Monday, August 18, 2003

Losing one by one my keys, and other people’s voices

A weird thought struck me yesterday, as nice-guy and dream-buyer Steve handed over a bank cheque for my car, and that is that – as I wind down my life in Melbourne – my key ring is getting smaller.

(Well, it has fewer keys.)

True, I took the spare keys to my parents’ place in Canberra off it months ago and set them aside, trying to trim it down from something that looked like a shuriken or mace down to a practical implement. So on Sunday, I still had four keys: house, car, office door, luggage. Now I’ve three. By the time I leave Melbourne I will no longer need any of those, provided I get around to replacing my flimsy luggage padlocks.

In some cultures, apparently, keys are a symbol of status as they represent property. Maybe I am finally succeeding in divesting myself of possessions. It certainly feels as if I am relinquishing this city by degrees.

A different loss-phenomenon is, I reflected yesterday, meeting a fellow-blogger for the first time, especially after reading their blog for an extended period.

What I lose on such a meeting (or, in one case, a phone call) is the way I imagined the blogger’s voice sounding. Reading a blog is not just about content. As a very personal, conversational medium, it is an exercise in imagining the author – one gleans things, snippets about a person, assembles them in a certain way and assigns a blog a tone, a voice. Naturally, the person one meets is different.

Sometimes conversation flows readily, sometimes it takes a little more work, but for me there is often the sense of losing the imagined person, the imagined voice.

This is not a saddening loss, like the loss of my keys it is in some ways more of an unburdening – real people are inevitably more interesting. Besides, re-assimilating the gleaned pieces of a writer-as-character in the light of meeting them as writer-in-person also an imaginative exercise. (And probably as creatively flawed as the first imagining.)

Just once or twice, though, there’s been a period when I can still here both voices, the one I assigned someone’s blog, and the “physical” voice I heard on meeting them. Intriguing.

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