I am wandering about my house today, feeling lost, as though a part of me has been cut off. Today I have decided to keep away from my computer. It has no good news from me anyway. I never thought I would get this way. My daughter told me yesterday night that she didn’t like me like this- always at the keyboard, not listening to her when she was talking, looking as though I wanted to go back quickly to what I was reading or writing on the computer and not really getting what she was saying. Today is Sunday and so I decided to take a break and clear up my head. God knows I really need it. From applying to jobs , to learning to write , to looking at books to read and wishing I could afford to buy them to read, it has been a hectic time. My adventures with writing started when I was asked to review an article for a research administrators journal about 3 weeks back. I had received the external motivation that experts talk about. Now all I needed was to get motivated from the inside. During my drives through the computer, I came upon a writing prompt that needed us to rewrite some of what we wrote in the style of two of our favorite authors’.So here I am.
A tale of two cities by Charles Dickens
“A petition. A petition, mamma,” said my little girl to me last night.
“ What is it, ma chére ? What are you petitioning about ?”, trying to hide a smile behind my serious demeanor.
“For the love of God, mamma,’ said she, “ Can’t you stop looking at the computer for a while, even a whole day ?”
“ Ma pauvre ! What is it that you have against my writing and studying ?”, said I, my eyes flicking back and forth from the screen to her innocent face.
“ Alas mama, I wish I had you with me again”,
Her manner was thoughtful though and she touched my face, tenderly caressing me with her fingers. She looked like she had a thousand words to say to me but she wanted to say just a few.
“Mama, hear me,’ she continued, “ Listen to my petition. Many have lost the power to see and hear, because they have not rested adequately while using the computer”.
“ Can I do anything for them? Can I restore their eyesight to them?” I said, a wee bit irritated by now.
“No mamma. My petition is that when I talk to you, you listen to me. Otherwise, you will join one of the millions who have lost everything, their eyesight, their hearing and even their loved ones to this malady, this scourge of the times. There are so many, and they increase so fast, there is so much want, the feeling to be heard. But people like you don’t listen, ” She said.
I put my thoughts away from me and the screen flickered off, while I switched it into sleep gear. I turned to my daughter to talk to her and help her with her homework.
Today is Sunday. The computer has long been shut. I was left far behind, behind the rat race that was finding jobs, finding money, finding something to hang on to, while the postilions of life moved forward towards my destiny. The sweet smell of my daughter’s hair whiffed up to my nose, as I cuddled her and hugged her, as we lay together, savoring the moment, rapidly diminishing the distance that my obsession with the computer had caused between my daughter and me.
4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
A few minutes after dinner was eaten, we retired to my study; me, to continue scouring the job boards and Elie to her books. I sat at my chair, awakened my computer from its sleeping mode and typed away at my keyboard. I could feel the penetration of Elie’s eyes on my face some time later. She had stopped reading. She was looking at me.
“ Mama, I want to talk to you”.
“Yes, sweetheart. What is it ? Is it a doubt ?
“Yes, mama. What is it that you are doing at the computer all day long ?”
When she wanted, Elie could talk in a voice that radiated authority. For a moment, I felt like a naughty schoolgirl, trying to cover up my sins. Presently her voice came to me again.
“ Mama, she said in a gentle serious voice, “ I think you really need to pay attention, you know”.
“What do you mean ?’, I said, anticipating the next comment as I spoke.
“ Mama, I don’t like it when you spend all your time at the computer. It is not good for your health, you know. And anyway, what are you looking at all day ?
“ Dearest, you know, I am trying to write; to learn how to write, to learn from the masters, you know.”
“Mama, I like the old you. The one who used to take time to talk to me, to take me to the malls, to tell me how I looked, who enjoyed my dances and my prattling. The new you is like a robot.”
Suddenly I realized what my three weeks of writing had effected in my daughter. She had wanted to be heard, she wanted me to look at her when she was dancing. The anxious look on her face was really heart wrenching.
“Nonsense.’ I said, ‘ I am always there for you. You can talk straight to me. The computer can wait.”
I followed my daughter out of the room. She carried the cat on her shoulder. I shut the computer. My writer’s life was over. I was a mama again.