It is usually not until after the age of puberty that we realise just how sexy the number 7 is. After that, it seems we become obsessed with mathematics and seeing numbers in all their naked glory. Back in the days before the internet how many of us used to lie under the bedcovers at night with a torch and a book of six figure logarithmic tables, despite the warnings from our elders and maths teachers that it could make us go blind.
Then there were the dreams of simultaneous equations and vulgar fractions that made us wake hot, sweaty and sticky in the middle of the night. The fantasies of imaginary numbers that would make us wonder if we were too impure for pure mathematics. And the days at school staring out of the window at the mathematical wonders of the natural world, while pondering what kind of debauched calculus went on in a pub’s Function Room.
Of course, as we grew older there were those dreams of that special one who would be there for the rest of our lives to check our working. We lay awake at night dreaming of someone who would know – seemingly by instinct – how many tins of paint it would take to paint the walls of a strangely geometrically irregular room, and just how much percentage profit she could make from taking her eggs to market, and other such mathematical problems of life.
There were days wondering about our statistics, the probability that our percentages were large enough, that the girls wouldn’t laugh at the inadequacy of our incorrect answers and that our division was not quite long enough.
The girls would worry if their remainder was too big and what if their x didn’t in the end equal the magical 7.
But somehow we got through puberty without seeing all the explicit mathematical videos now available on the internet. Only the occasional furtive glance at the maths text books our parents kept under the mattress for those nights when marital integration lost its romantic lustre.
Then there were those first tentative touches of each other’s maths exercise books when you were first alone with the teenage mathematician of your dreams. The first time she let you use her calculator, promising to be careful and those telltale ink marks on the fingers where you’d solved some simultaneous equations together with the lights off.
That first time she saw your hypotenuse and the first time you saw the naked curves of her sines and cosines. The hope in your heart when she promised that one day she would show you her calculus, maybe even let you integrate it with her.
Now though, as we grow old, all our numbers seem to blur into one another, and you can’t remember that last time your wife showed you a new formula.
Now you wonder if it is all over and there are no more answers left in the back of your book.
Then, one day walking down the street in the early summer you see a shop sign with that always-sexy number 7 on it, and you know that it still has the power to thrill you, much as it always did.