Subtraction.

That’s simple, isn’t it?

Yet at some point in the late afternoon, I lost my ability to subtract one two-digit number from another two-digit number. Over the course of a minute, I wondered if a part of my brain was failing me, and whether this failure was temporary, due to shock, or whether it was gone for good.

I’ve always been able to subtract easily in my head, and can even add columns of numbers without sinking into the drawer containing my calculator. Yet I was genuinely frozen when trying to calculate mentally the differential between the numbers 48 and 17. Or maybe it was 47 and 16 but you can see what I was trying to figure out.

I started out in the good old way: the number 7 subtracted from the number 8 is…one? OK, well, um. OK so I hold that one up there in my head and advance to the numbers 4 and 1. But is it 4? Didn’t I have to carry one over to the 7 or whatever, leaving a 3 from which I’d deduct the 1?

I began to breathe heavily. It could not be that differential was 31? Could it? Really, it couldn’t, could it?

Impossible.

Yesterday my brain failed to function with chill mathematical truth. I had to force myself against my flailing brain to accept that the differential was indeed 31.

I’m still a tad shaky. Which is why I’m writing this at 4:29 pm, before I turn the TV on. I need to stabilize before seeing how beautifully Buffalo fans cleared feet of snow off the Bills football field. (They were paid $20 an hour. I bet I could multiply 20 by however many hours they shoveled but I don’t know how many hours they shoveled.)