Halfway through the fall semester last year, I left the flowchart behind. My professor had suggested that I write a dialogue between myself and an imagined, 5-year-older future self. I had reacted negatively at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should at least write it. I wrote to my professor:
“I was thinking about the writing assignment and the act of reflecting. Perhaps reflection is in itself an imagining of a future self that reveals potential “mistakes” in the present self’s thinking about the past self. That is, the approach you mentioned last night is not a method of reflection, but inherent in the act. It doesn’t matter how long the gap is between the future self and the present self (5 minutes, days, months, years). The word ‘reflection’ suggests a mirror of potential outcomes or possibilities. In the act of reflecting, one is becoming self-aware, and therefore considering numerous possibilities regarding the causes and implications of one’s behavior, i.e. considering numerous possible future states of mind or future selves.
The present self looks back on the past, but in the act of confessing or reflecting, the memory or the perspective that one takes toward the memory will be modified (whether through crystallization or the consideration of other possible approaches). Confession/reflection allows the self to become disembodied from the present self in order to treat it with a certain rational detachment – is it the future self that is manifested in that moment of confession/reflection? Therefore, it almost seems as if reflection – if we equate it with the imagining of a fictional (future) self – is as much spatial as it is chronological. After all, one can look into a mirror, and see a two-dimensional image as a three-dimensional one.
This makes me wonder if the idea to imagine a 5-year-older self is ultimately nullified by the fact that the process of introspection, for me at least, will always be the imagining of an “other” (who may be older, or just different). Maybe I’m just resisting the “fictional” nature of the 5-year-older self because of my own authenticity barometer, or maybe I don’t feel the essentiality of imposing a chronology by establishing a concrete existence of the future self. The nature of reflection will always be a form of bifurcation or fragmentation in spite of the imagining of a concrete future self.”
So, instead of trying to write a dialogue between me and future-me, I started crafting a dialogue between me (B) and alternate-me (B’). B is the more emotional, vulnerable character, and B’ is the more rational, aggressive character; the dialogue was thus an attempted mediation between those two parts of myself. As the dialogue progresses, the animosity increases, to the point where each interrogates the other about the dialogue form in some kind of meta-discourse (that is, I as the writer have detached myself from B and B’ in order to critique my own dialogue through those characters).
Honestly, it’s not a piece of writing that I’m very proud of – it is not the most innovative writing structure, seeing that it is quite a literal interpretation of the mediation of a binary. I felt that the conversational/colloquial tone was somehow… unprofessional and unfulfilling. In terms of prose, I’m much more interested in the transformative power of words, and how words approximate feelings and thoughts, and I was struggling with trying to do that while constructing what might sound like an authentic conversation in my voice(s). However, the exercise itself was really revealing about my own proclivities.
The dialogue is replicated in full below:
B’: Pick a memory.
B: Wait – we’re just going to start like this? No warm greeting, no warning whatsoever?
B’: I’ve never given you a warning. You’ve never given me a warning.
B: I know. I wonder if it’s you who sneaks up on me, or me who needs your presence, whenever I’m vulnerable, alone.
B’: It doesn’t matter. In any case, we know each other exists – we shouldn’t have to change the way we act with each other just because you’ve chosen to make a formality out of this.
B: The subconscious begets abruptness, I guess.
B’: Catch yourself. You wouldn’t say that phrase in a regular conversation.
B: Alright, I’ll… try. So, a specific memory?
B’: A dramatic one?
B: I don’t know. It’s the least dramatic ones, the ones that really shouldn’t affect me at all, that ambush me sometimes. It’s these trivial moments that appear when my brain is most empty, most susceptible to being filled. They reveal me to be completely insane.
B’: Why do you think that makes you insane?
B: Because… the fact that they emerge suggests their value. But they shouldn’t have value. They’re so small, so insignificant, and yet…
B’: You know this happens to other people too.
B: Don’t cut me off. You know it takes awhile for me to realise what’s bothering me, to formulate my thoughts. To pick the right words.
B’: I wouldn’t exist if you didn’t allow me to interrupt your thoughts.
B: Then you should know that the fact that it happens to other people doesn’t make me any more normal, or feel any better about this.
B’: So, you don’t know, or don’t think you know, why these memories resurface, these very specific memories. You don’t think they should matter, or you think that someone else would say that they don’t matter, but yet they do, and they have mattered for many years – those far away ones, I mean.
B: Those far away ones… I don’t know why I allow them to be there, or why it’s taken so long for the… trauma of that moment to disappear. They don’t even deserve to be called traumas. But nevertheless they are wounds. And something, some kind of dull emotion overwhelms me when my mind involuntarily picks at these scabs, and I…
B’: Hold on. We should deal with the involuntary versus voluntary scab-picking issue. Because you know, qualitatively, that there’s a difference – the former is an “ambush,” as you said, while the latter is almost mastur-
B: Don’t. Don’t use that word.
B’: Fine. It is an indulgence. So, involuntary scab-picking first.
B: I want to know why these memories return. Why I feel that they have significance.
B’: In most cases, you were embarrassed.
B: Why does the embarrassment stay with me for so long? I remember incidents from when I was seven years old, for god’s sake! Why does it matter what one teacher said to me, or what I said – why does it matter what should or should not have been said? Why do I feel so guilty about it?
B’: What do you feel guilty about? I mean, truly.
B: I – Someone or some situation made me feel guilty. I felt somehow, that I had done something wrong or that something happened that could have been prevented, if only I had been more careful, if only I hadn’t let myself get ahead of myself, if only I had shut my mouth, if only I had thought things through, if only I had thought of other people, if only if only if only…
B’: That sounds like what if what if what if.
B: The age-old adage… you can’t change what is past.
B’: But that doesn’t mean you can’t relive it.
B: I know that too well. I care about the if onlys because I care about the what ifs. What is the fundamental difference? “If only” means… I obsess about the alternate future of a past whose future has already happened. No… I obsess about an alternate past. “What if” is me obsessing about all the possible futures. Do I care about the what ifs because of all the if onlys that have happened?
B’: I think we have a breakthrough.
B: Don’t patronise me.
B’: I’m not. I’m pointing out that what you have described is evidently two layers of guilt. The guilt specific to the event, and the guilt that you feel because you’re still thinking about said event, in spite of its triviality. Perhaps the incessant need to consider the “what ifs” of any situation is a manifestation of the guilt that is itself manifested in your obsession – voluntary or involuntary – with “if onlys.” You are constantly trying to remedy, to assuage —
B: To not make the same mistakes. If only I had shut my mouth… You can’t say something stupid if you don’t say anything at all. And yet I still speak… It’s like I can’t even take my own advice.
B’: Your own unsound advice.
B: I regret some things I say almost immediately. I think… How stupid you are. How stupid you are for not learning the lesson you should have learnt when you were seven.
B’: But think of all the times when you wished you had something to say.
B: Yes, there’s that too. All the times when I was frozen… What was it that Daisy said, in Gatsby? “I’m p-paralysed with happiness…” I don’t know why I remembered that. When I’m paralysed… When I experience the type of paralysis that most often comes over me, that is becoming more and more frequent, it is most often a state of anxiety…
B’: You recently thought of an explanation for that paralysis.
B: Yes… I understood it as being trapped between remembering and forgetting. I feel almost like… I feel almost like I am trying, trying very very hard to fight off the memory, to forget, or at least repress, push back on it… I’m actually afraid of rationally confronting these memories. The thought of that repels me; I could swear that I feel a physical force exerting itself; some part of me saying no, don’t, I don’t want to feel that again, I need to protect myself. I build these walls…
B’: Wait – catch yourself, remember to avoid the cliches. I can’t help but suspect you of romanticising the situation. I think you suspect yourself of romanticising the situation.
B: I can’t decide, I can’t decide if I am being paralysed, or just lazy. All I know is that I feel a great sense of inertia. As if… as if nothing bad, or good, will happen if I just stop moving. I just want to breathe. I just want to breathe. Then the feeling of paralysis leaves me, and I just keep asking myself why I can’t seem to try – what has happened, what am I subconsciously thinking of that’s holding me back? Why am I so tired? I don’t deserve to be tired…
B’: Perhaps you got into the habit of numbing yourself.
B: I guess I mastered the technique of it all on my own. I thought about this that day… that I had locked all of the negative feelings into a box, and I had taught myself to keep it locked, and when I receive any triggers, I can feel those feelings trying to break out, I can feel them trying to escape the box. I don’t want them to escape, but yet I want them to escape, because I feel empty. And I am sad that I feel empty. But in a way I wanted to feel empty. I forced myself to feel empty because it was better, much better than feeling filled with something that couldn’t ever be fulfilled. I created a void because it was much better than living in chaos… paralysis is a continuous defense against chaos. I want to forget…
B’: But you can’t forget chaos. You can’t leave it alone. It needs to be fixed, to be ordered, to be dealt with. And then when you remember the chaos, you feel guilty that you ever thought it was okay to forget it.
B: Again, the guilt again… Always the guilt. I want to fix it but I don’t know how, so I put it away.
B’: I think this is an opportune moment to discuss the voluntary scab-picking. When you bring up those memories, you try to fix it in some way, don’t you? Running over the events again and again, trying to squeeze as much as you can out of it.
B: Maybe… Some memories, for example, the ones where I made some kind of mistake or some accident happened, I’m thinking about them because I want to figure out what I did wrong, whether there’s anything I could do to remedy it. Again, it’s the “if only,” but this time, I want to learn from it… or in some perverted way I want to punish myself for ever having committed that mistake. I want to tell everyone about it so someone will say, “It’s okay, there’s nothing you could have done.” And then I regret it when I get a “I told you so.” No wait – I regret it anyway. Because I reveal how stupid I was, and because I feel even more stupid for thinking that seeking validation from someone else about how bad I feel about the situation is pathetic…
B’: That’s a strong word. You usually give yourself more credit than that. Or rather, you usually try to explain it in a more lyrical way.
B: Maybe it’s because I never wanted to confront that moment, to put it in words.
B’: Maybe it’s because you only resumed writing this dialogue after a week.
B: Look. I’m uncomfortable enough constructing this dialogue as it is. It’s fine when you’re in my head but now I have to make you whole, make the parts of me… the perspectives that I am aware of but am trying to reject into something concrete. It’s not necessary for you to point these things out.
B’: A third party might say you are getting defensive.
B: I am. I am because it’s 1.27 a.m. and I just want to get this over and done with.
B’: But you don’t feel like you right now. You don’t feel like how you feel when you usually want to write.
B: No. I don’t… I… Let’s just move on with the scab-picking.
B’: Fine. As I was saying, it seems that with the voluntary scab-picking, you choose memories that only became memories quite recently. On the day of, or within the week, at most.
B: Yes… With the “mistakes,” or the “accidents,” I am trying to solve it. Those have an expiry date, after that they are somehow classified as… The act of remembering them becomes… prohibited. They become the involuntary ones. Because I’m not supposed to care about them anymore.
B’: That suggests that the only thing that separates them is time. But that’s not true, is it?
B: No. Not when I used to relive memories of him. That would happen months, years after the fact. I wanted to keep going over it in my head, because I wanted to feel like there was something there, even if it was just the tension, even if it was just our awkwardness, you know? I wanted to pinpoint all the signs that he felt something, that he cared. I looked for hope in those memories. I wanted to blame him. I wanted to be happy that he did something nice that day. I built an identity of him for myself in my reminiscences, I built the myth of him out of nostalgia, out of desire. I remember just wanting him to love me, wanting him to know that I wanted him to love me. I was only 18. I wanted to prove that I was worth loving and I would attempt to emulate a teenager’s vision of a relationship…
B’: You’re getting sentimental.
B: Oh just let me have that one little indulgence. You know what the last meaningful thing I said to him was? I said, “It feels like it was only a breath away.” Or something along those lines. I was talking about our time at school together and how raw it still felt, and I could feel it through the computer screen, his discomfort… It was a mistake to say that, it was – sentimental, as you say, but it still feels important, because despite the few times I’ve met him since then…
B’: Do you realise this is the first time since this conversation started that you’ve actually allowed yourself to identify a specific memory?
B: I —
B’: You’ve allowed him to be more significant than any of your other memories. Him, it’s all fine if you talk about him, you don’t feel any guilt there, do you?
B: I guess not… Not anymore. I think of it fondly —
B’: But that’s not exactly why. You don’t feel guilty because you don’t want to feel guilty about the one thing in your life that has the utmost significance.
B: I won’t deny that.
B’: Have you thought about it this way: when I probe for a specific memory, and you sidestep the question by creating a structure within which you can talk vaguely about remembrance and your feelings about remembrance, you are not only avoiding that about which you feel guilty – you want to talk about everything vaguely because you know that if you pin anything down, you have to confront the guilt about the memory, the guilt that you have incorporated into your own identity.
B: What do you mean?
B’: I mean, with everything else, you are afraid to talk about it, because you are ashamed, and some strange way you acknowledge that the guilt means something to you and you cannot bring it up for someone else to dismiss. But you can talk about him endlessly because you fundamentally do not feel any shame. He was your first love, and he didn’t love you back. You can’t blame him for that, and you can’t blame yourself for that. You’ve come to the conclusion that shit just happens, but only with regard to this.
B: I am by no means at peace with that situation!
B’: You may not be, but any residual negative feelings that you may still possess have nothing to do with guilt. Questioning your self-worth, maybe. But you no longer feel like it is your fault that he never loved you.
B: I don’t know. I’m not obsessed with it anymore but I just still like talking about it. It felt so real…
B’: You’re not obsessed with it anymore? Then why do you —
B: Why do I what?
B’: You know what I’m going to bring up. You feel guilty about it every day.
B: I don’t want to talk about that.
B’: Talk about it. Talk about how you say his name sometimes when the other memories come back while you’re walking on the street, or you’re in the shower, or your mind wanders when you’re watching TV and you only realise what you’ve said after you’ve said it.
B: I don’t know why I do that. I don’t know how to stop doing that.
B’: Remember when you were younger and you —
B: Okay okay I’ll take it from here. When I was younger, and this happened… the involuntary scab-picking I mean, when I started thinking about something I didn’t want to think about, I used to do something similar to instantly divert my attention. I remember I would say something, anything, out loud, just to break it. I remember I mentioned it to my family once and they thought I was strange. But I kept doing it. When I was older, I turned to sighing. I would exhale the burden. Occasionally I would dig my fingernail into my wrist, like some feeble attempt at self-mutilation…
B’: Why his name now? Why does he still matter to you?
B: He… doesn’t. The last time I met him, I was completely uninterested in his life, and his person. I wanted to forget he ever happened… Can we stop now? I feel like I’ve reached my monthly quota of reminiscing about him.
B’: Let’s resolve this before we move on. You know you already have an explanation for this.
B: Fine. Here it is: Sometimes I think I say his name to myself because I no longer have a chance to say it, but sometimes I think I say it as a form of mental self-mutilation – that is, when one of those memories comes, I say his name because he caused me the most pain and it allows me to forget the pain of those other memories. I feel as if that’s why I started doing it, even though I hardly feel any pain now.
B’: Perhaps you want to allow yourself this little transgression, as a miniscule form of ownership of him, of his memory.
B: Perhaps. I don’t think any of that really applies now. I don’t really think of him when I say his name, I just use it to break my train of thought. I just somehow got into the habit of saying it at a point when I was beginning to realise that he was no longer a part of my life, and I wanted him to be, so I called out to him, and now I can’t stop. Sometimes I even write his name… The number of pieces of paper on which I’ve written the first two letters of his name only to stop myself.
B’: You should try weaning yourself off of it. You’re good at formulating systems for such situations. Count the number of times you say his name every day – when you make that figure concrete, you will be able to reduce it.
B: We’ve gone on about this subject for a while now. Can we just drop it? I’m actually… I’m actually coming to the point where I’m feeling guilty for thinking about it. We just rationalised that I felt no shame…
B’: Oh no, you feel no shame about the events themselves, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel guilty about the remembrance of the events.
B: My head hurts.
B’: That’s a ridiculously unliterary statement to insert here. You’re the one who started talking about him in the first place, you’re the one who allowed him to mean something.
B: You’re getting out of character now. You’re finger-pointing. I’m the one who’s supposed to be petulant and defensive and emotional.
B’: You’re writing this, half-asleep, at 2.31 a.m. and you’re blaming me for getting out of character? That’s just an excuse to not resolve the train of thought down which you’ve hurtled the both of us!
B: Alright let’s… let’s both get back to the issues at hand.
B’: I’m looking at the first draft you wrote. You avoided some meaty parts.
B: I… didn’t know how to put them in.
B’: We’ll just dive straight in at a random point then. I want to return to what you said earlier, about paralysis. You said, and I quote: “I just want to breathe.” But what you were talking about there was a different kind of paralysis.
B: Perhaps at the point that I was writing it, it felt like the right kind of paralysis. But you’re probably right. The paralysis that I feel now is something quite different.
B’: It’s an accumulation.
B: Yes, an accumulation, not a… tsunami. I’m overwhelmed in a different way. I wonder which one is more similar to the feeling that I was describing to Mum a few months ago. A giant ball of loss – that’s how I described it to her, when I was talking about how much more painful loss is today than when I was 9. Or maybe it’s a giant ball of guilt, or just a giant ball of indescribable emotion, of uncategorisable bullshit.
B’: Maybe it’s the way that you’re handling that giant ball. Sometimes it’s balanced on your chest, pressing down on you. Sometimes you’re dragging it along, but it’s behind you, so you want to forget it’s there, but you can still feel the weight of it. The first suffocates, the second burdens.
B: Which is which?
B’: You can figure it out from here.
B: Well… the time when I truly felt like I couldn’t breathe, in the helpless sort of way, was when I was just in utter despair about him. Other times, I just feel like I can’t move, or at most in some strange state of numbed terror, overwhelmed but still able to breathe… It’s difficult to describe. I’m trying to remember how all the different states feel without any of the triggers…
B’: There you go again, talking about him.
B: What? You set that up and you want to censure me for it?
B’: You chose to step into that trap. You chose to talk about it. You chose to use it as a marker.
B: I – I don’t want to talk about him, but I think about him sometimes, and he was important —
B’: He’s not important now.
B: You’re doing this – this baiting – deliberately.
B’: I want you to be honest with yourself.
B: I want to be honest with myself too. If I can’t help but think about him sometimes, and I believe in confessing, in saying what is true, then I would therefore have to confess about him. I despise that kind of dependency after all these years —
B’: You have a wealth of material.
B: You said I was vague, that I’m romanticising them. I am. I don’t know how to come to terms with that material yet. Him, I started writing about him first, I know exactly how to deal with the situation, I’ve analysed it from all angles… I want to talk about the psychology of things, that’s why I started writing, I want to talk about the emotions of things, and I want to be grand and eloquent but here I am writing this dialogue, casually, with you —
B’: You still haven’t come to terms with the dialogue.
B: No, no I haven’t. It’s not something that I know. I look back on all the things I used to write, back when I was still in love with him, and god could I wrangle my emotions out of that situation and into words. I want to be able to do that but nothing truly dramatic has happened in my life. And I say to whoever wants to listen, I say that I want the act of writing to be cathartic but it isn’t. It’s just me immersing myself in my own self-pity, about him, about things that happened when I was three, five, seven, nine, eleven years old that I’ve been trying to avoid but I’ve run out of things to say about what I always used to write about.
B’: You’re saying that’s a last resort?
B: I’m saying that I try to write about it, I feed my paranoia with my paranoia, I feed my pain with my pain, and then I realise my paranoia isn’t really paranoia, and my pain isn’t really pain, and then I feel guilty that I feel these really strong feelings about situations that really don’t matter at all, that I want to write about my really strong feelings about situations that really don’t matter at all, that I can only feel because I am privileged enough not to worry about real pain. And then I feed my guilt with my guilt, and I lie to myself that I am somehow writing about something that is true, when I am only writing lies or at least feel like I am, and nothing makes sense, and I feel inconsequential, and then I try to validate myself, and then I feel guilty for trying to validate myself…
B’: And then you are forced to come to the conclusion that no one really cares about the things you write.
B: I don’t know where to go.
B’: Why is this so frustrating for you?
B: I just said!
B’: I mean, why is writing this dialogue so frustrating?
B: You realise you only know that because we are technically the same person, or at least we share the same physical form.
B’: No, I know that because frustration is leaking from every one of your ellipses. I think it would do you good to elucidate it.
B: The problem is… the problem is that I am being forced to construct something. It feels artificial. It feels artificial that I am constructing something natural, that I am seeking to emulate a certain conversational quality, that I am having to acknowledge the colloquialisms, which are essentially cliches, that I otherwise avoid.
B’: In your other writing, you rely on language – it idealises, romanticises, makes the not-so-important important. That is in itself an artifice.
B: It is, but it feels natural. It feel natural to construct an artifice, but unnatural… uncomfortable to construct something that approaches the natural, the everyday.
B’: You said it – “uncomfortable.” You feel uncomfortable because you have had to tear yourself away from a pattern that is tried and true. But uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily mean that the writing is bad.
B: No, it doesn’t, but it feels wrong, somehow…
B’: How do you know that this isn’t merely a matter of getting accustomed to the dialogue form?
B: It might be, but at the same time, at the back of my mind…
B’: You’re still thinking about the fact that you didn’t come up with the idea for a dialogue in the first place. That it was given to you.
B: It feels inauthentic somehow. I should have been the one to gravitate to it, you know? It was recommended to me, and I resisted it at first… I’m still resisting it now, even as I write it, even as I re-read it… It doesn’t matter if I do it well.
B’: You can’t escape artifice. The way that you usually write, the way that feels more authentic, that feels “better,” is necessarily a distortion. You see what you want to see, and you write what you want to write.
B: I can’t explain it, it just feels more… true.
B’: No, it feels more comfortable. The comfort in hiding behind words.
B: What do you mean?
B’: I mean that in choosing the right words, the long words, in orchestrating the rhythms and rhymes and sounds and forms, you are allowing your feelings to exist within a grander landscape. You come from a place that is true, but you are transforming that truth, you are making meaning out of an aching in your chest. It is nothing more than an ache, and yet you are able to explain the rationale for that ache.
B: It feels right. The rationale feels right.
B’: No, it’s just framed using a certain order of words, an aesthetic order, that you know will appeal to the reader.
B: Why? Why are you questioning my writing? So what – so what if I want to package my feelings neatly and offer them up to a reader?
B’: Think about why you first started writing. You said at the time that you wanted to create something out of a destructive state of mind. I’m not saying that isn’t true, or that it isn’t still true. But what I want to say is that it was important to you to have your feelings validated, and writing – writing well – was a way to do that.
B: I never thought that my feelings weren’t real. In that way they are validated.
B’: But you wanted them to be validated by all the people who thought you were wasting your time and energy, their time and energy, his time and energy, on this futile yearning. By writing about it in a way that was insistently anti-casual, anti-trivial, you could seek their validation. It was worth it because you could create something beautiful out of it, and they would admire you for it, even if they couldn’t understand “why him.” They would empathise with you in a way that they had stopped doing long ago.
B’: I’m going to ignore that and continue. There’s nothing about this dialogue that is a lie. The thoughts that you’ve conveyed are real thoughts, they are not thoughts of a character.
B: And yet it feels like it. It feels less direct.
B’: Even though you are talking about it in a direct way?
B: Yes… I can’t explain it.
B’: Then let me offer a possible explanation. In forcing a bifurcation of the self, you are forcing multiple breaks in the fluidity of your thoughts. This is despite the fact that all your previous writing has involved you, in the present, looking back on your past self, even if it was the past self of two seconds ago. Now, you have to hold yourself accountable to yourself, or a different part of yourself, in a much more direct, confrontational, antagonistic way. That frightens you.
B: It doesn’t frighten me. It troubles me that I have to insert insignificant sentences for the sake of naturalism and segue. I guess it also makes me feel ashamed. Ashamed of portraying an authenticity that I have always chosen to hide, in revealing the weaknesses that I’m not ready or have never wanted to reveal.
B’: Perhaps this dialogue has gone too fast, through too many things that you never thought fit to write about or even to expose. In the past, you always wrote about things episodically. Now that there is nothing in your life to tie your feelings to, no episodes that you can rely on to happen so that you can write about them, and this is what you came up with – a piece that goes nowhere and everywhere simultaneously, that you can’t control with words.
B: I’m adamant that a part of it is the language. In a strange way, talking to you… it’s almost too confessional, too diaristic.
B’: What’s stopping you from talking the way you write?
B: I can’t do that. I thought I could but I can’t. The words are always stuck in my throat… If I am writing a dialogue I need to be able to replicate that stumbling, that failure…
B’: So you’re facing your failures at speech. That’s part of it too.
B: I guess I would have to reluctantly accept that as a valid analysis. The thing is… I worry that this dialogue is coming across as too conversational, therefore it is something that a reader might easily dismiss. “Oh, this is just some crazy girl having a conversation with the voice in her head.” If my writing is dismissed, then I am dismissed…
B’: Not everything you’re going to write in your lifetime is going to be good.
B: Yes, but this feels important, in the sense that it is both a culmination and an entryway, yet it is also potentially unimportant. I don’t know how to deal with saying, for example, “I don’t know how to deal” in a piece of writing. It doesn’t feel appropriately… academic.
B’: Now you’re saying that this dialogue, or at least the quality of the language of this dialogue, isn’t suitably intellectual and deliberate.
B: It feels that way.
B’: It feels that way because you think it feels that way, because you are too intellectual about wanting this to be intellectual. And yet what you’ve been saying thus far is that the language is not emotional enough, or not invested with enough emotion.
B: I don’t know! I don’t know… We’re going around in circles.
B’: A dialogue is a circle. It is the intersection of two circles in a Venn diagram, and it goes back and forth, endlessly, but not like a line, because we are dancing around a core.
B: We’re going into geometry now?
B’: A spiritual geometry.
B: I don’t like that word, spiritual. It has too much baggage.
B’: A dynamic geometry then. Whatever the case, my presence disrupts the linearity that you’ve become accustomed to in your writing. The stream of consciousness necessarily encounters obstacles and conflicts. It exists, perhaps in a divided form.
B: Will people accept this? This division? That’s what worries me. It is me and it is also a caricature of me.
B’: Do you think you could write this in third person rather than in double first person?
B: I wonder what it would become. What I would lose and what I would gain. Whether it will be too intense, or less so. I don’t know what to change. I don’t know what I’m looking for.
B’: You’re looking for a structure that is dependable. This dialogue cannot go on forever. This form cannot support your writing forever.
B: Maybe what I’m really frightened of is the utter pointlessness of it all.