Number Sestina

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Cooking for one

is, strangely, more difficult than cooking for two

although one ingredient may suffice for one, whereas three

ingredients may not be enough for two. But four

pounds of, say, beef, can be consumed pretty quickly by five

people, or six,

 

whereas even six

ounces of certain ingredients might spoil, waiting for one

person to use them up. Time is another factor. Some eat breakfast at five

in the morning, though this is unusual. Two

people who want to share meals must agree on such matters. Four

people who want to share meals will find this even more challenging, but if three

 

of them are children, it’s easier. Three

adults, however, will have trouble agreeing about anything. Dinner at six?

Some will find this quite sensible, as it provides the stomach four

hours’ digestion time before sleeping. But one

person in the group who insists on eating two

hours later—or earlier—will wreck the plan entirely. Five

 

o’clock is a bit early for the evening meal, since many people work until five.

Three students who share meals might have lunch at three,

since many students routinely stay up until two

a.m. or later, and hardly any of them wake up at six.

There may be one

somewhere, but for each of those there are four—

 

—or eight, or more—who sleep until noon. Musicians may not awake until four

p.m. if they don’t finish work until, say, five

in the morning. One

guy I knew finished his first gig at three

a.m. then went to another club and jammed until six.

You wouldn’t expect a guy like that to wake up much before two

 

in the afternoon, at the earliest. Even two

in the afternoon would give him less than six hours’ sleep. Four

p.m. would be more likely, and some in that situation would sleep until six.

Personally, that kind of schedule would finish me off in five

days, max. At my age, I couldn’t do it even for three

days. To be honest, I couldn’t do it for one.

 

A man my age can’t stay awake until two, much less five,

And getting up at four in the afternoon, or even three,

Is no way to live. Give me dinner at six, thanks. For one.

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