Dear Hope Nation,
This afternoon at 2, I’ll be part of the birth of a renaissance. I hope. And, yes, I know “birth of a renaissance” means birth of a rebirth, which sounds like I’m starting a new cult. I’m not. The music meeting is at 2, and I know I’ll see many of you there.
It’s now 12:32, though, and I’m alone in a different Zoom room. Once I’ve run from one corner to another with a flick of my thumb and screamed loudly to hear the echo that isn’t, I’ve got a bit of time. As a few weeks ago, let me get Zoom on my phone and conduct an interview with myself.
Phone Keith: Why do you have such a hard time speaking plainly? It sometimes seems as if you view speech and writing as just a vehicle for metaphor.
Real, which is to say Computer Keith: I could say all language is metaphor because of its triadic nature. The speaker is one corner, the object being named is a second and the word is the third. No real connection exists between them. It’s all imaginary. I could say that, but I won’t.
I could say the stream of language is nothing but air flowing out of our lungs and through our mouths, and that metaphor provides the only islands of meaning in that flow. I won’t say that either.
I could say when I was a boy I loved connect-the-dot books, with numbers beside each point to show the order to connect them. When done, a picture would appear where before there had just been flyspecks. Words are the dots. Metaphor is the picture. Nope. Not saying that either.
I will say life is a huge tapestry with invisible connecting threads. Finding ways that different images are related is like holding that tapestry up in different lights to see the gleam of the universe’s connecting tissue. A metaphor for metaphors.
Phone Keith: How very clever. You must be proud. So, you write these letters every day. Some of them are well received. Others result in anger. Most are ignored. Why do you write?
Real, which is to say Computer Keith: When I was a kid, a neighborhood girl, Abby Levine, told me girls liked guys who wrote. Apparently, Abby was an outlier, since I’ve yet to find a woman who’s read anything I’ve written and said, “There’s a guy I’d like to meet.” Of course, Abby was an older woman then at the age of 12, so woman may have changed since.
Phone Keith: How is your sobriety connected to your writing?
Real, which is to say Computer Keith: I never wrote when drunk, so that didn’t have a huge impact. Years ago, though, when I was shooting meth, I couldn’t even think about a typewriter unless I had crank flowing through me. I was a newspaper reporter then, doing a humor column as well, and when I transitioned from speed to dope my output and my quality took a long time to come back. There are days when I think it never did.
In terms of abstinence from alcohol, I spent a summer and fall writing a novel through a hangover. Oddly, it was a novel about a boy with an alcoholic father. I had no idea I was writing about myself. Really. The book began when I had drinks one night with a woman who was a judge in the seacoast. She told me a story from her courtroom that involved a jealous woman killing her boyfriend’s dog because she thought the dog got more love than she did. I wrote a short story about that event and then wanted to learn more, but there was no more to learn, so I had to make it up myself.
Phone Keith: So you wrote a novel about a dog killing?
Real, which is to say Computer Keith: About? No. That original seed ended up being a throwaway anecdote from one of the characters. In fact, it’s part of the evidence that character is a compulsive liar.
Phone Keith: Would you say writing is important to your sobriety
Real, which is to say Computer Keith: Nope. Not one bit. My writing is not important at all. My recovery is what matters. Always. Writing is a way to impress Abby Levine, who will always be 12 and I will always be nine. Recovery is about life. In fact, it is my life, not a metaphor for anything.
It’s now 12:58, so I’ve got to go to another Zoom meeting, one with lots of people.
You matter. I matter. We matter.