I have new speakers on my computer. Yesterday, when I sent an email there was a slight rustling sound from beneath the desk; like a mouse tossing a mouse-sized post-it note into a mouse-sized bin. Today, when I click send an exocet missile screams past my nose from one side of the room to the other.
I swear to you. I duck. It is alarming.
It’s as though everything that happens on my computer now happens to me physically. My phone is already my brain and now my computer has become my body.
When an email arrives I am clocked on the head with a frying pan.
I switch on the computer – I get a standing ovation.
I misspell a word – I accidentally run into an electric fence.
I open an application and the stars start to sing.
I find it hard enough to press send as it is and now it is a physical assault.
I hate pressing send. Having pressed send keeps me awake at night. Yes. Sometimes my first thought in the morning is “What did I send yesterday? Oh no. That.”
There is no way back after send. A sensible person will wait a week before sending an angry, accusatory or otherwise declarative email. And then send it sober. Or get over it.
I send them pissed, melancholy, irritated, over-tired and unspell-checked. I then cc them, unsolicited, to sundry innocent parties – usually people whose good opinion I covet.
(I can’t even write the next sentence but it involved personal stains on items of laundry hung in very public locations.)
Then there’s the wait.
Sometimes the wait is answered with a reply which recognizes the complex layers of irony, affectionate wit and charm that is typical of the correspondent’s correspondence.
Or there may be no reply.
On stage, of course, it is not possible to wait until you have sobered up. Or re-draft. On stage you have no way of knowing if the Thing on your shoulder telling you “it will be fiiiiine… just say it” is a vicious imp or a sweet fairy. But that Thing is actually the Thing people have come to see. That Thing’s voice is the Thing people want to read.
The audience, the reader, the listener, wants the truth and the truth is more questions, more emails, replies to replies and threads that never settle but go on forever until some other issue eclipses it. They want the writer, the actor, the poet, the painter to say: “even though it may cost me everything, even if you don’t want to hear it, I will find a way to speak the truth – I will run it to ground even if I have to do it in my boxers.”
(I cut the phrase at the end of that sentence there about the pink nose of the artist’s dick peeping out. That would have been silly and tasteless.)
I saw a play recently and it was incredibly impressive. Really. Walking out the conversation around me was about how impressive was the writing. “Gosh it’s so cleverly written.” “So sophisticated.” “Yes – and clever – how it all – came together.” But I hated this impressive play – it made me feel stupid. Or clever. They are both as bad as each other.
In the last scene where the guy we’ve come to like meets his son for the first time in an unconscionably long time the audience were busy thinking: “oh gosh – so he’s related to so-and-so who is the son of such-and-such who we met before the interval who had that baby by thingy – oh so it all… how… clever.” In fact the whirring sound generated by the audience busily piecing together the family tree of the play practically drowned out the denouement.
I hated it so much I wanted to throw cups at it.
Instead I sat in the dark and wrote a poem about my Dad.
Which must have been irritating for my neighbour.
I don’t believe for a moment that that writer consulted the fear in his soul – he consulted maps and family trees and charts and books – but he never looked down his trousers. And we were impressed, which allows us to disregard what is down our own and each other’s trousers too. For which we are sometimes grateful.
I have to believe it is right to fear send – because it seems for me to be unavoidable – the alternative is unthinkable – I am also trying to learn to do it without ducking.