Best Short Story Ever? It Might Be Lydia Davis' "Break it Down"

You probably have your own favorites, but my top contender is Lydia Davis' "Break it Down." The story is a monologue in which a man tries to place a monetary value on a brief, intense romantic relationship, to determine if it was "worth it" in the most literal sense. Despite his efforts, the relationship exceeds - and resists - precise valuation. 

The first time I was exposed to the story was through a podcast. At first, I was running, headphones on, on a treadmill at the gym. Then I was walking. Then I was standing next to the treadmill, just listening to the story. I didn't want to miss a word. Here it is: James Salter (the novelist and short story writer) reading Lydia Davis' "Break it Down."

If you still need convincing, here is the opening passage:

"He’s sitting there staring at a piece of paper in front of him. He’s trying to break it down. He says:

I’m breaking it all down. The ticket was $600 and then after that there was more for the hotel and food and so on, for just ten days. Say $80 a day, no, more like $100 a day. And we made love, say, once a day on the average. That’s $100 a shot. And each time it lasted maybe two or three hours so that would be anywhere from $33 to $50 an hour, which is expensive.

Though of course that wasn’t all that went on, because we were together almost all day long. She would keep looking at me and every time she looked at me it was worth something, and she smiled at me and didn’t stop talking and singing, something I said, she would sail into it, a snatch, for me, she would be gone from me a little ways but smiling too, and tell me jokes, and I loved it but didn’t exactly know what to do about it and just smiled back at her and felt slow next to her, just not quick enough. So she talked and touched me on the shoulder and the arm, she kept touching and stayed close to me. You’re with each other all day long and it keeps happening, the touches and smiles, and it adds up, it builds up, and you know where you’ll be that night, you’re talking and every now and then you think about it, no, you don’t think, you just feel it as a kind of destination, what’s coming up after you leave wherever you are all evening, and you’re happy about it and you’re planning it all, not in your head, really, somewhere inside your body, or all through your body, it’s all mounting up and coming together so that when you get in bed you can’t help it, it’s a real performance, it all pours out, but slowly, you go easy until you can’t anymore, or you hold back the whole time, you hold back and touch the edges of everything, you edge around until you have to plunge in and finish it off, and when you’re finished, you’re too weak to stand but after a while you have to go to the bathroom and you stand, your legs are trembling, you hold on to the door frames, there’s a little light coming in through the window, you can see your way in and out, but you can’t really see the bed.

So it’s not really $100 a shot because it goes on all day..."