I floated up and could see my scuffed heels sticking out from under her desk.
- “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…” scraping rhythmically with my scuffed black school shoes.
- My scuffed black school shoes that my big sister Tamarillo had sent me new at Christmas time with cariños and a letter.
- It has been six months, three weeks, two days and almost seventeen hours since Tamarillo came to see me here at La Escuela.
- She apologised in the letter she sent for “not coming to see me”, but said her boss needed her to work over the holidays again.
- “Not coming to see me” is what she had said in her letter, but really I think that she did not want me to see her.
- She did not want me to be worried by the sum of the arithmetic sequence of integers playing across the gentle lines of her Muy bonita face.
- She did not want me to see the tragic simplicity of the equation she was playing out with a man twice her age, married and father of three.
- “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta…”
- One of the many maths problems that Sister Florencia loved setting us was about a secret Catholic catechism that was smuggled out into the world as a famous Christmas song.
- “Class, The Twelve Days of Christmas song is not really a brilliant example of an arithmetic sequence of integers, but is a secret catechism from thee end of the 18th Century.”
- Apparently, between 1558 and 1829, Catholicism was a crime punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered, even for just being in possession of any writing that suggested you might possibly be Catholic.
- And so the work around was hiding the tenets of the Catholic faith inside a song about twelve drummers drumming, ten lords a leaping, eight maids a milking, and other silly sounding rhymes.
- But where Sister Florencia would get really excited was when she would croak her way through the song, unaware of the damage she was inflicting on our ears, and then ask us this question.
- “Class, in The Twelve Days of Christmas song, where we have a partridge in a pair tree, turtle doves, French hens and so on, what is the total number of gifts given after day twelve?”
- Thinking this was an arithmetic sequence of integers problem, we’d smugly reach for our special equation - “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…” - and raise hands to be chosen.
- “Yes, what is your answer Maria? Eighty seven? Okay. Any other answers? Yes Elena. Seventy eight. Okay. Guadalupe? Also seventy eight. Valeria? The same, seventy eight. Do all of you have the same answer of seventy eight?”
- “Yes, Sister Florencia,” we chorused, including Maria who tended to mix up her numbers and letters backwards. After all, we had our special equation: “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…”
- This was the point when Sister Florencia would get a wicked gleam in her eyes and howl out loud with laughter, marvelling at how she had ended up with an entire classroom full of “un estúpido grupo de chicas”.
- Sister Florencia never explained the answer to the maths question about The Twelve Days of Christmas, preferring instead to smugly relish in our tremendous stupidity and ineptitude when it came to Maths and everything in life, as she saw it.
- We would have to wait two years to find out the answer, when Sister Florencia suddenly had to attend a funeral - sadly, not her own - and Father Alejandro Calafi San Miguel, the substitute, mistakenly asked us if we had any questions.
- “Si, The Twelve Days of Christmas question. A common mistake is thinking this is an arithmetic sequence of integers problem. “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two”, giving you the wrong answer of seventy eight.”
- “But the truth is that this is a cumulative arithmetic sequence of integers. Your true love gives you a partridge in a pear tree, on all twelve days, two turtle doves on the next eleven days, along with the partridge also, you see?”
- “Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta equals… ”
- And just like that, Father Miguel cracked open another layer of the Universe that went beyond boring Maths, or distant sisters, or scuffed heels of black school shoes, or “extra tutoring” with Sister Florencia, still smugly laughing aloud at her class of incredibly stupid chicas.
- This was a layer that showed new equations for dealing with new problems, a layer that exposed the danger of making assumptions, jumping to conclusions or merely judging a matter based on surface appearance. Life is much bigger than the sum of the equations governing it.
- And in an ideal world, mere logic would be enough to tame the talons and claws of emotional trauma, of too many times of watching the backs of my scuffed school shoes from the ceiling above, too many times of my sister not coming to see me.
- I am running out of ways to contain this aching sadness, running out of ways to contain this throbbing loudness that keeps growing, surrounded by hail Mary's, threaded rosaries, cloistered walls and ladylike manners. "Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…"
- I don't know why it is this equation that helps me escape whenever the bad things start to happen, why this is the mantra that lets my soul billow free like a held kite. "Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…"
- I'm just making this thing up as I go along, trusting the equations to hold me long enough to catch a break. "Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two, Delta equals n times brackets n plus one closed brackets all divided by two…"
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