Life is a simple mathematical equation, someone once told me. One plus one always equals two. You’re the one that complicates things. Your mind works theoretically, your imagination is too active, your train of thought too complex and over-analytical. You may very well be logical, but there are certain things that are what they are and they don’t need much more explanation than the obvious. Human relationships are plain and simple, just like grade school math: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Simple, my ass.

You add and subtract people, multiply and divide emotions. Keep track and don’t forget to carry when your sum requires it. Always remember what you’ve borrowed. Two negatives result in a positive, they taught us. And never underestimate your variables. They can change the core of an equation. Sure, why not, mix in the alphabet, present it as an “unknown factor” to make things more interesting. How the hell am I supposed to factor in what I don’t know? You’re kidding, right?

I was never good at math. I’m terrified of making a mistake when adding and I lose it when I have to subtract. Multiplication confuses me and division is frustrating. And how do you ever double check your answers? How do you know that you’ve got the correct result?

As much as I try, I still can’t comprehend any of it. I can’t accept the supposed simplicity of it all. I always forget to add what I’ve carried. I’ll keep in mind what I owe and forget what I am owed. I keep track of those present in my life, but I’ll always count those absent as well. Those goddamn absences. They have more value in the equation than all of the positives you can add to it. Simply because, as the theory states, when you multiply a positive by a negative, the result is always negative.

Let’s see your deductive skills now, smartass. Solve that equation if you can. Because I keep coming up short. My results are not the ones estimated and given. A hundred presences, one absence, the same result. And how the fuck does that make any sense?

I always hated math.

Because nothing really is as simple as it seems.
In real life, one plus one rarely equals 2. If you put one and one together, it’s just as probable that the correct answer is 11.

Just like that, you get lost counting. Counting those who are there, counting those who aren’t. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Busting your head to figure out a way to make it all fit together and work out in the end. Trying to make all the variables, known and unknown, result in the final sum you have in mind.

Good luck with that.

You see, in real life, there are no tutors, no cheat-sheets, no typical formulas, no erasers and no calculators. It’s just you, day by day, working out the equation as time passes and as each new number comes up. And if you fuck up, you can’t start over. You have to move on.

So, tell me again how relationships are so much like simple math.

People come into your life and leave it every day. They tip-toe in and blow you a kiss on the way out. You develop feelings for them and your emotions multiply. And you have to carefully divide yourself, your emotions and your time, between all the people in your life. Be careful that you do them all justice, reciprocate equally and not forget anyone. And when someone goes, don’t forget to subtract all your emotions for them so that you’re not carrying anything into your next relationship. Return what was borrowed and zero whatever is left. You don’t want to end up with a negative result, after all.

For better or for worse, I always count absences. They have a bigger impact, a tendency of hurting more. They have a negative result, whatever the equation. It doesn’t mean that presences mean less, it just means that what’s not there, the ones that are missing, sometimes actually leave everything lacking a bit of its value.

The fact of the matter isn’t that we give less value to those who are in our lives; the ones that have been there and stay there. But there is truth in “You don’t realize the value of something until it’s gone.”  You turn and look around you. You’re surrounded by people who love you, and who you love in return. So why is so important that one person is not there? Why does the one that’s not there count more than the ones who are?

It’s simply because you can only truly appreciate a person’s value in their absence.

Author: Nikoletta Vasilopoulou