My writing runs to narrative - I know this. The first reworking would be to add dialogue, more setting, and some clearer conflict to drive it forward. This lacks balance, maybe lacks poetry and grace. Still, though, I like these pieces, and I feel like posting them here.
As it's my blog, I can.
All this fuss about privacy lately. Every time she opens the paper there is another article about Google releasing Internet search records to the government or about your friendly cable-phone-internet provider being able to track your almost every move. There is always a frantic tone to these articles, a shrill warning to hurry and keep yourself safe before it is too late. But too late for what, she wonders.
People have never had privacy, not really. When, ever, in human history, has anyone been immune from the curiosity and concern of others? She fills out a form that asks for a reference, and she supplies the address of a friend. There it goes, she thinks, swirling out into the universe. My friend doesn’t even know that her information has just spiraled away from me and out of her control. But addresses are really not that secret. After all, the whole point of an address is for people to be able to find you.
The 1800s, a culture of social visits and calling cards and prestigious addresses on tree-lined New York or European streets is a society that she knows only from Edith Wharton novels, but still it comes to her vividly. See, those addresses were all about being found and being seen. People wanted to know where one another were.
She pushes even further back in history, and comes up with the image of a small village, rough cottages and thatch roofs among the green fields of an Anglo world.
Where is old Tom?
Why, in the stone cottage outside of town past the split elm.
Tom didn’t have privacy; the villagers knew where he lived and what he was like. True, he wasn’t getting mail offers for the latest credit card, tailored to his spending habits, but he wasn’t immune from unexpected annoyances. At any moment, the marauding Saxons could have burst into his farmyard to shout epitaphs and set fire to his roof.
So, privacy – that’s a useless illusion. And being able to be found by others, well, ultimately, isn’t that what all of us want?
These are the sorts of thoughts that are floating through her mind as she enters the grocery store. She is moving as if she is in a dream. In the front case, ice cream screams its sale prices at her. Wow, when did ice cream begin to cost $4.99 a gallon on sale, she wonders.
She knows she came in for a reason, and she tries to remember it as she drifts past the freezer cases, further up the aisle past the non-sale ice cream brands. She takes in the colors and textures of the display. Cold, she thinks idly, feeling a chill around her ankle that doesn’t fully penetrate her awareness. A man comes down the aisle toward her, purposefully, shifting his basket to the other arm to consult a list in his hand. She realizes that she is still holding her car keys out in her hand, strangely flexed as if she were just about to insert them into the door lock. She wonders if she looks odd. Perhaps she needs a cart. Or a basket?
She rounds the corner and a stock clerk eyes her quizzically. How are you, he asks. So, yes, she does look odd. She picks up her pace and tries to remember why she is here. How unreal it feels to see the people marching up and down the aisles with such intention.
She stares at the phone in her hand, small and silver with its screen and buttons. She turns it over and around, looking at it, feeling it. It is a marvel really. She feels as if she has never really seen it before. His voice cuts off, she hangs up, and she simply stands there, turning the phone over.
She can barely comprehend that out of electrons and radio waves and metal come messages that she receives and sends back. Does she really? Does she receive and send them back?
Five hundred years ago, this would have been an incredible musical instrument. Just the sounds it makes as dialed would have amazed and delighted whole courts of nobles. Perhaps by wielding this, I would have been a sage or a magician. Who knows what life would have been if it had been otherwise.
She sits at her computer, eating a bowl of cornflakes. The computer is turned on, but she doesn’t know why. She is unsure what she meant to do with it. Perhaps write something. Look for something? She eats mechanically, moving spoon from bowl to mouth as she sits.
Part of her is aware of her body, and also aware of the struggle deep within. She feels her soul rise within her and lie down on the floor next to her, kicking and thrusting at nothing. Perhaps it would help if she actually were to rise from the chair and join her soul there, lying down on the coarse carpet with it. She would lie still and simply wait, wait for whatever it is that will be coming next.
But even that seems like too much trouble. What would be the point?