I talk to myself. When I shop, cook, read, practice (sometimes), go for long walks—I imagine and comment often unconsciously, no matter who’s around. And I always write out loud…always.
It’s not enough for me to see characters talk to each other on the page, express themselves through inner monologues, or confess their longings in letters; I have to hear them do it. Nothing about them or their situation feels concrete until my ear can process their voices. The same is true for an objective narrator. I have to hear the narration in order to see the scene and action.
I started talking to myself when I started reading, an offshoot, I suppose, of being read to by my parents. When I started school, I read everything I needed to learn aloud; and when I got older, I learned to keep my voice low so I wouldn’t disturb anyone around me, or become the subject of ridicule or fear. I still have sharp memories of the warning issued by one of my math teachers when there were whispers in class: “There are only two types of people in this world who talk to themselves; and none of you are millionaires. The men in the white coats will be coming for you soon.”
In my youth, I didn’t think I was crazy, but how could I be sure? It was the sixties.
Thanks to cell phones, I’m no longer concerned about my habit of talking to myself in public. These days, most people are talking to air—yelling at their kids, coordinating schedules with their mates, or gossiping in a way that invites everyone to eavesdrop. Next to them, my babble about ingredients labels, or what was on the grocery list I left at home, is inaudible, even if my lips are clearly moving. No one cares.
And at home? Well….
A few days ago, my husband came in to my office wanting to know who I was talking to as I was in the thick of a character’s outpourings; but as soon as he saw the page of text on my screen, and the phone receiver resting in place, rather than at my ear, he said, “Oh,” and left without another word. Without blinking.
That’s the wonderfully comforting part of living with someone for a long time.
You can talk to yourself all you want, and it’s just part of another day for them. At least, that’s what I tell myself….
They are slippery, evasive, coy,
dangling on our tongues,
sometimes, yes, at the tip,
and sometimes on an edge,
not big enough to bite,
or near enough to taste,
resting on molars, or canines,
and reappearing in a flicker,
Once in a while, they are gremlins,
gumming up the works,
But it always seems the ones we deeply crave,
those that will plait our thoughts
into a seamless chain,
dodge into remote, cranial crevices
when we call them.
And then it takes four or five or six words
to say, all too poorly, what one would have said—
the one which won’t be found in a thesaurus
because even its synonyms have hidden in solidarity.
Those are the words that keep us
imagining they’ve been sucked
from their shallow holes
into some bottomless eddy.
Those are the words that really bedevil.
Until, by some miracle— spring, mostly, their noses reemerge, unguarded, quivering, curious, and ready to multiply….