So here’s the thing. Of late, I’ve been the one not so much waving as drowning. Admittedly, as badly as I’ve felt in the past few weeks—and I’ve felt bad; I’ve been breaking into tears at the oddest moments; for example, today when I opened the letter sent from the Indonesian Fruit Bat I adopted through Bat Conservation International, I wept—as badly as I’ve felt, it hasn’t been so bad, relatively. And yet, even if it's not incessantly-daydream-of-guillotine-bad, it has still been pretty freaking bad. Pretty bad indeed.
Overwhelmed would be the way I’d put it. Overwhelmed and alone. I’ve been dipping into the loneliness of the long-distance writer, and it is a crazy-making endeavor indeed. No wonder why so many authors have been addicts, dipsomaniacs and tipplers of sundry stripes. There’s nothing quite like being holed up in your atelier, spelunking about in your head, sifting through the thought-nuggets you've brought to light, and then trying to translate those ephemeral gems into those most cozening beggars—words. It’s an endeavor best made for people who have, whether through doughty hearts or total foolhardiness, made peace with the inescapable fact that deep down everyone is more than a little insane.
I have seen the madwoman in the attic and she is I.
It’s fine, though, really. I spent so much time alone when I was growing up that I have the backwoodsman’s uneasiness around people. Alright, that’s hyperbole, but I’m definitely the most extroverted introvert I know. Stressed as I have been of late, I imagine a world devoid of people. I imagine being able to walk the streets of Gotham invisible to other people, for it’s really more that other people are aware of me that discomforts me than it is the other people themselves. They have every right to be there. Me, I’m not entirely always so sure.
The visible voice behind the seminal eighteenth-century newspaper The Spectator was the eponymous Mr. Spectator. Though written by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Mr. Spectator was the putative author. Not unsurprisingly, Mr. Spectator was a watcher. In the first volume of the newspaper, first printed 1 March 1711, Mr. Spectator claims to have lived his life in near total silence. “I threw away my rattle before I was two months old,” he avers and says that he never “spoke three sentences together” in his whole life. Silent, Mr. Spectator is free to look and listen—and of course to write. He says in that first issue, “I have neither Time nor Inclination to communicate the Fulness of my Heart in Speech, I am resolved to do it in Writing; and to Print my self out, if possible, before I Die.” I can relate to Mr. Spectator.
I’m not silent. I can easily be the center of attention, but what feels most natural to me is a nearly numinous state. I wish I could glide silent and apparitional through the world, unnoticed. Like Mr. Spectator, I like to watch (except for sex—then and only then do I like to be watched). Like Mr. Spectator, I am resolved to put myself in writing. Actually, it’s less a resolution than it is something I can no longer avoid. I might do well to ask the same question as the much beleaguered Alexander Pope, my favorite eighteenth-century Catholic hunchback genius, “Why did I write? what sin to me unknown/ Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own?” It’s a peccant muse that taps me on the shoulder. I’d rather have been a dancer.
I never “lisp’d in numbers”; I’m no genius. But here I am, writing, writing more and more, and getting paid for it more often and with more money. I never expected it, but there it is. And here I am growing ever more reclusive by the moment. I’m hermit-etically sealed.
Last Friday when I went to see Mike Doughty, I was briefly separated from my friend when we wended our way down the many stairs and out into the night. I came out this exit and found this really very good-looking man making eye contact with me. He approached me. I froze.
Damn, I thought, he’s attracted to me. I’m attractive. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
He stopped me to ask directions to another club. He made non-stop eye-contact. He lit a cigarette meaningfully. He cupped his hands around the match like they were holding a breast. I gave him the directions in fits and starts, suddenly stuttering aphasic. I gave him half-wrong directions (they were also half right, but I suppose that directions, unlike glasses, are never half-full). My friend finally arrived and I breathed a sigh of relief that I could leave this attractive man, tall and dark and gleaming stubble and matte black leather and the smell of man and smoke.
“I thought I was interrupting a tête-à-tête,” she said. She was, and I felt glad she had.
People freak me the fuck out. I’ve never felt comfortable being looked at, and I have always been. I have been looking forward to slinking off into the graceful invisibility of middle age. It has not yet happened. Instead, I hibernate—and aestivate—here, cloistered in my head and my apartment, both fearing company and longing for it, both wishing that I’d accepted the handsome stranger’s silent invitation to go show him the way and fervently glad I didn’t, both lonesome and independent, equally.