What drives you?

2013-11-17 21.32.14

‘What drives you?’

‘I’ve only just woken up!’ I say to the book.

‘Don’t care. It’s morning. Work to be done!’ the book says.

‘You aren’t exactly using a lot of foreplay at the moment,’ I say.

‘You want foreplay? Fine. Wake up! Now, what drives you?’

‘Is there any coffee?’

‘What drives you?’

‘Tea, then?’

‘What drives you?’

I sit up in bed and take a long look out of the window, only now becoming aware that the book has opened the blinds while I was sleeping. A goldfinch is sitting on top of the tree outside; it lets out a peal of pure sunshine, then is gone.

‘Fear,’ I say finally.

‘Of silence?’

‘Not silence, no. The silence I love.’

‘What, then?’

‘Oblivion,’ I say.

‘I can’t hear you,’ the book says.

‘Oblivion,’ I say again.

‘Is that the same as not being noticed?’

‘It could be,’ I say. ‘But don’t think it is. Not being noticed is a fact of life. The premise of it all. No one is picking up the phone this morning to say ‘We choose you.’ Hence I write. I have perfect freedom. No one is looking, yet I am available to the world. Oblivion, on the other hand…’

‘Fear of death?’ the book says.

‘I tend to take the Woody Allen line on death,’ I say. ‘I’m not afraid of it, I just don’t want to be around when it happens.’

‘What then?’ the book says.

‘Well, the clue is in the word. Oblivion. The idea that I might not have been here, even though there is evidence to suggest that I was. I write to make sure that my stain on the silence has some chance of persisting, even if no one reads it.’

‘Is this about your cancer?’

‘Possibly,’ I say. ‘That really was the threat of oblivion, especially when they got the results wrong and more or less told me that was where I was heading. But what I am talking about here is not connected to that moment. I am talking about the sense of release that comes after that moment. On one level it is about knowing you are going to live, in all probability, with all that that brings: from watching your children growing up to listening to the cricket on the radio. But there’s a deeper release too. That sense of there is nothing left to lose. It’s not a sense of invincibility, far from it. If anything I have an even greater sense of life’s precariousness than before. But at the same time I do tend to think, well, here’s this stupid idea, this jeu d’esprit, really, let’s see where it will take me. Or this line of John Ash, where will it take me? And the point is not just to do them, but to do them in public, to openly invite ridicule or success, whatever comes.’

‘Am I your jeu d’esprit?’ the book says.

‘You know you are,’ I say. ‘But you’re also the most serious thing in the world. Goodness knows what will happen when you go.’



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