I have a very firm grasp of the 26 letters. The ten digits, not so much.

In fact, the largest number I instinctively grasp is three – in that three is understandable as being “first,” “middle,” and “last.”

I’m not an idiot; I can count. I keep score at Scrabble. I can work the puzzles printed on the placemat in the local Greek family-style restaurant (the ONLY place in my life when algebra actually has value). It’s just that I’m better with letter, that’s all.

(Maybe I AM an idiot, though. I love to play blackjack, but I’ve discovered that while I can add the point value of two cards together without a thought, when that third card slaps down, my brain goes into vapor lock and addition becomes utterly impossible. Someone has to say “That’s fourteen,” for which I am pathetically grateful.)

My inability to trust numbers comes to the fore when I trot thuddingly up and down the stairs, my at-home cardio. I’m absolutely sure I’ve got the count right for the first three circuits (“first,” “next,” and “this one”), but after that I find myself beset by doubts.

Did I really count the fourth one? Or is this number five and I just THINK it’s number four?

By the time I get to seven, I’m paranoid. Maybe this is really number six. Even worse, what if this is really number EIGHT and I’m stupidly trotting up and down the stairs one time too many? Or is it TWO times too many?! God, I’m tired.

I’ve tried various methods. I’ve said the lap number out loud, telling a print of two willowy Chinese ladies on the landing how far I’ve gone. (They are above it all; sublimely disinterested in my mundane and distasteful sweating.) I’ve curled another finger into my palm at the top of the second flight, slowly forming fists as I go up and down. I’ve kept a piece of paper and a pen at the top to make a tick mark as I go flying by. (Well, not flying – but moving too rapidly for a tick mark to be anything other than awkward.)

The best method I’ve found is to gather up a handful of highlighters on my way down the stairs the first time. I leave them on a table in the basement, and every time I go up, I grab one. Just one. Then I leave it at the top. By the way, this is an exceptionally inefficient way to move highlighters from one part of the house to the other. By lap seven, I automatically think of how much more sensible it would be to gather up ALL the remaining markers and take them back upstairs together. Like – duh. Taking just one is an offense to efficiency. But I do it.

I saw a video on Facebook of actors from superhero movies working out; what those highly-paid and instinctively athletic people do regularly absolutely dwarfs my efforts, but I still find it inspirational. As I run up the stairs, I think about Hugh Jackman standing upright on top of a very large exercise ball and then squatting all the way down without falling. Jeesh. Core strength.

I think of that little Spiderman, whose workout routine is surprisingly impressive. He’s just a kid and look at what HE’s doing – damn, Sam! I can’t even explain it; it’s like he’s going up stairs that aren’t there, just hanging from two pegs.

I think of Wonder Woman doing spectacular chin-ups, and Thor in an extra-beefy body harness chaining him to the wall as he throws a medicine ball from all over a basketball court, and pretty Ryan Reynolds doing reverse crunches on an inclined plane. Oh, it’s a GOOD video.

Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool is my favorite, so the red highlighter is always the last one I run up the stairs in his honor. (Don’t tell me about Deadpool 2; my son and I had tickets yesterday and I stupidly lounged through the start. Just utterly lost track of time and missed the movie, damn it. I AM an idiot. We’ll try again tomorrow.)

I keep thinking I should assign a superhero to each color; it would give me something good to think about as I trotted. The Hulk clearly gets the green one. But then I run into Iron Man in HIS red suit, and Deadpool already owns the red one, and my lungs are full to bursting and I’m sweating and NEVER MIND just get me more oxygen – keep going.

Counting by highlighter. Whatever works.

IMG_9201Sometimes I run them up the stairs in ROY G BIV order; sometimes I grab whichever one is nearest at hand. The black one was added when Barbara made me add a tenth lap; doesn’t matter if I carry it first or middle or towards the end, I always think that the black marker lap is the extra one, and I am resentful. But it’s over soon, and my heart gets its workout and now I can go read bad novels with a clear conscience. Yay!

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