The Windup Conversationalist
Writing by Dan Percival. Illustration from Unsplash.
Five days: one hundred and twenty hours, seven thousand two hundred minutes, four hundred and thirty-two thousand seconds. Five days without word texture, thick, manipulating the tongue - flapless muscle of a feckless mind. Five days void of speaking-to-your-face talking, of staring at the walls carving humanness from the kitsch wallpaper your friend, now unfriend, convinced, now unconvinced, you to assault the ramparts with. Five days sodden with the triteness of Netflix-abled plotwork where nothing polylogues, hollow insignificants, are taken, unpretentiously, to emit some profundity (as if x’s ruminations about y’s summer-sex-drugs-university-fucktheparents-Americanisms are tantamount to cosmogony, cosmology). Five days, five days, something about five days that proffers, offers, me the sense that my voice box may collapse shortly; something about it just jumping from the sinking ship that is I, diving, headfirst, into some still blood-wet infant who therein would be lauded as ‘such a quick little learner, I wish my son had their talent’.
Larynx don’t leave me. Larynx I can change. Larynx I just need a little time, a little time to pluck the abstractions, those televised abstractions, words in the black squares, pluck the abstractions and make them tangible, workable… personable, personal. Pinch a pattern of sounds and make them conversational, monologueable, audible; words in the mind live in a voice without sound, I need to make sound again. I tried ordering stuffs, I’m-no-skinflint stuffs, just for the chance to practice a ‘hello’ and ‘thankyou’ with the postwoman (her partner works abroad, she never calls the postwoman so the postwoman is lonely, harangued with I’m-not-homophobic homophobia and lonely) but she gets worried about stares and I have forgotten social protocols - don’t stare at people’s faces protocols - so now she leaves the parcels at the gate. Gated from me. Gateless, open, my body is open to communication, chats and the in-betweens, in a way my vocals don’t reflect and so now, always but more so now, I’m incapacitated not by slips of the tongue, parapraxis offensive or otherwise, but by lethologica - a sweet nostalgic suffering.
Practice! Practice! Talking practice, rehearsal of the big and small talk, is necessary, crucial to the delaying of social death, the decaying of relatability, an existence held incommunicado. I need an interlocutor, postwoman is out, a not-televised touchable that can react, even parrot, my tortuous attempts to regain - gain according to my mother - the minutiae of verbal decorum. I need the windup conversationalist. The W.C, I should explain, backdrop required, is an artefact from my childhood which until this moment I had completely bleached the staining memory of. Exhumed in a dilapidated anything-and-everything emporium called Susan’s stuffs - confusing given the creator, owner, and manager was Stanley Fasciae: not married, no siblings, no friends, orphaned Stanley Fasciae - this mechanical androgyne found my attention, slouched limp, self-unaware. Its shine, or lack thereof, lent an impression of ancientness that unmirrored imaginaries of chromed android incandescence; it was a robot of yesteryear, an outdated innovation, a now-not-genius. I scrabbled for my mother’s attention, an iota of care mustered, voicing enquiry into the what-why-how of the forgotten thing - “oh…”, surprised by my making sound more than anything, “that’s an old, maybe really old, automaton, you (not the ‘you’ of me as it turned out, a holistic, instructional ‘you’) put a kind of vinyl disc in its chest and pull a chord (not windup then?)… only a couple of canned sayings. Pain if you ask me, deconstruction every time you want a new disc… slow way for a kid to grow socially, I’m glad you’re not that inept! Only the shyest little younglings need a tin box to learn how to speak”.
What about relearning? That unpurchased (mother-as-miser trumps concerned ashamed parent) verbaliser would be, their existence withstanding, a great bulwark in the aforementioned voice-box-jumps-ship debacle that characterises the now. I would gently rip its chest open, a polite partitioning, study the disks - responses at the ready - reply, throwing in blandiloquence in a fit of confidence, stack the used, buy the new until, and how exciting, my humanspeak has naturalised. I can already feel the wateriness of my personability coagulating, thickening into the drinkable soup of ‘person I’d like to know’, ageing like a fine cheese, stinking: deliciously, addictively stinking. “Babbling bottomless bigmouth” - this would be my new nickname, a poking fun to show endearment sort of moniker, the “when did they (the they being me, a better me) become a charming nuisance” kind of title, the fixed social position of ultraconversationalist safe, soft and safe, behind the castle of impressive public performance. I need that metal.