People think he’s a grumpy old man. They do, really…
They look at the way he stares into space as if they don’t exist, and then they decide his brilliant grey head is filled with a vacuum. But they’re wrong, see? It’s the figures. Always the figures. Little rows of numbers march through his brain, neatly, orderly, like only he understands them. Add and subtract. Multiply and divide. Fractions and bits of fractions. Random numbers he constantly arranges and rearranges; breaks down and builds up again. He can do it anywhere and any time. He does it constantly.
I don’t think he can help it. It just happens.
This is, of course, the thing that brought us together. We were young then, first-year students stepping out into the unknown. Even back then his world of numbers and sums and tables and figures was legendary. It was the only thing he did. And I? Well, I suffered through the maths and the calculus and was on my way to failing my course. So I did what any clever young lady would have done.
There was a first-year dance. A get-together for the novices to celebrate the half-year mark. He wasn’t going, of course. Not interested. But I asked him and promised we could talk about maths. I remember I said something about mental arithmetic and algebra. His eyes lit up. That was the start.
We sat outside that hall and looked at the stars. He fractioned the sky into so many pieces and worked out how many visible stars there were. I said he was wonderful. He liked it. Then I asked him to help me with maths. He was delighted.
And so we started courting. More accurately, I dated him. And it wasn’t just because of the sums and the calculations – I found out he was a wonderful, gentle being, a true and loyal companion. He’d quantify anything you cared to point out to him, and when I asked him what he thought about love, he said it was the only sum that defied logic. It’s an absolute, he said. That’s when I knew we’d make it.
He joined a large insurance company, and did so well that he was the youngest CEO, ever. He could analyse risk better than anyone. Investment? Well, if you had X amount of money and needed to double it in Y time, he worked out the factor you have to add to the formula to make it work. He did it all in that grey head, faster than the young men with their little gizmo machines. Even after all these years I have no idea how he does it; but for him it is as natural as breathing.
Then he turned fifty, and announced his retirement. He said he’d made the sum. It was time.
And it was. His arithmetic took us all over the world. Paris, Rome, New York, Nevada, Monte Carlo and Monaco. Everywhere. And everywhere his sums landed us in trouble. Get out and stay out, they’d say. Don’t come back. We don’t want your sort here.
On the way over here, he told me this is the last one. The world is getting too small for us. We’re a known quantity now. They want to factor us out.
So here we are in Singapore – the Resorts World Casino is brand new, ultra luxurious and terribly expensive. They don’t know my husband. He can walk on to the floor without a muted alarm going off in a hidden control room. If the grumpy old man buys the chips from the croupiers, they’d eye his bulging wallet with a smile. Just another old fool, willing to pay handsomely for an evening’s entertainment. And, as usual, I’d sit quietly at the bar, sipping my Moët, with the rest of the money in the attaché case.
I’ll watch him carefully, knowing those figures are marching around and around in his mind, until at last he has them lined up in exactly the way he wants them. Just so. Then he’ll look up with those sad, wintry eyes and wink at me. There’ll be the slightest hint of a smile – one only I can see, because he’s my man. I know him so well.
And that’s when I’ll sit down next to him and he’ll open the case and quietly, gently, stack the notes for the last bet.
Yes, you may think he’s a grumpy old man. Many people have made that calculated error. But then, they won’t know the soft chuckle he’ll give when we get back to the room. He loves that part. He likes me on the bed with the notes scattered around and the way they crinkle and crackle while we make love.
You can think what you want. I added up the figures a long time ago. See if I care…