My keyboard chirps at me. It does NOT ‘cheep cheep’ endearingly like a goldfinch. If I bang very hard on my oak desk, defiant ‘twerk’ noises spit at me. I want to tomahawk my keyboard with a meat-cleaver.
It may annoy my musical sensibilities because the chirp comes too late, not in tempo with my key-strokes or on the off-beat like peck-horns answering a tuba during a polka. A tiny disk-jockey with bad rhythm is rubbing his scratch-plates a quarter-count behind the beat, somewhere between the mid-nineties and the jungle of circuits in my laptop. I wondered what it would be like to use a typewriter, to feel the levers beneath the keys delivering the force of my reflections. My words would literally have impact, the pace of my ideas would become the cadence of my practice.
Then I hit the back-space key and rephrased; I moved a sentence up and corrected a misspelling. The creaking idiosyncrasies of those protruding letters were crickets from hell, to writers typing their way out of purgatory decades ago. Each manual carriage return must have felt like cocking an antiquated rifle. Twick twick twick twick twick BANG: ka-chink. Twick twick twick twick twick BANG:
Twerk. Wicky-wicky-wicka-TWERK. Check my e-mail. I’m procrastinating.
Even when I do my homework I am procrastinating. Ever since I decided to start a Masters’ Degree in International Education and Training here in Washington DC instead of a Masters’ of Fine Arts in Poetics in Washington State I have been procrastinating an important project: my career as an author. This is not to say that I do not procrastinate my ITEP work too. Naturally, I do. Five or six weeks ago, maybe more, I pinned an article to my bookmarks tool-bar. I read it yesterday (“Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination”). These words in particular continue to chirp in my ear…
“The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” says Ferrari. “It’s a maladaptive lifestyle.”
People do not judge me when I procrastinate, we judge my behavior. We laugh about it. To know that I was a bad writer would destroy my entire sense of self. Day after day passed, four years ago in Grand Rapids, and the words would not come. Regardless of why, I never wrote a book. The prospect of being a ‘bad’ missionary, even of dying in on a great adventure, seemed far less dire. Dying for something suited me more than living as nothing. For better or worse, when I got to Palestine Zoughbi convinced me that my living would accomplish more. He was right, as as he often is. However, the gamble that I took in 2011 did not pay as I had planned; I have checked all my levers and the words do not pour like a flood of quarters onto the casino floor. There is more to write about but no jackpot, just the same fear: if I start writing, it will be a long time before someone appreciates it — especially if that someone is ME.
But excellence is a lie. As Jane Vella said, and my training design instructors were fond of quoting, “the excellent is the enemy of the good”. There is no escape from the chirp of the keyboard, from the crickets of hell and the clunk of imperfect tools, except to turn them into punching bags. Around the time I confessed to Zoughbi that I wanted to stand in front of a bulldozer, I started using the boys’ punching bag. It hung from a sturdy green railing above the irregular limestone court next to the chicken-alcove — a little cave where the Zoughbis kept five hens. I was pissed about many things. The point is not that it felt good to be mad so much as that it felt right to feel the anger fully in the “thwack” of knuckles hitting canvas. I am trying to get the chirp to work like that, pretending that I can feel my knuckles splitting against the side of that bag each time my computer makes an unsettling noise…
—I can almost hear the chickens clucking, irregularly—
…it’s more of a ‘cluck’ than a ‘chirp’, anyway…