I have always had an obsession with numbers. When things in life didn’t add up, numbers always could. Two plus three always equals five. Thirty-nine minus two always equals 37; and if you follow the order of operations the sum of three plus four raised to the third power plus 215 always equals 558.
Yet as I grow older, numbers don’t make quite as much sense anymore.
Two plus three equals five—but how does that warrant the actions of two cops taking away the life of a father of five children?
Thirty-nine minus two equals 37—but does it really when the thirty seven years of Alton Sterling’s life were cut short by two cops, six fatal shots, and society’s disheartening track record of police brutality and a disregard for the humanity of black bodies.
When did the third and fourth letters in the alphabet—CDs—warrant taking a life?
Why is Sterling the 558th person to be shot and killed by police this year?
I try and make sense of these numbers as I type them over and over into my calculator.
I type the number five and I see the faces of Sterling’s children. I type 37 and see Sterling’s smile, his humanity. I type 558 and I see Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray; I see a list with no foreseeable end in sight, I see silence, I see inequality, I see CDs, cigarettes, a minor traffic stop, and just being Black in America as a signature on a death certificate.
I type these numbers into my calculator. Click. Clack. Click. Clack. I get no answer.
I hit each key; I hear the clamor of injustice.
I continue typing in the hope that a solution will appear.