Let’s write something

Let’s call it, The Piece I Wrote on Sunday night, 14 December 2003 at … or, Monday morning, 15 December 2003 at 02:03. What would this still unwritten piece be about? Will it be about when I will return to the country of my birth? Will it be about my criticism of the world, post-industrial revolution? Will it deal with my plan, only written in pencil, of course, to go to Mainland China next September? Will it be about how I miss my parents in Middelburg and my younger sister in Bronkhorstspruit and my older sister in London? Perhaps this piece I have not yet written will be about the meaning of life, or about the question of what a human being really is. Maybe it will be about the purpose of my own life, or perhaps whether or not I will ever get married and produce children. Will it deal with Creative Nature, or Creative Process? Will it be about the fauna and flora of Taiwan, or maybe about the trip that I will make to the nearest Seven Eleven in about eight hours to buy milk and a newspaper … or maybe even about all these matters? Will I use paragraphs in this piece? Am I going to click on “Tools”, then “Language”, then “Set Language” and then (no proofing) so that the red squiggly lines under the Afrikaans words that Microsoft Word is trying to interpret as English, can disappear? Will I scratch the side of my nose, or will I go smoke a cigarette in the living room? It is now 02:15. I have so far spent twelve minutes on this piece. The reason why there are only … {“Tools”, “Word Count”} 285 words, is because I usually only use two fingers to type, despite the fact that I spend hours behind the computer every day typing. From the bathroom I hear water dripping into an old bucket I placed under the cistern. The fan in my computer is making a noise. My left knee is pressing against the edge of the mahogany table. It is now 02:18, and I think I heard a vehicle outside. I think I just saw a mosquito. Except for the computer fan and the water dripping into the bucket, and the promise of a vehicle in the distance, there are no other sounds in this neighbourhood at the moment. Except of course also for the sound I am making on the keyboard as I type these words. On the table stands the Toshiba laptop, with a green cloth covering its screen, and a matching cloth covering the built-in keyboard (which doesn’t work anymore). Then there is the USB 2.0 Hub to which my new mouse, my printer and my 20 gigabyte portable hard drive are connected. Also on the table is the Monix monitor that still dates from my first computer purchase, a long, long time ago in 1999. Right in front of the monitor stands a 3M anti-glare filter that makes the screen a little darker, almost like a pair of sunglasses. Because the brackets of the filter broke off, already in 2000, it is held up by five old Chinese books packed on top of each other. Next to the monitor is a coffee or tea mug with Chinese calligraphy painted on. Inside the mug is a collection of pens and pencils. Most of the pens have no ink, and the pencils are blunt. There is also a hand fan in the mug, which I would have used to cool off my face if it were a hot night. Other items on the wooden table include my Citizen calculator (to calculate the words I have written over the past five years, as well as the money I should have saved), a large eraser, a green fluorescent pen, a black pen left by a friend in my apartment, my new blue mouse, a ball of putty-like adhesive, and a paper coaster on which I never place any beverages. Finally, there’s the mouse pad with a piece of white paper on which I use with the new mouse. I have on a pair of white Nike socks which I think was actually designed for gymnasts (or for people who do yoga), a pair of khaki shorts, a white T-shirt that advertises cheap whiskey, and a black sweatshirt, because it is indeed quite chilly in the evenings nowadays. My throat is slightly dry. My tea is finished. It is now 02:36 and I’ve already typed … 757 words.

I’m back. The first cigarette I lit broke off at the filter, so I had to light another one. While I was standing there I thought, “The Personal Agenda of Brand Smit” should actually be one book, not two as I have recently considered the case should be. Then I thought, no, it should be two books, but in a single volume: Book One and Book Two. (I forgot to mention that I am also wearing my blue beanie, not so much because it is so cold but because I think better when my head is warm.) Yes, two books in one. It should be a hefty book, a few hundred pages long. It should be thick enough so that you can use it to prop up a bracket-less anti-glare filter at the perfect height in front of a computer screen. It should also be heavy enough to use as a weapon on uninvited guests. It should, therefore, also be heavy enough to serve as a book stand, to support other books. (It’s much cooler now, or maybe it’s just my imagination. My knee is again pressing against the edge of the table, the fan is cooling down the computer again, the water is still dripping into the bucket, and I can still not make out whether there’s a car in the distance, or if it’s merely the computer’s fan making a car-like sound.) It is now one minute to three, on Monday morning, 15 December 2003. Next Thursday is Christmas. I have a tree, but it’s still in the spare room. I have already received three Christmas cards. Both of my sisters said they would send me cards, but I’m not optimistic that the people at the post office will understand what the romanized Chinese words mean that I spelled out to my sisters as my current address. They both may therefore receive their own Christmas cards back; which means they will have cards to display on their dining room tables which they did not mail to themselves, and for which I will partly be responsible. This year is almost over. This year is actually separated from next year by a mere millisecond, although I do already have a new calendar hanging behind the front door that will make it seem as if it is indeed a different year. (It is definitely a motorcar, even though the computer fan is also making a noise again.) I would have liked to ask a question in this piece, like what purpose does the life of the woman who works at the local supermarket serve, but I am getting tired of questions I cannot answer. Even to say that makes me tired, or depressed. I’d rather be tired than depressed because then I can always go to bed and wake up tomorrow morning and not be tired anymore. If, however, you’re depressed … I hope I can sell one of my projects before the end of the year. I will then surely return to the Republic of South Africa early next year. I was born in the Republic of South Africa. I understand two of the languages that are spoken in the Republic of South Africa. One can buy pecan nut pie at the Spar in the Republic of South Africa. You can also buy Afrikaans newspapers there. You do need a car, though, if you want to go from Middelburg to Bronkhorstspruit, or vice versa. You also need a car for other reasons. If a man is 32 years old and he doesn’t have a car, it wouldn’t make a difference that he has lived in Northeast Asia for seven years, nor would it matter that he can speak broken Chinese, or even that he has written a two-in-one book that can prop up a bracket-less anti-glare filter at just the right height against a computer monitor. All that will matter is that he does not have a car – which means he’s not much better than a tramp. It is now 03:15. My knee hurts, and I’m cold. In all honesty, I can continue working on this piece until it’s time to go to the Seven Eleven to buy milk and the morning edition. To write is a wonderful experience. It’s certainly better than watching TV. This kind of writing is also useful if you later forget that you had existed, and had been aware of your surroundings on Monday, 15 December 2003 between 02:03 and 03:19 in the morning. However, I must go to bed now; otherwise I might just get depressed. And if I get depressed, this piece will most certainly lose its spark. So I solemnly say “Good night” – and I promise I will write again, tomorrow. I can say this with complete confidence, though: I am glad I’m a writer, and not an accountant or a dentist. I’m also glad it’s winter and not summer. Finally, I am glad I’m not Saddam Hussein, who may be ordered to shave off his beard.