They Can’t Be Counted

pantryIt was dark, but I avoided the light switch. It was of little use to me. In four weeks, I’d already traveled this way hundreds of times. I’d already reached for the long-spent milk gallon, unscrewed its cap, and performed the ritual more times than I could have ever thought possible. The way there, the ceremony, the anger—it was rote.

“Endlessly piercing her tiny arms and legs with these needles,” I sighed just below my breath and dropped another soiled syringe into the container, “it makes my stomach turn.”

God was just beyond the pantry door at the dining room table. He leaned forward to peer around the corner. He was listening.

I stood there in the dark and stared at the dimmed silhouettes of soup cans and cereal boxes.

“And the groan she makes when it breaks through her skin,” I continued, “the way she rubs the spot and says it hurts after it’s over.” I could feel my fingers curling up beside one another and forming a fist. “She’s so tired of it. A hundred times it’s happened already, and she’s just begun. The sore fingers. The pock marks and the little bruises,” I seethed and lifted my hand to my face in the darkness as if examining my grasp of something invisible. “I hate it,” I said dryly and stale-faced. “I hate it all.”

I stood still and waited for God to speak, but He didn’t. The only sound was the click from the thermostat and the triggered furnace firing in the basement.

“I wonder how many syringes are in that thing,” God said. “Have you thought about counting them?”

His words both angered and exhausted me.

“Why…? I asked, but only barely. My lungs needed more air to finish the sentence. “Why,” I tried again, “would I ever want to do that?” I tapped my fist to my forehead.

“I was just thinking that you would’ve thought to do that by now,” He said and leaned back in His chair as if tired of watching me in the dark. “You’re chronicling everything.”

“I’ll never count them,” I said rebelliously and turned only slightly to look in the direction of His voice. “I will never count them.”

“Why not?” He asked.

“They can’t be counted,” I said. “The pile only grows. The needles continue to pile up. The alcohol wipes and the test strips and the syringes and the lancet needles, they’ll continue to pile up and up and up, all the way to your front door.”

“And then what?” He asked.

“And then nothing,” I said. I stood still in the pantry’s obscurity. I didn’t want to look at Him. I didn’t want to listen anymore.

“Well,” He said plainly, “it sounds like the pile, for as terrible as it may be, has the strange potential for giving you a pretty decent view of something far better than a pantry in the dark.”

I remained as still as before. But even as I was firmly planted, His sentence—so fractionally simple and hardly impassioned—I felt it pull me an inch from the pantry.