Calculate for the sum of it all

by Rachel Abbey McCafferty

If X equals the doors you left open and Y equals the doors that shut themselves, solve for Z where Z equals the lives you regret not living.

Multiply all the times you withheld a kindness between the ages 11 and 17 by all the things you should have said from 20 to 23. Forgive yourself anyway.

If you have three apples, and apples are dreams, and four oranges, and oranges are options, and seven bananas, and bananas are times you changed your mind, how many bicycles do you have?

Calculate all the time wasted. Remember you aren’t built solely for yield, for assembly, for creation. Recalculate.

Check your work. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it again. Check it

Subtract all the hours you lost to worry, to regret. See how much they stole.

On your graphing calculator, find the highest of high points and the lowest of lows and chart the resulting wave of all the points in between.

Consider all of the possible variations of you that could have been. Identify the factors composing the existing model. Calculate the fractions of your soul, the facial expressions you’ve borrowed, the turns of phrase you’ve adopted. Imagine those parts multiplying out in the world, unaware from which they came. Notice how the whole can infinitely divide and expand.

Add up all the time you have left; subtract what you’ve already spent. Identify the coulds, the woulds, the what-ifs and should-Is and why-nots. There. There you are, exactly where you’re supposed to be, suspended between experience and dream. Calculate the possibilities.


Rachel Abbey McCafferty has been writing since she first learned that was a thing people could do. Her flash fiction has appeared in journals like Emerge Literary Journal, HAD, (mac)ro(mic) and Milk Candy Review.



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