I'm having trouble concentrating. I can hear stories and everything else is noise - coworkers, traffic, the voices of people I love. It's a very inconvenient Narrator who speaks to me. I've got a life, ya know.
No, she doesn't know. She just knows what she wants me to write and doesn't care where I am or who else is talking to me.
This was the conversation with the narrator who made me write "Linda's Flowers" last week:
Narrator: Were there roses at the time of the dinosaurs?
Me: I can't write that down right now. I'm driving.
Narrator: So pull over. You'll forget it if you don't.Were there roses at the time of the dinosaurs?
Me (pulling over): I'm going to have a hard time forgetting it when you're yelling it.
Narrator: I'm not yelling.
Me: You're louder than that ambulance! You're taking up all of the space in my head!
Narrator: But I got you to pull over, didn't I?
Me: Yes, I've pulled over! Are you happy?
Narrator: You don't have to yell, you know.
Later at work that day...
Narrator: Can I ask you a question? Sure. Have you ever been in love?
Me: Look...I'm at work. Can you bother me with dialogue later?
Narrator: Write it. Write it now or I get louder.
Me: But see, that's not actually my job.
Narrator: CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION? SURE-
Me: Would you stop that?!
Narrator: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN-
Me: You're going to get me fired!
Narrator: IN LOVE?
Me (writing it down): I hate you.
Narrator (smiling): No you don't. Finish it up and post it on your blog.
Me: But what if-
Narrator: POST IT OR DIE!
Me (blogging): Would you go pick on someone else?
Narrator: But you do everything I say. Some of the other writers I've possessed have fought me just like you're trying to.
Me: What happened to them?
Narrator: They died unhappy.
Me: Jesus Christ.
Narrator: I hear talking, I don't hear blogging...
So I finished Linda's Flowers. And then she had another story for me. So a few days later at home...
Narrator: I saw her, yea I saw her, with a black tongue tied round the roses, fist pounding on the vending machine-
Me: Would you stop singing to me? I'm helping Emma with her homework.
Narrator: But the rhythm of it goes with the dialogue I want you to write. And it puts an image in your head of an irate woman punching a vending machine. Why is she doing that? Is she always violent and impatient or is she just in that mood right now? Is a boy watching her? Is he wearing dusty sneakers and a Budweiser cap? Does he know her yet?
Me: I don't know. Maybe he-
Narrator: Write it down.
Me: I can't right now.
Narrator: WRITE IT DOWN.
Me: I'm not finished with-
Emma (who has just asked me a question): Mom? You're not listening.
Me (to Emma): Yeah, I am. What - what was that you just said?
Narrator: WRITE IT DOWN NOW.
I struggle to listen to Emma as the Narrator's will tips like a bucket of water over my head, drenching me to the toes. I am soaked in it. Every movement and thought is heavy. I struggle miserably to listen to my daughter and to focus, because to do so is important to me. When we're finished with her homework I'm tired and frustrated from the fighting. I wonder if Emma's noticed how frustrated I am, and hope that she hasn't taken it personally. My mind feels like a dry, crumbled biscuit. I sit down, turn on youtube and play "Girl" by Beck.
I saw her
Yea I saw her
With a black tongue tied round the roses
Fist pounding on a vending machine
Toy diamond ring stuck on her finger
The story I was thinking of comes back to me, the rhythm of the dialogue in time with the music. The Narrator is quiet now because I'm writing it down. There's no noise. I'm only vaguely aware that I'm in the kitchen. I've only got a foothold in the world where I'm in the kitchen, where I have a job and have children, bills, and nine pets. The rest of me is in the Third Place.
Have I ever told you what the Third Place is? It's the place between awake and asleep. It's not drug-induced, like you might think. It's where the Narrator talks to me and lulls me into a trance. It's the place that I only found myself in sometimes before, and where writers go when they tell you that they've hit a groove with their writing. I'm in it all the time lately. It's the place where I hear the lives of other people, what they say and what they've decided to do, and I write it down, and every other sound from the First Place (the awake place) that tries to get through is just noise. I understand why the Narrator said the ones who ignore her die unhappy.
And while I thought it cold when I first read it, I now understand a quote I read from Edgar Degas who remained a bachelor his entire life. He said, "There is love and there is work, and we only have one heart."
Can I ask you a question?
Have you ever been in love?
Yes. And it's in The Third Place.