On Saturday night I attended a house party in Kew. I knew one person there, but the rest were affable and interesting, a collective of liberal thinking doctors and professionals, sociologists and scientists, entrepreneurs and engineers, and even a chef.
Every conversation I had was interesting. We discussed food and cooking, literature and music, and after a brief cross-over into politics the conversation moved onto late night party staples like sex and culture and the differences between men and women. I left at about 2am having had a fine time.
There were a number of people I’d happily meet again, and one woman – had the stars aligned differently – I might have chased up afterwards. Unfortunately for me she had just re-united with her boyfriend from Sydney. He wasn’t there, and in his absence we had a thoughtful and considered conversation. She reached out for me, her hand resting on my forearm. I wondered what was on her mind as she watched and asked me questions, the tenor of our discourse intelligent and sensitive. But then I left, never to see her again, just another might have been.
That was the night in a nutshell, though it was much more eventful than that live. On the superficial level it was great to get out socialising again, and to have some intelligent conversation. I like meeting new people, and discovering the perspective they share.
In the days since something has worried at me, something really so small that it may in fact be non-existent. Yet last night I lay in bed pondering it. It was so clear in my head last night as I reasoned it out. It seems often the case with those post-midnight meanderings, but it’s mostly a false positive. What makes sense in the dark in the daylight seems tenuous – but though it’s less clear to me today I think it’s real.
Given my circumstances it’s no great surprise that there might have been a hint of yearning in my behaviour on Saturday. I get out rarely these days, and the opportunities to rub shoulders with literate and intelligent adults are few and far between. Then there’s me. Once upon a time I’d have bowled up to a party like that in full command of my identity. There was no reason to doubt. True or otherwise, I acted like the finished product. That’s different now because I’m not that man anymore.
I have little certainty in my life, and the bare facts of my domestic life give me little cause for either confidence or joy. There’s no wonder I’m tentative now, when once I was bullish and decisive.
There were many conversations last Saturday that touched upon that, and each time I had to respond. What am I? What do I do? I don’t really know myself, but what I do know doesn’t fill me with pride. So I obfuscate, talking around the question or turning it into a joke.
Into the gaping void I offered instead the fact that I’m writing a book. That seemed to fascinate everyone, but in the cold light of day I feel a kind of shame very typical of me. It’s not that what I told them was untrue, but because it feels like an excuse. Yes, ok, I’m a deadset bum, but guess what? At least I’m writing a novel! It feels a bit puny.
I don’t know what I could practically have done differently, except perhaps to admit to the depth of my plight – but that’s a conversation no-one wants (least of all me). I could have kept mum about the book, but it’s a legitimate conversational gambit. What I don’t like is how I proffered it as a justification of myself. Once upon a time I never needed justification.
It infects my outlook in general, and once more it’s understandable – but because it’s unfamiliar it troubles me. I still speak well and still cut a fine figure and all that I’m sure. I probably came across as an urbane and intelligent man. Throughout the night I engaged in convivial discussion. All good.
What is not so good, and to me alone, is the difference now to what was before. Even with every reasonable excuse for it I feel uncomfortable with what has changed.
I feel I no longer have the edge or attitude that I did before. I suspect it makes me slightly less interesting at a superficial level (but perhaps more interesting on a deeper level). I’m not as forceful as I was, nor as provocative. I probably appear more vulnerable – no bad thing necessarily as I’ve long needed to, and perfectly understandable as well. But…
For most of the night my mate and I moved in different circles. The few times we came together he would take the time to speak on my behalf. It was a kind and gracious gesture, but a little uncomfortable. “H is actually…” he would begin. “H doesn’t know how talented he is…” and then he would go on and regale the crowd with a list of my accomplishments. I would stand there with a dumb smile on my face, jiggling uncertainly. At one stage I turned to the woman next to me and muttered “What no-one knows is that he’s actually my PR manager.”
My friend did it for the right reasons, but it felt as if I needed the boost. Once more that didn’t sit well. This is an awful lot of navel gazing about something that probably doesn’t really amount to much. It’s how I think though. There’s a reason I think this way. If I didn’t look about and within me assessing and analysing then I wouldn’t be the writer I hope to be. Everyone changes, and I’m changing too. Could be it’s for the best.