Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talkin to myself

Y'know that Carpenters song? Rainy days and Mondays?

Well, I've been thinking about it today, and not because I feel down but because I wonder how soon I can expect to start scaring people in public by talking to myself.

I took Ivan to Starbucks yesterday morning for milk and a (ridiculously expensive) donut (that was dry and of which he only the edges) since we had time to kill before I had to get him to preschool. We sat in a couple of chairs by the window and chatted about his siblings, how he slept the night before, and what he wanted to name the stuffed dog he was taking to Show and Tell. We settled on Barkley since his favorite book right now is a Sesame Street collection. Trust me on this: Ivan is a fabulous conversationalist. He doesn't just talk about himself: he asks questions about your day, about what your favorite number is, about who your favorite couple is on Dancing with the Stars. (He favors Brooke and Derek, by the way.)

And it's a good thing he's such a good conversationalist because he's the person I exchange the most words with in the course of any given day.

Lately--since moving into a new neighborhood where it feels like everyone's been here forever and that they therefore don't need anyone else on their buddy list--I'm starting to worry about becoming the person in the corner of Starbucks who can carry on a perfectly fascinating dialogue by herself. As Ivan and I sat there yesterday, an older man (though not much older, so my time may come sooner than I expect) was eating his breakfast alone while staring out the window. He finished and then stayed seated and decided to have a little chat with himself. I couldn't understand a word he said, although he was speaking plenty loudly enough for me to hear him. I looked for the little earpiece that would assure me he was just on the phone, but nope: no earpiece. My older brother would have gotten up and gone to sit with the man just to see what he was talking about, but I'm not nearly so brave. I wasn't worried about my safety or anything . . . just my future.

As I headed up to the preschool to pick Ivan up this afternoon, I was walking quickly, my hands shoved in my pockets while I worked out a plot knot I've reached in one of my stories. Often when I reach these knots, I talk it out with Ron as my sounding board. He doesn't necessarily offer any suggestions, but just being able to say aloud what's going on helps me unravel it a bit. I didn't start talking to myself on the way to school, but I was tempted.

And when I'm thinking about a storyline, I tend to be a lot quieter than usual. So by the time I got up to the school, I wasn't in the mood to try to make conversation with the myriad of mothers there--none of whom I know yet by name. I was afraid I'd lose the ideas I'd just come up with. Opening my mouth might make them fall out of my head and then I'd have to start all over again.

So I wondered, do these women think I'm shy? Unfriendly? In my old (and much beloved) neighborhood in Pittsburgh, there were days I thought, "Do I have to go outside today and make friendly chatter with people? Am I allowed a day off?" But now that most of my days are days off, I worry (that word again) I'm going to get a little too used to this. I worry I'll have more days of absolute silence as I'm waiting for Ivan to come out of his classroom. I worry I'll start to become curmudgeonly before I hit 50 and that I'll limit all of my conversations to those with my children and occasionally my husband. I worry I'll be sitting in Starbucks 10 years from now, working out those plot knots aloud because I've stopped noticing there are other people around who might not think that's normal.

1 comment:

Val said...

This reminds me of the lecture by Joyce Carol Oates (my new favorite author) that I heard last summer. She talked about how she uses her time running to work out her stories in her head. Then she said something about how she just couldn't understand people who go running together and talk to each other. "It's so unfortunate!" she said, almost shuddering with distaste. So you're not alone, Bobbie! Your anti-social tendencies are up there with the best of them.