Here, voicey voicey. Come out, come out wherever you are. Dang blast it. I’ve lost it again. My dratted voice. Not the one I use to issue dictates to errant children, ultimatums to disobedient husbands or false sincerity to overbearing bosses. Definitely not that one. The voice I lost, or maybe never had at all, is that mellifluous fingerprint-like identification of that quality only the best writers can convey. It’s like a lineup or a taste test. If I had a slew of books, covers, bios and dedications ripped away, with only my eyes as the guideposts, I can tell you which writer wrote which book. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that voice, takes you by the lapels and yanks you into whatever or wherever it wishes you to go. That’s the voice I’m looking for.. and the one I still can’t find.
That’s not to say I don’t hear voices. Oh, believe me, I do. My voice hearing ability can rival all the faces of Eve. The problem is, as I struggle to find my voice, all the other ones drown it out. My voice finding process goes something like this:
10:30 pm. I’m at the computer, trying to find my voice, when I hear another one, “Mama, I want you to buy me these shoes when I get to be your age.. you know, when I’m 68.” How nice, I’ve aged over three decades in under a minute. The 4-year-old owner of that voice shows me a pair of 5-inch platforms I once bought for a Halloween party and shoved to the back of the closet. How did she ever find them? I assure her that of course, I will buy them for her, while silently mouthing over my dead body. She happily totters off to bed.. for the 14thtime that night. I close my eyes and try to feel the characters, whose emotions I’m trying to convey on a page. Is the message coming through? Do I even know what I want to get across? As I try to answer those questions, I hear another voice, “Aaaaaiiiiiiiwwwaaaaa… babababababababab… phluuuuuuuuu.” I look at the video monitor and see the 8-month-old trying to tear apart his bed. For the past few months, it appears he has been finding his voice too, although it sounds more like a mating call since all the neighborhood cats congregate under his window. He’s not crying so I still sit at my computer. Now I’m just trying to remember what I was even thinking about before. I look back at the monitor and see he’s trying to eat the blanket with his one shiny new tooth.
I’m on the Metro, paper and pencil in hand. I have 23 minutes to find my voice before I enter the “corporate world.” I close my eyes, in hopes of hearing it, that stupid, annoying, all important voice I’m trying to find. Instead, an unfamiliar voice blasts through the intercom: “The next stop is Dupont Circle. The train will be moving shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience, especially for the one car that has no air conditioning.” Now I don’t even remember what it was I was thinking about.
I’m in my office. The meeting is done, another brilliant use of my time (and everyone else’s). I open up my notebook and stare at whatever it was I wrote last. Suddenly, an inspiration strikes me, I begin to write. The words are a melody flowing from my head. A few sentences and I can barely keep up with my thoughts. I feel my blood pumping, I’m exhilarated.. and then I hear it.. “Um, I wanted to talk about the meeting. Do you have a few minutes?” I placate my boss and just as I sit down, a gaggle of co-workers come in and we commence discussions about.. you guessed it, the meeting.
And so it goes on, and on. Somewhere in the midst of bathroom breaks, I take a moment to think about my writing. What works (very little), what doesn’t (almost everything). I think about my favorite writers and try to reconstruct what quality their writing possesses that makes me want to beg for an introduction. And amidst it all, I hear the silent but deafening voices in my own head.
“C’mon fat ass, the Stairmaster won’t climb itself. I need to call my cousin. Did I remember to brush my hair? The presentation isn’t done yet. I need to write that dreaded synopsis. Am I happy? Where are my daughter’s ballet shoes? I have to buy my mom a card. You’re an illiterate foreigner, stop trying to pretend to be a writer.”
On the way back home, I sit in what seems like the same non air conditioned Metro car, thinking about how little I was able to accomplish. Most importantly, I still couldn’t find my voice. The thought is very depressing. Right now, finding my voice is all consuming.
I get back and home and the cycle starts all over. I hear the kids, “Mama, mama, mama… bllaaaaaa….aaaiiiii… wwwhhhhaaaaaa.” I hear my husband, “… and then we have to prune the tree. I went to Target and bought more formula. Let me tell you about my day at work…” I don’t tune out. I’ve learned to listen as the kids are getting fed, I’m cleaning up the kitchen and trying to herd the cattle for the bedtime/bathtime route. As he passes me in the hallway upstairs, he gives me a lopsided smile and I hear his voice in my ear, “Maybe after the kids are asleep…” his voice trails off and somehow, despite all the voices, my heart skips a beat.
All around me, it’s quieter now. And then I start to hear them. Not my voice, but the voice of the characters. They want to be let out. I walk up the darkened stairs and they are louder, more demanding. I make it to the landing and I can really hear them, juxtaposed against the silence of the house. There’s still an hour before midnight, if I write for just a bit, I can still get six hours of sleep, provided the kids don’t wake in the middle of the night. I stand in the darkened hallway, the voices are calling me to write. I look toward the bedroom and see a sliver of light underneath the door. I turn to look at the computer room and it is dark. I shift my head from side to side. The voices inside my head are now screaming, begging to let them out. I almost turn toward the computer room and then an image pops into my head. I see my husband as he walks into my hospital room, his eyes are red but dry. I’m still groggy from the anesthesia but he sits at my head and smoothes my hair. He rests his forehead on mine and I feel something wet hit my cheek. “I promise you,” he whispers, “this is the last baby we send up to the Heavens.” I snap back to our darkened hallway. The voices are still ringing in my ears. I take one last look toward the computer room and with wistful smile head toward the bedroom. If I do have a voice, it will still be there in the morning.