Doing My Damndest
"Begin with the first word of this sentence, travel from one word to the next, stepping on stones across a stream, shuffling along the path I've gouged through the thicket of my own confusion. Why do you follow the trail I have laid down?"
Ms Keogh, my more significant other and frequent editor, read that first line to an earlier draft of this essay and responded, "I certainly wouldn't follow the trail any further. It's trite and sophomoric."
This is my one hundredth Soliloquy for Snakeskin, and while I bravely declaim that it is arbitrary to attribute any special significance to the number one hundred, as opposed to ninety-eight or one hundred and two, yet I might be trying too hard to write something significant for this occasion. One hundred is so powerful that even ninety-nine and one hundred and one acquire consequence just by their proximity.
I get desperate at times about not writing, particularly just before climbing into bed to sleep. I can't sleep if I've lost an entire day without feeling some sense of personal accomplishment. My job as Communications Technician for AT&T does not present me with these feelings. My talents and potential are left untapped at my job, where I divert my energy in absurd labors, the unproductive consumption of time, arriving home from work, my mind a mush. So it is I will turn to my desk before sleep to write a letter I might not send, because when exhausted and defeated I am prone to errors. Still, I am inexplicably compelled to write because it satisfies an emotional need. This was beautifully summed up in a single line from Petrarch, which I don't have memorized and is now buried so deep in my notes that an hour of obsessive digging did not discover it.
Ms Keogh was a moment ago reading over my shoulder to see what I've written so far. "Well," she says, "you have me curious to see where you're going with this." So am I. She has taken upon herself the task of searching through my notebook-journals for the aforementioned Petrarch quote. Good luck!
I think that I shall soon go mad. I have earned the right and feel I owe it to myself. Oh, I won't become dangerous. It isn't as if I would climb a tower with a sniper rifle and pop off innocent targets that happen to be crossing the street. When I lose it, I expect to be quieter, even peaceful. I want to be placed in a cell with nothing more than the books I've been waiting to read and a desk on which to produce the books I've been waiting to write. No ambition and definitely no obligations, but to live simply at the expense of the state, or AT&T's disability program, since it was in large part AT&T's fault my mind came undone.
I am worried by my inability to write poetry. I search my heart and mind and it feels as if the machinery for its manufacture has entirely disappeared. In fact, the same might be true for writing short stories. All that is left to me is the writing of letters and essays. I'm not happy about this. I don't know if the machinery has been stolen or moved to a dark warehouse in some corner of my brain that I never visit. Even if I could find that unlit storage center, in what shape will I find the machinery? So many months, even years, of disuse, not cleaned nor oiled, what if it has rusted beyond repair?
While searching for that Petrarch quote in my notes, Ms Keogh has come across a passage copied from a letter I wrote (September, 2002) to a friend who is a neurolinguist: "Writing thoughtful entertainments, like short stories and poems, are born of an innate desire to communicate and have relationships. . . . We write to extend our relationships to people we might never meet, for whom it may be impossible to expect a message in return. We write because we love humanity." Ms Keogh adds, surely that can fit somewhere into your essay.
Time is the premium. There is not enough time to do all the things that need to be done, so how can I even dare consider the things I really want to do. However, I cannot afford the time to be insane. I am unwilling to go mad. It is all because of one commitment I will never regret. I refuse to be separated from Ms Keogh. So, unless it is a private cell for two, I will just have to suffer the side effects of living.
Why write at all? I did consider skipping my Soliloquy this month and celebrating my one hundredth Soliloquy with a vacation from having to write it, but it's not like you can return and commence with one hundred and one. It would only be postponed, yet out there waiting for me and not letting me pass to the next. Besides, somebody would probably notice Soliloquy one hundred missing; at least I would like to think somebody would notice.
Despite it all, I have managed to express my need to write by writing these hundred essays. This need to write is inseparable from a need to be read. I want to be worthy. I don't fear anonymity as much as I fear mediocrity.
Ms Keogh never found the Petrarch quote, but I just remembered where it was, and here it is:
"Crucior semper et langueo nisi dum scribo."
Translated, 'I am always vexed and languid when I am not writing.'
This essay is the most recent in
a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr
Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the
writer would be pleased
to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"