My journal is open in my knit blanket covered lap. It is just another evening, all the things that may make this a Monday, but who knows anymore. My body is resting from the increasing time I spend behind the bar, pouring drinks, talking, running – fast on my feet and quick with my hands. With my pen, I am suddenly there. I look around the room, waiting for someone to eyeball summon me. This girl is telling a story. I don’t care to hear it, but I listen anyway like it is my job – to just listen. Other stories are swirling around like a mirage of conversation and small talk. Is it office politics or a Tinder date? It all meshes together after they drink enough whiskey, or after I do. Tomorrow is for shopping at Ikea but tonight is for eating pizza. A woman tells me to which I can only reply with unquestioning laughter. Two grad students chatter away about going to Iceland over spring break -because that is the new “it” destination. They clink their copper mule mugs together, to Iceland, to their youth. I pause to turn the page and I am back in my living room. I realize I am writing the same word, first in perfect cursive then in really neat print, audience. I am telling the story now and I am suddenly very aware of my audience.
It is some other week day night. It feels pretty Wednesday, I decide. Like a school assignment, I date my journal and write the word audience again. It is this week’s shoulder parrot. Jackson is sitting on my right side as I wiggle my arm into (and back into) another comfortable writing position. He is intently watching TV, and me at the same time. He perches onto my right shoulder. I feel the resistance from his tiny body and his ribcage rests on my check, pressing and relaxing in the rhythm of my pen. He shifts, spotting a wet kiss on my forehead. I smile and rest my head on his ankle, as we remain intertwined in our own thoughts. He will occasionally ask, “what happened Mommy” and point to the TV. I attempt to answer, in spotty memories I have of watching Animaniacs as a kid (his current Netflix obsession). He gets excited and tugs on my hair, forcing me to look up in yet another of his strange displays of affection. I pry his fingers from my hair and keep trying to dump quick words on the page. He becomes the audience, the crutch. The words still manage to come out but they are forced and rushed. What can I quickly say under toddler duress? That is the audience I create when I let self-doubt do the writing. They become that thing on my shoulder, impairing my writing. I try to write through this distraction that is the metaphoric and actual toddler on my shoulder.
I read over my edits and try tying this essay together like a familiar pair of shoes. The old and worn out laces snap and I can’t seem to figure out how to tie them again.At times it happens. I am writing, and for a moment I picture my reader. A family member, a friend, my children, a social media contact – someone I have known by social media longer than in real life. That person suddenly drops in and I begin to write to them. Apologetically write to them, trying to explain myself or filter. It is hard some times to blank the face, blank the audience. I contemplate how to distance myself from an audience while still writing for them. But I don’t want to offend them. I think, too politely. I don’t want them to think I am that kind of person. Whatever that means. Just like at the bar, I was listening to everyone else’s conversations and dripping into my writing. It happens. I pick myself up and pat my ass to release the dust. I lost focus. Just like everything else, I will blame it on the time change and keep moving forward with a full page and a blank audience.
Writing prompt- set a timer for 10 minutes and go: is there a face, either physical or metaphorical, in your audience that causes filtered writing? If you could remove them from the audience, what would you say?