If you can accept that your words can be twisted, truncated and misquoted, and that you can be misrepresented by an interpretation of what you write, why would you accept what is written by someone else as the unadorned truth? Whom do you write for, and who are you when you write?

Bohémienne says:

Is there a disconnect between my experiences and my thoughts? Between my thoughts and my words? Between the intention of my words and how they are interpreted by the reader? Undoubtedly. I’m more than aware that I can tell the truth, and it can end up being far from the whole truth. Even further from the truth is someone else’s words based on that interpretation, which is far from my intention, which strays from my thoughts, which were only loosely connected to my experiences in the first place. So with all of that meta knowledge, do I have a responsibility to ensure that those who read my words fully understand that disconnect?

Melograna says:

There is an inevitable disconnect – whether it’s a time lapse, which often means there’s a fair amount of retrospective angst involved, or just mood. But having said that, I’m aware that I’m often slanting what I write, or playing up a certain angle – not with any purpose to mislead or project an image of myself, but because that is what I’m interested in when I’m writing. I’m always looking for the hook, and the hook slants the piece.

No, I don’t have a responsibility. My responsibility is to myself, and to stay true to my aims in writing. The reader is just the hapless bystander, but they can leave whenever they want. In the end it all comes back to reasons for writing, and what we hope to achieve: how important are the readers in the process? What do you want them to get out of it? Does it matter if they interpret it differently?

Bohémienne says:

Does it matter? Perhaps not in reality, since that is beyond my control. But I have my own perceptions, too, to work with. I picture the words being a connection between my thoughts and the audience. I have expectations of the readers. I think I know what they will understand from what I’ve written, and those expectations bounce back and colour what I write. In some ways, then, I am responsible. I’ve decided what the reader will get from the experience of reading, and have kneaded and manipulated my words to ensure that result. I consciously choose how I want to be understood.

Melograna says:

I don’t consciously project an image when I write, but I can see it when I read. I try to only be honest, to only get down what is in my head, and that as simply as possible. But underneath I see that often what I write is a dare.

I don’t write to be liked. Or maybe I do, but with an obstacle course in the way. It’s like a love affair, when you start to test the limits: “Do you love me when I do this? When I act like this? Is this loveable too?” I read what I write and see how I make people battle to forgive my arrogance, or how I smile charmingly and crook my finger, and coo in their ear before I kick them in the balls.It’s not confidence, but self-interest that makes me shrug my shoulders when the answer is no; I’m not prepared to change myself. I think the question I’m asking is: “Are you tough enough?”… and I’m not interested in the ones who aren’t, though that question provokes different responses, and some of them are: “No! Hit me! Please!” it’s hard to take no prisoners, even in writing, when people hold out their wrists for the handcuffs.

Bohémienne says:

I, on the other hand, do consciously project an image… an image which sometimes necessitates some arbitrary twisting of, if not facts, then impressions. I, too, want to tell the truth, but I also want to be that benevolent fairy godmother with the kindly smile. How, then, do I use that perspective to describe my own drunken debauchery or make cuttingly witty remarks? I can’t make it work without the complicity of my readers. I ask them to suspend their disbelief in order that I may have it both ways. I want the reader response to reflect both the beautiful image and the unsavoury content. The question I ask isn’t “Are you tough enough?”, but “How far can I push you before you stop believing in me?” It probably isn’t really such an unreasonable question. After all, I’m just as much of a mass (or a mess) of contradictions beyond the written word. Or so I would have you believe.

Melograna says:

That’s it, though isn’t it? When we write we demand that the reader sees and accepts it all, in a way that we less consciously do in real life. When we write, we expose our inner workings, to a greater or lesser degree. Maybe how much we do is dictated by how much we rely on the reader’s acceptance, and that might be influenced by the reasons we write in the first place. And how honest we are about those. I say I write for me, but then why do I let it be read? Why do I check my stats? I came for the writing, and stayed for the attention.

There’s another point too – what people see. Mainly I suspect they read their own meanings into things. They project, they see what they want to – and often, that’s what I want. I want them to make what I write for me relevant to them. Some of them will see the walls I throw up, and some will imagine they can see over them. And then again, some of them really will be able to – they will see what I don’t mean to show, or what I can’t see.

Bohémienne says:

Yes, some readers will see beyond the words. This really doesn’t negate the fact that the writing has purpose and intent, though, whether honestly acknowledged or not. My purpose may be (probably is) a need for affirmation of my choices, and general admiration (“Wow, Bohémienne, you’re the greatest!”). Some readers will meet that need; others will choose their own willy-nilly path, seeing something informative or even thought-provoking or meaningful. Both views and results are valid, I think. The important point is that we understand that when we read, we create meaning from facts that may or may not reflect stark reality, so when we write, we need to expect that the same negotiation for truth by the reader will take place.

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Superficial

July 28, 2007

The words come so easily to me. They trip lightly off the tongue, like a well practiced recitation. Looks don’t matter. What is beneath the surface is what counts. It isn’t true, though, is it?

The surface isn’t meaningless. It’s there, it’s in your face (it is your face). It’s what I see when I look at you. The shape. The colour. The curves (running my finger along the planes of your cheeks). The movements. I can look in your eyes all I want, and all I will see are your eyes. They are not windows to the soul (sinking into you). They are what you use to see with. All else is illusion. I can listen to your words, and all I hear is your voice (oh god, your voice). Just sounds. I don’t truly hear your thoughts. Just those sounds. When you touch me, I don’t really know how you feel — your feelings, or how I feel to you (do you feel my arousal?). I make contact with your skin and know its temperature, its texture. I can taste your skin, too. I think that your taste somehow reflects your passion for me, but that isn’t really so, is it? You taste salty because you’ve been sweating. Your saliva is sweet because you are healthy and well-nourished. The rest is interpretation. If I say you taste wonderful (oh so wonderful), it’s a matter of, well, taste. How you smell is just a result of your hygiene practices and natural daily activities (breathing you in).

It’s all I have of you, all you have of me. The surface. We’re superficial. That’s where we live. And yet. If all I see, and taste, and feel, and smell, and hear are angles, and lines, and light, and waves, and emissions … why you? Why do I still see you when my eyes are closed? Why do I hear your voice saying things you’ve never really told me? Why do I turn suddenly, expecting to find you there? Give me your superficiality, give me what is visible on your surface. I’ll take it.

Everything

July 25, 2007

It’s what I want for him.

I want him to feel the depths of despair. I want him to wonder if it can possibly get any worse. I want him to hurt physically, almost beyond bearing. Sometimes I want the hurt to be emotional. He needs to cry, even scream out his pain. I want his hurt to be spiritual even. I want him to question his purpose, his reason for being here. I even want him to doubt his intellectual abilities. Then I want him to give pain. Once he knows how it feels, from the inside out, I want him to pass it along. I want him to see the reaction when he hurts someone. I want him to leave marks and realize what they mean.

That’s not all I want for him.

I want him to find some middle ground, some of the time. He should live the way that he imagines others live. I want him to experience what it means to leave the drama behind, and just… be. I want him to earn his paycheque, to eat three square meals a day, have a lover with whom he is compatible but not necessarily passionate, someone who interests him but does not challenge him. I want him to go to popular movies, read popular fiction, watch popular television shows. And then I want him to crave more.

Because more is what I want for him.

I want him to require and strive for joy. He should feel such physical pleasure that it reminds him of the pain he has also known intimately. He should experience an emotional high that makes him wonder if he can stand it. I want him to find spiritual elation, and realize that ecstasy is an every day opportunity. I want him to be soothed, and healed, and comforted, and whole. Then I want him to use his touch to soothe, and heal, and comfort another in turn. I want him to know sexual passion, and intellectual excitement, and love.

I want him to cry and laugh, agonize and brag, shrug and fuck. I want everything for him. I want him to live.

Down amongst the fishes

July 23, 2007

At night the cat drags in screaming baby bats caught on the roof, and day and night, it seems, mosquitoes bite me in places I wish they wouldn’t. The thought of how delicious I must be doesn’t console me for the itching. The air is too thick to breathe, without even the promise of rain, and the empty water bottles lined up on the kitchen counter, all claiming to cure ills I hope I never have, are a testament to the effort it takes to stay upright.

I lie in the cool, oily water of the lake, and just give the faintest flick of my tail to move, slick and fast. But it’s no easier being a fish, when I see you, just as quick, going the other way. We chase each other’s tails, down amongst the sucking lake weeds, stirring the pebbles and black lava sand as we pass. I think we’d make more progress if we swam in the same direction, instead of round and round in circles, always in two directions at once, simultaneously swimming away from and towards. We’d make no progress if we met head on, but trying to keep still would give the illusion of movement. It would be more than an illusion though, when sometimes it seems that more skill must be employed, more energy expended, trying to keep two fish not swimming past each other. It would be worth it, to breathe the same bubble of oxygen again.

Look

July 22, 2007

We don’t look at other people’s faces much, here. Maybe a glance at the body, and then straight behind the flesh and bones to the exposed mind. A first public encounter, and a nod of acknowledgment, but there’s a distance to be kept, passing by in this brightly-lit space, that throws its darkened corners into deeper, indecipherable shadow.

Now I’m holding open the door a crack, half-out of it. Talking across the corridor, still in the neon light. Behind him is darkness, with a warm pinpoint glow of light, behind me the same. I read his rules from here, posted on the front of the door, and he reads mine. He holds his door more open than I do, lounging against the jamb. He says he thinks he can see what’s in the dark in my room; he would be able to see if I wanted him to.

And do I? I’m sure I know what’s there. What’s battened down, what’s spilling out. What is placed face-front and what I have deliberately put away. Are these the things he’ll take out and handle? Because I can explain them: I’m familiar with them, and I can tell him what can be touched and what can’t be, and why. I can stand my ground and face him down. I can take pleasure in showing off my pretty things, all my beautiful bits; I’m not ashamed of any of the rest. They can all be picked up and taken apart, and I can snap them into place again. I don’t even mind if they are in a different order, or missing bits. He can make different shapes of them, and I’ll watch, enthralled, and do the same.

But I think he thinks he’ll see something I don’t know I have. And I’m afraid when he finds it, it will be something I do I know I have, and I didn’t even have to hide it, it hid itself. If he steps across my threshold, I must do the same to his, and I don’t know if I want to look on what he has hanging on his walls.

But even so I know, if he takes one step forwards I’ll take one back, pushing the door open even as I retreat, and I’ll be facing forwards, and I’ll look him in the eyes.

Right and Left

July 17, 2007

One opened palm holds God, and faith, and religion, and the other looks empty, but is full of invisible negation of the God hand. Both of these, I was told, were equally true, and possible. There are absolute truths, and some of them are opposite, but they do not necessarily cancel each other out. There is always another point of view, there are always choices, and often they have equal weight, and none of them count less. This is an absolute. It must be accepted, and slotted into place beside the other absolutes, none of which have to threaten or detract from any of the others. All of these indisputable creeds can be complete in themselves, and still make up a part of the whole.

It removes you, to grow up like this. You no sooner have one view presented to you – full on, filling up your vision, curling tight round the edges – than you find yourself looking for the other side. You always have an array of choices, and all of then are equally valid. And then the next step: how to choose? Head? heart? gut? Reason? logic? commonsense? Compassion? justice? loyalty? Of course it’s liberating, to have choices. But it’s scary too, when there is nothing that cannot be questioned.

It toughens you. You can prevaricate, and wobble on the edge of every precipice, wondering if the direction you are facing in is the best one – or you can just shut your eyes and go forward, not really knowing if it just feels like forward and isn’t. You learn to trust your instinct, and tell yourself it is formed by intellect, and you tell yourself it’s right, because it’s what you choose to do.

I chose the hand with the invisible truths, and filled it up with myself. There’s only me to hang things on, and only I am responsible for what I do and who I am. I can borrow bits of other people’s regard, but I face only myself in the mirror. I go forward, and I know that I’m facing in the direction I meant to, because with all these choices, then the one I chose can only be the right one.

I Wear My Life

July 14, 2007

He wears his life on his skin. The scars are his choices, his experiences, his collisions. I don’t know their origin, but I know how they feel under my fingers. The ridges, the pulls, the sudden change in texture, all signal to me where I am on the map of his body. The places where muscle has sagged, has loosened with age and with inactivity, everchanging, a new discovery each time we are together. I take his flesh in my teeth, not knowing how far they will sink into him, how much or little he will feel the pain. The softness of his belly I feel under my chin, a cushion that he has earned for me, over how long, I don’t know. The lines on his face I can take in with my eyes, but I don’t know to what extent they tell the story of a lifetime of excess, or whether they just tell me that he has relaxed into his years. The pouch under his chin I tease and sample with my tongue. The whiskers there have gradually lightened, whitened, coarsened, even in the months I have watched, tasted, absorbed. Sometimes I believe I know about what he is, what is in him, from these superficialities.

Likewise, the skin I present to him tells my own story, if he chooses to listen to it. The tiny marks above my lip and my eye hint that physical coordination may not be my strong suit. The lines on my breasts and belly are my battle scars, results of changing life conditions, changing priorities, changing sizes. The texture, colour, appearance of me have all changed and continue to change. Does he read me the way I read him? When he looks at me, touches me, tastes me, does he just note the signs of advancing age, of eventual decrepitude, or does he recognize and accept the gift of my body, such as it is, evidence of my own challenges, and experiences, and painfully earned minor wisdoms?