Tag Archives: pregnant pause

Breaking the Silence

19 Jul

I realize that I have not written in the blog for a long time–weeks, in fact. Please excuse the fact that I haven’t been fulfilling the obligations to you, my readers, and to myself. I hope you that you will enjoy this entry, and I promise I will be writing a lot more often. Also, please realize that the events written in the following blog are now several weeks old, and the situations described have, like bread in the open air, gone stale.

People react to silence in many different ways, probably because there are so many different kinds of silence. I could argue that there are as many ways to react to silence as there are continents, or countries, or people populating the planet. But, there are three very noticeable ways that we humans deal with the midnight monster—invisible, but with a notable, crippling presence—that is silence. Some people try to fill up silence, penetrate its pure, virginal nothingness with streams of nonsensical chatter meant to make a point. Others try to wring it out like a towel, and absorb every moist bit of wisdom before it soaks into the ground. But the common denominator between those two opposing silent camps is that both want to tamper with silence’s innate beauty. Those in the third camp, mothers of newborns, people in new love, and those studying for the big upcoming test, cherish silence. They do not wish to see it altered, but cradle into it like a Tempurpedic mattress.

I went on three dates with two different men recently, and I have experienced these three different types of silences, and I saw myself chameleon into each one. The date with the first man, Liam, was filled with silences I tried to fill with more words. When trying to fill up an empty silence, you can’t expect Shakespeare to come through. The first things that come up are the commonalities—the “how-are-you’s?” the “How-was-your-days?” It takes heroic effort to move past them, but in a date filled with this much silence, commonalities could do little to salvage the pieces. We went to a nice restaurant, and then out for drinks, and we had spoken previously on the phone and on the Internet, so I thought this should have been going better. However, we just weren’t clicking that well.

What about the last two types of silence? Before we get to that story, I have to lead you in and hold your hand through the little story of how I got to these dates. I was attending an open mic reading to support my friend who I knew would be reading at the event, only I thought it was a closed poetry reading, not one that openly encouraged participation from any patrons of the bar. I was approached by the organizer of the open mic—a nerdily cute, charming, talented man in glasses—who told me the event was open, and that I should read something. I sat towards the back of the bar, far from the stage where the readers opined about things like sex, high-pitched voices, and meeting new partners, in silence. I had erected a cocoon of silence for myself as a place of safety and protection—and antisociality. However, it was the encouragement of the cute organizer that made me go up and speak, and I did. I read a series of letters about how much I had come to dislike the online dating world. And it was well-received. After I had broken my own silence, I spoke to the organizer of the readings, who encouraged me to come back, gave me his number, and asked me to call him sometime. His name was Bruno.

On our first date, we had dinner, drinks, and a walk through Riverside Park. We sat in one of the park’s waterfront benches, where we discussed our writing styles, our histories, and exchanged wit back and forth with heavy fire. Each time there was a silence, it was like we had to catch our breath from the laughing, or we just had to sit and appreciate the person sitting across from us. It was then that I became the second type of silent person. I was trying to glean so much from this silence. I was trying to read his verbal and bodily cues like roadmap of where he wanted us to go. Except the roadmap was scattered all over his body. It was in his green and yellow eyes, in the stubbles of his facial hair, and the warmth of his smile.

Breaking a Heavy Silence

On our second date, we marched through Heatpocalypse 2010, stopping along the way for brunch at a Russian diner and two overwhelming ice coffees. We were having a blast. After a while, we came in from the heat, and we had a beautifully honest conversation together. This time, our words, like bricks, were mortared together with silences that each of us wouldn’t dare speak over. We knew these silences, sitting there, were okay. We need not alter them, or wish for something more or less from them. Like we accepted each other, we accepted these silences for all their baggage and all their meaning, and we hoped that they would change us for the better.

So, why such a long break in between blogs? I consider myself a very reactionary writer. This writing blitz that I’ve been on in the past year—stretching all the way back to last summer—has been out of unhappiness. Part of my reacting to unhappiness is writing. Even the creation of this blog is evidence of that. And, with my new enjoyable dating situation, I found that I had less and less to write about. But, then again, that might just be a personal challenge for me in the future. What happens to the writer who suddenly becomes happy? Hopefully, this long writing silence of mine will find me doing three things:  trying to fill it up with writing, trying to glean something from it, and enjoying the happiness while it lasts.

Pregnant Pauses

28 May

What makes a pregnant pause? For those of you who don’t know what a pregnant pause is, it’s a technique where entertainers pause to build suspense, to leave you hanging on whatever next passes from your lips. Comedians best know the pregnant pause as the dead air before the punch line, while dramatists know the pregnant pause because it usually precedes a confession, or some plot-altering development. Pregnant pauses, either way, are moments infused with possibility. The people in the audience, breath subdued, wait for the conclusion of the phrase, because we want an emotional release just as much as the entertainer. Like expectant fathers, the audience waits to see what will come of the pregnant pause—a bouncy baby comedic thrill, or a quiet, contained dramatic confession.

Bloggers don't worry about stretch marks.

I find that keeping a blog is a lot like living a life full of pregnant pauses. Every moment ideas swarm around me like houseflies, and I try to catch them and keep them long enough for me to write them down. Every day is full of new possibilities for me. Every blog, every book presents new ways for me to express my thoughts. After posting this entry, I don’t know if my next entry will be about weight loss, my first summer date, or about the next book I’ve read. Each entry has the possibility to be a triumphant declaration, and the possibility for solemn reflection. The people and the events in my life hold within them the power for inspiration and analysis, a potent energy that is unique and refreshing.

Take for instance the dinner I tried to make two days ago. I tried to make brown rice and beans, and for flavor, I added avocado and turkey bacon. The rice and beans kicked my ass, the stove was spotted with black bean juice, and the rice ended up thick, and best resembled brick-squished mortar. I ate my experiment quickly, and dumped the rest out. I had to sit there waiting for the beans and rice to cook for about 45 minutes, and there were two distinct possibilities:  this meal can succeed, or this meal can fail. After it failed, I had two distinct ways I could present this:  a fun foray into the world of cooking, or a failed experiment that persuaded to put down the wooden spoon.

Every event I attend, every book I read, and every day that passes has something to offer me. You could say that I’m constantly pregnant, if that didn’t have a creepy connotation to it. And every time I give birth to a personal essay to share with the world, ideas are ready to impregnate me again. This constant state of pregnancy is, like normal pregnancy, a basic human want to share a part of me with the world, and to ask that my ideas, thoughts, and values live on in a way that is more permanent than myself (which seems odd since this blog is nothing but one’s and zero’s.)

"If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This" by Robin Black

I’ve nearly finished my second book, entitled If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black. I picked this book next because it was completely different in tone from my first. It is a collection of short stories, it was written in this past decade, and published in the past year. The characters, like Charity Royall , are due for awakenings, but theirs come at varied stages of life—grade school childhood, old age singledom, and mid-life malaise. I originally picked up this book, because I wanted to read a record of what is being published in the short story market at the time, because I write short stories myself. The book also had a gorgeous cover. The maxim “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is immutably true in every area of life except when choosing a book. Walking into Barnes and Noble these days is like walking into an art museum, except I can afford the merchandise covering the walls. Though it was beautifully covered, and the writing itself is admirable, precise, and evocative, I felt that the book left me a little flat. I believe that short stories, in a way, work off the notion of the pregnant pause. There is a moment in the story when the suspense builds, and we wait for a moment of grotesque action that leads us to an epiphany. For the record, both comedy and drama work off of the notion of epiphany. Comedies make us realize how silly we could be, while dramas make us realize how silly we really are. Unfortunately, I felt Robin Black took to much time reveling in her own writing abilities to care about her characters. I feel as if her characters learned nothing, and we were meant to learn everything, which to me is writing for show. Though it seems counterintuitive for a blogger, I feel that writing must always be first personal and second for others to read. To write a short story and not have your characters learn something in the process is a shitty way to treat your characters—it makes their lives a mere vehicle for our lessons, and gives their lives no purpose of their own.

Reading this book has made me realize that the way I write may not exactly fit in with the current short story market, and that’s okay by me. There is a gimmicky way of writing now, people write like imitations of post-modernists now, and trying to write like someone who breaks form seems kind of counterintuitive. Replicating Lorrie Moore with extra lilts and sing-songy lyrics doesn’t make you an author. A true desire to tell one’s story, and find little grains of truth as you sift through grains of beans of rice spread out on your countertop, that’s where one finds stories. Those are the places where one has to pause, let an idea cultivate in your spine, and ultimately make itself ready to be shown to the world.

In waiting for my rice to boil, or anticipating the soreness in my muscles to seep out, or even just waiting for a date to appear, my life has been full of pregnant pauses lately. But, that means it has also been filled with possibility. And possibility is something I can handle. In small doses, I may not be able to handle not eating my favorite foods, shelling out money for IcyHot, or reading ten short stories back to back in a week, but as a whole, I can take a challenge. Because the thing you have to remember about a challenge:  you can fail, or you can succeed, but you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen, you have to act like a pregnant woman and deliver.