41 responses

  1. Jan Priddy
    May 16, 2018

    You had me at the title, the mathematics of our personal futures. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Pam Durban
      May 18, 2018

      Thank you for your kind response. I love titles that really set you on a story’s path, and I’m glad this one did that for you.

      Reply

      • Jan Priddy
        September 23, 2018

        I went looking for your work. So Far Back blew me away. You accomplished something rare and significant in that novel. Thank you!

        Reply

      • Pam Durban
        June 8, 2020

        Thanks for reading So Far Back, Jan, and for your comment. I’m a southerner by birth, and southern history is a subject that I’m committed to trying to get right, and I’m grateful for your response.

        Reply

  2. Nicole
    May 16, 2018

    This is a beautiful piece, Pam. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Pam Durban
      May 18, 2018

      Thanks, Nicole. I love this flash essay form, and I’m glad this one succeeded with you.

      Reply

  3. Tree
    May 17, 2018

    I loved this interweaving of mathematics and life. I always knew somehow I’d need to know basic algebra.

    Reply

    • Pam Durban
      May 18, 2018

      Me, too, Tree, but somehow it eluded me until now. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my piece.

      Reply

  4. Jack Peachum
    May 18, 2018

    Dyskalulia– I have suffered it all my life. Nothing to do w/ age, the math equivalent of dyslexia. It is a fatal burden in a techno-mathematical age.

    Reply

  5. Jack Peachum
    May 18, 2018

    Dyskalulia: the psychological equivalent OF Dyslexia and likely to prove near-fatal in a techo-mathematical-oriented age.

    Reply

  6. marcia aldrich
    May 18, 2018

    Sobering. Brings me up sharp. What good writing should do.

    Reply

  7. Ceci LaDuca
    May 21, 2018

    I love your essay. I’m 70 also. Do I have 15 good years left? Who knows. I try not to think about how fast the past 15 yrs have gone, and just live. Besides, maybe I’ll live to be 100! Anyway, I really related to the piece.

    Reply

    • Pam Durban
      May 22, 2018

      Thanks for your kind comment, Ceci. It is strange,isn’t it, to find ourselves facing all those unsolvable Xs.

      Reply

      • Bob HIll
        May 28, 2018

        Hi, Pam. A pleasure to read this new piece of yours in BREVITY. Hope you’re well.
        –Bob HIll, rhill41@gmail.com

        Reply

  8. Nancy Glover
    May 25, 2018

    I’ve tried to write about that word problem frustration — but connecting it to “the final word problem” — wow! Well done!

    Reply

  9. Diane Esser
    May 26, 2018

    Good writing creates another furrow in our cranium. I am also 70 and welcomed another furrow:)

    Reply

  10. daisy hernandez
    May 30, 2018

    I read it before realizing it was yours, Pam! So fun when that happens. That ending is so poignant.

    Reply

    • Harold Macy
      June 2, 2018

      In the brick schoolhouse where I was faced with these goddamn trains the only way I could even approach the problem was to grab two pencils and move them at the noted speeds, one slower, one faster usually, until they crossed paths or collided then I estimated the answer and was always wrong though my methodology brought some slight smile to the teacher’s stern visage and I sat there picturing the gory scene of a train wreck with shattered bodies everywhere in the same numbers as this stupid algebra class.

      Reply

  11. Basira Harpster
    July 1, 2018

    How lovely to read a piece reflecting this part of life. I almost said this end of life, but it’s not the end yet, not 70, not if we keep being lucky. I admire the turns in the piece and the ending image, which reaches nicely beyond logic.

    Reply

  12. Jacqueline King
    July 12, 2018

    Thank you for making me feel not alone in this journey! I relate to your writing, love your story and descriptive details that make everything real.

    Reply

  13. Pam Durban
    July 17, 2018

    Thank you to everyone who’s commented on my story. I’m especially grateful if, as Jacqueline King said, I helped you feel “not alone in this journey.”

    Reply

  14. steve rosse
    July 17, 2018

    “…stories and essays has been published…”

    Reply

  15. Leslie Knowlton
    July 18, 2018

    Wonderful. Reading this on the morning of my 66th birthday and seeing these thoughts articulated is such a gift. Thank you.

    Reply

  16. Jane Hilberry
    July 18, 2018

    Lovely piece–I especially enjoy the movement, the unexpected turns, as when Catholic school and the nuns come into the piece, and that unexpected sensory detail of the water collecting in the corners of the tent at the grave.

    Reply

  17. Rebecca Gummere
    July 19, 2018

    Amazing.

    Reply

  18. Sejal A. Shah
    July 21, 2018

    Very moving. Thank you.

    Reply

  19. Annie
    July 23, 2018

    I am worried that when a small but reliable percentage of American boys and girls no longer go to Catholic schools, literature will suffer.

    Reply

    • Nancy Brier
      September 8, 2018

      I loved the language arts training I learned from my nuns, but sadly, my priest was like so many we read about in the news. All the great literature in the universe isn’t worth it.

      Reply

  20. Dina Santorelli
    August 7, 2018

    A colleague of mine mentioned Brevity last week and thought I’d like it. This essay was my first stop, and it was lovely. If this is any indication of the type of writing I’ll find here, I’ll be back often. Thank you so much for such a well-written and thoughtful piece.

    Reply

  21. Nancy Brier
    September 8, 2018

    The “unsolvable X.” Such a succinct and beautiful way to describe the mysterious unknown we all have to live with. I love this piece.

    Reply

  22. Jerry Shao
    September 17, 2018

    Actually t’s pretty interesting to use “X” to symbolize the problems in our lives. And those “unsolvable X” can definitely represent both the image of these problems and the emotion that people may have when they face those problems. Thanks for such an interesting thought.

    Reply

  23. Julia Joyce
    September 18, 2018

    Few pieces have the ability to shift from the seemingly mundane of math homework to the deep and life-altering why’s of life, but this one achieves it seamlessly and poignantly. As someone who also went to Catholic school, the moment with the nuns brought a smile to my face. Your pieces weaves a complex tapestry of life, well done.

    Reply

  24. Ryan Yoshioka
    September 18, 2018

    Thank you for this intriguing piece- I loved the pace of your writing and how it flowed from her at a young age, to seventy years old, to being diagnosed with amnesia, to happily watching the water fall to the ground. All the while there were these uncertainties, or unsolvable X’s, that she could never solve. It was a building suspense carried throughout this piece that kept me hooked. I loved how in the end she could enjoy seeing the water from the corner of the tent fall to the ground. The first time she could see something all the way through, as if all her unsolvable X’s were solved with the splash of the water against the ground.

    Reply

  25. Christopher Sung
    September 18, 2018

    Amazing piece. From the beginning of it, I was already captivated by the story about a seemingly regular task, solving a math problem. I love how this task of solving a math problem, more specifically, solving for an “X” value is paralleled to our real life problems. The strongest moment for me in this piece was how you highlighted that “word problems had answers, even if she couldn’t find them, these new problems always end with an unsolvable X—the date of her death.” This made me think of how all people have the same unsolvable X, and made me realize that you don’t necessarily need to find an answer to this X like you do in a word problem. Relating this to my own life, I know that this unsolvable X exists, so rather than having anxieties about figuring out when, I think we should all just enjoy the moments that are happening in the moment, like the happy spill of water she remembered from her memories,

    Reply

  26. Kelsie Barnard
    September 18, 2018

    I found this piece to be extremely clever and exciting to read. I have always found solace in mathematical problems since they have a definite answer waiting to be found. Solving for X in an equation becomes almost cathartic, like reaching a destination after a long period of travel. The way you write about X being unsolvable in the equation of your life is emotion-provoking. The line, “She hopes she still has time to stop breaking her heart with problems that can’t be solved,” makes me put my life in perspective. Reading this story as a 20 year old makes me think about how I want to live my life. I definitely don’t want to solve all of the Xs in my life but I want to put my effort into solving those that are worth it.

    Reply

  27. Dan
    September 19, 2018

    I liked the juxtaposition of describing things and situations with finite end dates (the next solar eclipse, dental implants, staples) with the imagery of the nuns and imagining eternity. It was interesting to hear how the narrator struggled with the imagery of eternity and how she found it troubling when one might think that the nuns intended it to be calming and peaceful. The last piece of imagery in which she pushes the water from the tarp presents a simple and straightforward problem for the character of the piece to solve. Perhaps this is why it makes her happy; it’s easy to figure out and it can be solved and shouldn’t break her heart.

    Reply

  28. Yuan Wang
    September 19, 2018

    This piece really established a meaning of life by connecting life with mathematics. For me, the unsolvable X are those unpredictable things in the real life. Similar to the equation with no sufficient variables, the meaning of life cannot be solved with enough experiences and time.

    Reply

  29. Katrina Samonte
    September 19, 2018

    I love how you related life with mathematics. With Mathematics being so integrated into our lives, from academics to everyday activities, I feel as if it is the perfect comparison. Everyone has an “unsolvable X” in their lives, but I feel as if it adds to the beauty of the mystery of life.

    Reply

  30. Melanie L Griffin
    November 15, 2018

    Very nice – congrats on the Pushcart nomination. Well-deserved. This is an excellent example of the personal conveying the universal in so many ways. I can definitely relate! So much going on in such a short piece. Thanks!

    Reply

  31. Aida L Rogers
    June 21, 2019

    As with anything so beautiful (and meaningful), this stops me short. The pause before the last note of the music ends and the applause begins.

    Reply

    • Pam Durban
      June 8, 2020

      Thanks so much, Aida. Would love to see you again when this world rights itself again.

      Reply

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