Alana Schwartz
2 min readJan 11, 2021


The solidity of serial numbers

are referenced, sometimes, with a glimmer of joy:

the tattoo on the arm of the serial code

for Oreos: Double Stuff. Silly numbers like 42,

like our favorite characters, like the

adorable robot clicks of R2D2. Secret codes that mean

so much more. But because

I am a Jew, I automatically

associate numbers to the permanent tattoos

scratched on a human’s skin

suffering in the camps, marked as if they were

cattle. One after the other. I guess the association

is part of our trauma. We count bodies

and the humanity is eased down, and blurred.

This virus has also been famous for

its numbers. We count the bodies

and the larger the number is, the more

tumultuous and distant reality seems. It’s as if

we are cataloguing the stars. Counting the sick, dying,

is a yawning hopelessness. It’s a number greater than

its value. It is bottomless. It is the new secret number,

but not as memorable as our favorite characters. Vast

numbers like these are impossible to picture; perhaps

this blindness comes

to strengthen that glimmer of joy that can be so easily

buried, among the dust; it gathers like a weight.

I might as well count the invisible

particles than to imagine a face along with each number,

rising, daily, of the 1.9 million. And rising. I

haven’t found a way to balance

the weight and the joy. The

healing that can someday overshadow the deaths. One by one,

these numbers are the permanent fixture of the past, the scratching

on our hearts, the scars from the loss. And yet they are also the bright