e to thee x

Zoe Griffiths on the life of e


I’m e,
If you don’t know me
I live
Between 2 and 3.

This is my story.

I’m misunderstood.
Everyone thinks I’m just 2.71
But there is more to me
That they don’t see
I wish they would.

And I’m named after a letter
Which makes things worse!
The other numbers laugh at me for that too.

So I say to them—look at the things I can do,
I mean, surely I’m the only number
To have walked this earth
And expressed themselves in verse?

But that’s not cool, that’s not fashionable,
It’s all about being able to
Express yourself as something fractional, instead.

Otherwise they say there is something wrong with you
You’re crazy,

Natural numbers can count themselves
They can easily find their space
Because our place
On that line
Is defined
By our digits
And I don’t know all of mine.

But there was a time
When there were three of us who didn’t fit.
Pi also didn’t know,
Exactly where to stand, or sit,
And next was i,
She was in a dimension of her own!

I thought the three of us
Were meant to be,
We were all part of the same identity.

But then we grew up.

I started to see Pi from a new angle,
She had nice legs,
I loved that rest of her body was basically a rectangle.

We went on a couple of dates.

But then came Pi Day:
Three, Fourteen.
She let them approximate her!

And she became
An overnight sensation,
A household name,
One of those faces
Everyone knows.

And lost in that world of meaningless approximation
She wouldn’t let me take her to more than two places.

Time passed,
And even my old friend i and I grew apart,
The headiness of youth
Replaced by the steadiness
Of age,
I began to see what others had told me
And I’d refused to believe:
i was imaginary!

You might be wondering what about Tau?
She is twice the number Pi will ever be,
But Pi and Tau they are similar
And for me it was all a bit familiar,
Tau, she’s just too Pi.

So that’s it, back to lonely me.
It was hard
And I’m not a negative number.

But then
I met her,

She said ‘I’m $x$’,
I asked, ‘are you a multiplication sign?’
She laughed, ‘I get that all the time’,
‘No, I’m curly $x$,’
She said.

She’s curly $x$, she’s sort of curvy $x$,
But that’s not it,
I’m not one to make judgements
Based on digits or figures,
She’s different,
She’s fun.

And it’s true
I can’t always work her out
But I like that, too.
With her is where I always want to be,
I want her to be my unknown quantity!

So I wrote her a poem
‘e to thee $x$’,
(It was better than this).

She opened it, tentatively,
She read it, awkwardly,
Other numbers could hear!
Never have I wanted so much
To just

e to thee $x$, this poem I’d written,
This part of myself I’d given
Was supposed to feel just right,
But it was the opposite
It was the inverse of natural

Actually, that poem, didn’t happen.
I just dreamt that.
It’s the 21st Century
I sent her a Snapchat.

I sent it and then screamed inside
Until she read it, and she replied.

I won’t tell you what she said
But the bit that is etched in my head
Is the final line, a string of Xs.

The first was curly $x$,
That’s her name,
The rest were to say
She’d like to see me again.

And if you’re worried that what is essentially
A joke about numbers
Just did something unexpected to your heart,
Then shame on you!
Numbers can have feelings too.

So this story is about me and $x$
And the number she’s shown me I can be,
I’m e, I live between 2 and 3,
I don’t know where exactly
I don’t care!

With $x$, I see things from a different view,
I laugh in the face
Of the quite frankly ridiculous number queue.

I’m me, I’m e!

Zoe is a maths and philosophy graduate and ex-maths teacher, who now works as a maths communicator with Think Maths. Her work has seen her give talks and deliver workshops for students, families and teachers in schools both in the UK and internationally, in the Royal Institution’s world-famous lecture theatre, at science festivals, teacher conferences and at comedy nights.

More from Chalkdust