Keeping the World in Order

Out beyond the glass in the window three swallows flew across a patch of sky. Either they were flying an advance party or they were a separate unit and had nothing to do with the countless birds that followed. I should never have started counting but already I was moving my lips.

Are you wondering how many there are, Paul asked.

I do a lot of counting. Cigarette butts, trees, fence slats, clouds, or the number of paving stones between one phone pole and the next, the windows along the way to the bus stop in the morning, the pedestrians I see from the bus between one stop and the next, red ties on an afternoon in the city. How many steps from the office to the factory gate. I count to keep the world in order, I said.

… Often the same things, in the same place, change their number from one day to the next. At first glance everything looks exactly the same, but not when you count it…

— Herta Müller, The Appointment: A Novel (Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet), translated by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm

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One thought on “Keeping the World in Order

  1. I’ve always wondered why I count—-now I know !! (The number of steps to the farmhouse porch do change. I count them almost every time.)

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