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by Jonathan Dorf? Click the above button to order a perusal copy or performance rights.
A teen of either gender, alone on stage.
(Warning: Using this monologue without permission is illegal, as is reproducing it on a website or in print in any way.)
My grandma had numbers on her arm. She was really little—she had a hat that she wore every Saturday that was so big she disappeared in it—which made the numbers seem like they took up half her arm. They didn't—that was in my head—and she never said much about them. Only once, and that was just for five minutes one day when it was raining and I was staring.
The boy in my math class has a swastika on his arm, but he loves numbers and what he can do with them, especially subtraction. He used to have wavy blonde hair, almost down to his shoulders, but then he subtracted it. He used to wear all these crazy colors like he was Bob Marley or something, but then he subtracted them. He used to walk me home, and my mom would make him stay and eat sandwiches, 'cause his parents were never home, but six months ago he subtracted me and the rest of his old friends and then he subtracted his name and became the boy in my math class.
He doesn't just subtract. The boy in my math class adds too. He adds new friends that keep their swastikas covered under long undershirts, and he adds lots of words he learns on the internet, words like White Power and racial purity and the Big Lie and the Zionist Conspiracy. He says the sandwiches my mom used to make him were filled with dog food, and she was trying to poison him.
We all have to teach a math lesson this year. Yesterday was his. He gets up, and he takes the chalk, and he goes to the board. He writes six million, and then he subtracts six million from it. And he's smiling and says zero is the answer. The teacher asks what the question is, and he says "six million is the number of Jews they say died in Europe between 1939 and 1945. Six million is the number the Jews made up. Zero is the number that really died. Not countin' natural causes or whatever." And the boy in my math class keeps smiling, like it's a joke, but he's not joking.
And at that moment I want to subtract him. Not just subtract him from my class or from my school, but from the world. He's sixteen years old, and he's got that smile I want to rip off his face. If he died I wouldn't care. Just let a car subtract him one night crossing the street or a bullet or cancer or just let somebody subtract his air until he can't breathe anymore.
But then I remember my grandma and how she lived with the numbers she wanted to subtract. And I remember those five minutes in the rain when I asked about them, and if they still hurt. She said—real quiet, so my father wouldn't hear—"I wish they weren't there, but some things we just have to live with. Or live through."