In June I wrote a short audio play called Things Are Exact, which you can listen to here. I wrote it forwards rather than backwards: intuitively, to find something out by writing it rather than writing it to show something I’d already found out. It means listening to it remains a useful way for me to find things out.

The play draws to a conclusion around the idea of catching and joining together moments of time. Here’s part of the dialogue:

– Why do you always cry?

– I think we have to calibrate things. I think things have to be clear enough to mark differences between them. […] I cry to mark things out.

– Do you cry because things are exact or so that things are exact?

– So that.

– Then it doesn’t have to be crying. It could be something else that joins things together. String.

– String doesn’t join times together it joins things together. It’s times I want to join together.

– Take photos.

– No, the photos would come with me so they wouldn’t do anything at all. I want to mark out time with the stuff that time’s made of. So I have to mark it with something that stops when it stops so I can leave it there and it keeps step with all the times. I don’t cry at things I cry on them. And you can miss the times to cry when it’s too late and it’s very hard to match them up again which is a waste and it’s a shame to waste things, to waste moments of time. […]

– Why do you always cry?

– To catch moments of time.

– There.

– Ok.

The attempt to catch moments of time is one of the things that interests me about writing.

One night a few weeks ago I was in bed writing something about the day. I tried to describe the room just as it was. The harder I tried to describe it the more exact it became and, consequently, the more inadequate my description. I wanted to catch the room on the paper so I could have it again later on, when it was gone and the book remained. I was aware of the power of writing to outlive its subject, but also of the gaping distance between the things I wanted to keep and the words I was using to capture them. It was like making a net with holes too loose.

Then I noticed the words were jealous of the book they were in. The book was real, and it pressed down with real, present weight on the blanket, and the blanket touched the bed and the bed the floor and the floor the other furniture and the furniture everything else in the room I was trying to write down. Yes, the words took up space on the paper of the book, and yes, the paper pressed down on the rigid cover of the book that touched the blanket, and so on, but the words betrayed themselves. They betrayed themselves in their way of directness, which claimed to cut through the physical things in the room and intimately name them, and yet naming can never be intimate because a name is so different from a thing.

A line in biro is a thing just as a chair or a hat is a thing. But the extra quality I was giving my biro lines by shaping them into words caused them to depart from the world of things. Each time I tried to look at a biro line I just ended up reading what it spelled. It was sad for me. The words weren’t going to be able to keep the things in the room, and so the things in the room would fade.

Then I drew a biro line from my paragraph to the edge of the page and from the paper onto the blanket, and all the way across the blanket to Anton as he slept. One day he will die, but I have kept in my book a line that touched him.

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