There’s a lot of things that get left unsaid. If there was a script of our lives, if every word got transcribed and we could re read as though it was a play, would we want to? Would we want to remember all the things we said or had said to us? The pointless, the hurtful, the words chosen badly, as well as those that filled us like happy petrol?
Sometimes as a writer things come out and you don’t realise until much later. I’ve been rehearsing my play Fran & Leni ahead of its London run next week. We haven’t performed it for a few weeks so we have to make sure the words are still up there, in our heads in the right order. Luckily they are. Saying the words again has made me realise how many little tendrils from my own life have found their way onto the page, into the mouths of people who don’t exist. They say you must write what you know if you want it to be authentic, so it’s a little weird when you think you have written something you thought was fictional but which you realise is actually a melting pot of a hundred true things you didn’t even know you were thinking about when you were typing.
Perhaps writing plays gives us the courage to say what we don’t say in real life.
The goodbyes. The I love yous. The hellos we’d like to say if only we got the time again. The anger. Our lives are full of things that almost happened or were never likely to happen. The things that could have been stick with us as closely as the things that have been, like ghosts. The old lovers, the near misses. The people we leave behind. The people we were too scared to love. The family who disappoint us, the family who inspire us and fix us and make everything brighter. The unkind people that we don’t admonish. The friends who by a few turns in the infrastructure of circumstance grow more distant until they are so far removed they only exist in memory. The people who will always be as part of your life as you yourself are. All the other beautiful fragile humans we have brief moments with, being real, our vulnerabilities temporarily grafted at the open points, sealing up our skins.
We seek to build a whole with other people’s incompleteness. Sometimes it works. We stick together. And sometimes the stitching comes apart and we drift. Sometimes we know to say goodbye. Sometimes we let it happen without words. Because for all our human ability to recognise that Love is the biggest thing to find, to let bloom, to conquer, to swirl around in like a magnificent skirt the size of the sky, sometimes we are just silly cowards.
Sometimes we get to go back and say the things we did not say at the time. Sometimes it is a kindness to yourself to say these things. Sometimes it is a kindness to them to let them say the things they’ve been storing up like acorns of regret.
Should we take the time to go back, or do we keep moving forward? What brings peace, and what stirs up questions and heartache? Does examining old pain smooth it over? Is it like returning to a messy bed, making it up, unfolding the creases, feeling the old fabric between your fingers, allowing the remembrance of that tactility to course through you again. The past can be returned to. We are all time travellers and every day triggers different temporal journeys through our imaginations. Smells, songs, a particular kind of light, a voice, a word. Words.
Sometimes writing a play is like waking up in an old messy bed and realising people have hopped in with you and are waiting for a story.