For me, writing and speaking seem to be very different pathways to getting words out. When I write, I don’t necessarily hear the words in my head before I mark them on the paper. When I am writing well, I rarely seem to have any idea what I am going to “say” before I say it. But with speaking, I seem to think knowing what I’m going to say is a requirement to break silence at all, while most other people do not. People talk about extemporaneous speaking, thinking out loud, having no filters on their mouths. I don’t relate to this. If I want to brainstorm, a pen is required. I filter everything before it is spoken, and vast numbers of unverbalized thoughts are lost.
. . .
At the vision conference, my sixth or seventh time going, I had a dream about signal detection theory. It was either that wetting a kitten’s fur increased the signal-to-noise ratio, or that drying it did. I downloaded recordings of white noise on my iphone to try to drown out the snoring of the postdoc, my friend, sharing the hotel room with me. One of the mp3′s had a heartbeat embedded into it, but still I couldn’t sleep. I kept trying to hide from all the scientists, lest they expect me to be one. There were rumors of my advisor smashing a coffee cup on the floor. I continued to have nightmares about my talk for weeks after giving it. Nothing ever seems to change, except that some of the high school kids who used to come to the lab are the ones authoring papers and winning the Best Illusion of the Year.
I went to mass this morning for the first time since Easter. It is hard to go these days, I feel like I am viewing everything taking place at the altar from a great, great distance. There was a time I was so close to every word the priest spoke, so present in every gesture, I could see right into the bread as flesh and wine as blood, would tingle and shake with a sensation of actual participation in the sacrifice, every syllable imbued with this overlay of past in present. Now like so many others at so many times I stand there reciting my Latin from memory without even the grammar I so painstakingly learned holding it up. Everything held far away and at the surface. I think of the scandals. I wonder who I might have given the impression that any of the ritual were truly necessary, that any of the dogma and the structure were a substitute for God.
At home I read about Isabella Blow, I watch YouTube footage of the second plane crashing into the Trade Center, the towers collapsing, the TV anchors trying to stifle their panic. I didn’t watch much of the coverage at the time. It just didn’t occur to me, since it was all happening right outside. Having anxiety dreams again, I listen to recordings of Faulkner from the 50s, thinking the sound of a Southern voice might soothe me like my grandparents’ farm. I often think if I went back to Georgia I might finally be able to write about New York… of this whole decade almost I’ve spent here, so little is recorded that I wonder if I have really lived here at all. With the taxi drivers, I still pretend I am new in town so they won’t expect me to know where I’m going.