the elegance of the equation
“I am a writer”, I state, balancing olives on a paper plate. There is no brown bread and too many voices.
“Have you published anything?”, he asks.
“Oh, no. Not an author. I just write. A writer. I write 1000, at times 2000 words a day. It’s not that I write something. I just write. Of course, I do write words, but I am more interested in how the letters are linked together, the pitch and fall of the stroke.”
The balance between void and full, the distance between words, their privacy: do they feel (the words, I mean) their boundaries pushed? You do not need words. Not to create anything of any literary or artistic value. Just the passing of time, my personal Japanese garden, a mono-surface ikebana. I am more absorbed by the noise of the nib, a tenuous scratching at ivory paper. Scratching and revealing by adding ink and subtracting fibres. I substitute what’s already there with something new. I am ploughing and seeding. I replace emptiness and at the same time expose one of the infinite possible combination of signs and marks, all-present but hidden in a page. What’s the nib doing in me? Sometimes I wonder if the line I’m creating is three dimensional, or not. Could we magnify it, its own breadth would appear. So, I fancy that it would. The queue hasn’t moved passed the pork pies for a while now.
“At times, I ponder on the hovering dot (I mime something somewhere, suspended half way in the air, by nothing) that one that is not right in the middle of the space, but just below the midpoint. A point at midpoint. His higher outer skin teasing the imaginary half-way mark of the empty space, dancing between two lines (did I just say “his”?). Somehow, I think that writing, in this way, controls and therefore codifies Beauty. I’m in the act of making my own world a better place. It gives a sense of order, balance. It makes things simpler. There’s no Xάος on my pages.”
(I am wondering if there is any bread, brown bread. I cannot eat olives and pâté without brown bread.) Filling that space, to me, is never pointless. It is a quest for the perfect conjunction between an ideal pen, faultless paper, the moment; and me. I am mesmerized by the ease of the sign, the sliding of the pen, the weight of my wrist, the length of my nails on the barrel; the impeccable blend of voluptuousness and angst. A sensuous ritual.
It’s not writing, it’s not drawing. It’s flowing. It’s continuity.
“What do you think makes the perfect writing?”, I ask.
“A good plot?”, he replies.
“Is it just the words, or the sense, the feelings someone is trying to transmit? I am wondering if a person reading my writing, would feel the exact same emotions as I feel when I write.”
Impossible, and frustrating. Sometimes I question if it is more my experience that’s important: me as I write. Actually, me as I am writing. I am writing. Writing. Write-ing. In the moment. (He places some white bread on my plate. I don’t want white bread.) There is a beginning and there is an end, and both happen now. “When I am sitting at my white table, in front of the window and I hold my pen, I breathe New York at Christmas, I hear Woody Allen, I wear the elegance of a velvety black dress, I’m in a yellow cab. Aht to leh-vadh.”
“Oh, you’ve been to New York?”
“No, I have never been there.”
My glasses slide down, slowly; he pushes them up gently with his little finger, juggling plates, plastic forks and napkins. Boundaries pushed. Which words are we? The process of me writing is fuelled and filled by what I smell, what I see, how I feel, any odd sensations I’m brewing within in my body. (My dish feels heavier. Breadsticks? Sticks as cyphers. What do they remind me of?) Do I need to transfer this onto paper? Of course, not. Are my words as long as my thoughts; or my writing as fast as my thinking? Time slows down and I can breathe. Am I recording also the sentence in between? (He glares through me, head slightly tilted. Can he see the discourse silently falling from my head? As a concert of thuds-on-mute of disarticulated Lego pieces falling to the floor. For a second, I look at my shoes.)
“If I write one word, would it evoke the same imagery in someone else’s mind?”
“If I say, or write the word Tree, I do have an image. Is the same image for everybody? I see chestnuts and maybe others see pines. If I write chestnuts, would we imagine the same solitary tree, on the same hill, in the sun? I find this fascinating, because no matter how hard we try to communicate, our minds will keep on seeing the world as we have always seen it, through our eyes only. That’s our reference, our own code: us. You see, there is no such a thing as true communication. I spent one summer studying Akkadian, you know (𒀝𒅗𒁺𒌑 I try to mime), logograms, just for fun. Archaic symbols. No communication.”
Me on a quest, looking for hidden meanings. Semi-optic. Breadsticks! Now instead a present-ologists of papery symbolism, something private, something mine only. Pipol, people, peapods, peopol, peepol, pîpol; soul, foul, faul, saul, Saul’s soul.
“You are just overcomplicating life.”
I pause. “I had a book, once.”
It was a maths book. Equations. The fact that I was good at maths is beside the point: oh, the elegance of the equation on page 189. Yes, the paper was light and opalescent, you could only add notes with a pencil, possibly using a B, nothing softer. It was also slightly translucent. The ink used for the printing was a dark grey, a cocky grey, a pretended black, but never that dark. Opening that book, at that page, it was like if I saw a slight tinge of warm gold okra embracing every word, letter, symbol, keeping them warm, lifting them up, giving them perspective and depth; holding them there. As when God touched Adam. Not real, of course, since it was only a visual effect; nothing to worry about, the ophthalmologist had said to my mother. But that shade, it was underpinning the meaning of maths, of logic; that is the true and only language. I mean, if we all agree on the same code to be used. The algorithm of life, where all things important are not to be printed but are hidden and can be read between the lines and seen between the signs. The music now is too loud. I really don’t like birthday parties.
“The font used was thin and sophisticated, a printed pseudo-calligraphy but still a very beautiful writing; the parenthesis as gentle as waves and warm as hugs; the x’s had curls and the y’s a long single plat. The construction, of such an equation, was more important than the mental process behind its formulation;” - storeys of skeletal solidity on a papery foundation.
I could probably use maths symbols to write anything and it doesn’t have to sound meaningful. What’s the symbol for a symbol, I have always wondered? The whole book reminded me of Copenhagen. No one ask me why; I’ve never been there, either. But I could imagine an old professor who wore not a tie, but tiny frameless glasses, and dressed in comforting shades of beige and greens, explaining the magic of the symbols, the hidden mysteries of a universal language, a code to analyse, befriend, explore and then leave, intact. (He escorts me by my elbow to the table in the corner of the room.) Untouched. Step by step, getting closer to the result, knowing that the closer you get, the sooner it will all end, so you may as well stop searching, stop looking, slowing the whole process down. (He pours wine? I haven’t asked for wine.)
“That book, to me, meant hiding away and slowing down. So, now, when I’m writing, I’m trying to reproduce the elegance of that equation on page 189, my personal Rorschach image, slowing my hand when I reach the middle of a page, when I know that I’ve crossed an unindicated mark, getting closer, and closer, and closer to the end.”
And when you get to the end of the page you just stop wherever you are even if the sentence isn’t finished. Half way even of a single wo
wherever the page imposes its own limit: no more signs no more! Words, and their absence, do not kill imagination. Then my hand gets suddenly dry, the pen feels like powder and there you have it: the absence of masculinity.
“The more I write, the sooner I will have to stop.” (I scribble something in the air and then stop).
But instead I am there, adding more words with S’s and h’s: shell shall she. Sherlock. I like those words, with S’s and h’s. I really like them. Sh looks like 84. Putting nib to paper is important because I’m alive; my act proves that I breathe, that I was there then. That line I scribbled yesterday shows that I exist. If someone is going to read it, or just look at it, part of me is seen. My encounter with the page is set in time, even if we both have a life beyond that moment. The page has a life on its own, independent: a well-rounded blue morphing into a deep oceanic green. Everchanging albeit unseen, almost cheeky, surprising me every day with a different hue. And what about me? My act of writing is more important than the writing itself. Does a dancer need to know steps and sequence before the music starts? What kind of a sign do I leave behind? I am thinking accessibility, simplification, subtracting synthesis. Reducing to a dot. You can have a whole poem in a single dot. And you will have an infinite international understanding.
“But how do you make money?” he asks while chewing, his mouth full of white bread.
“I have a job.”, I mumble.