Think of a number….
No, not that one… how could you?
We all know the sort of mind that thinks of a number like that… don’t we?
Of course, it is all well and good thinking of that particular number when you are young, and… shall we say… a bit frisky.
But when you get to our age.
Well, it hardly seems… fitting.
And you can take that look off your face. You know what I mean.
After all, from around puberty onwards, we all seem to notice that there are some numbers that are… well, let us be frank, that some numbers are sexier than the others.
It must go without saying that there must have been nights when all of us in our early teens lay awake dreaming of one day seeing a seven in all its naked glory, and how 32 seemed to just ooze sexiness.
Obviously 174 was a bit beyond us at the time, but maybe those of us who were lucky enough to meet an experienced older mathematician began to realise that there was something even sexier beyond mere numbers.
I can remember the first time I saw a quadratic equation.
It was love at first sight.
But then there were sines and cosines undulating across the graph paper so sensuously.
For those with more… shall we say… specialised tastes there were tangents and arc tangents, not to mention radians.
The nights we lay awake under our hot sweaty sheets thinking of imaginary numbers. As well as those long nights when we wondered what we would do if we met an improper, or even a vulgar, fraction.
All those x= spread out lewdly across the pages of our text books.
No wonder no-one could concentrate in maths lessons. The squeak of the chalk on the board as the latest problem slowly revealed itself to us. Of course we did not care why the farmer’s wife was taken x number of eggs to the market, or what strange circuitous route she took, we wanted to see the problem in all its naked algebraic sexiness.
We watched with bated breath, feeling hot under our school uniforms, as the teacher slowly stripped away all that extraneous detail to reveal the problem naked and blushing in its pure algebraic form, waiting for us to discover the secrets beyond that A, B, X and that sensuously mysterious Y.
Nights filled with dreams of plus signs, and minuses dancing around the equals sign.
So many numbers and so little time.
We would wonder if we would ever grow tired of the maths problems, whether there was an equation out there that would be right for us. Would our Log tables ever grow limp and unreadable at the wrong moment?
So many questions.
Some without there answers in the back of the book, or even worked example, we could work through under our bedsheets at night, illuminated by a torch. Lying there tormented by all those numbers we could calculate, we listened in shock and wonder as our parents in the bedroom next to ours settled down together to work out their tax returns. Leaving us feeling rather disturbed by the way they still giggled together over numbers at their age.
Still though, now at this age so many numbers later, I still sometimes think about that one particular number 73, and my first fumbling teenage equations.