I’m Jean Valjean!
Yes. Really. That’s what comes into my mind when I see the question “Who am I?”
Here I am, remembering a song from a musical before thinking about myself. How weird is that?
But then music often triggers memories and those memories trigger emotions.
A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant
A fairground’s painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you.
And I think of Noël Coward’s words in Private Lives, that it’s “extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Music, cheap or not, can summon memories, colour them, even make us look at them in a different way. Just like poetry. Remember Wordsworth: poetry is “strong emotion recollected in tranquillity.”
… Oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Here we go again. Same old same old.
Oh, you again.
Oh yes, me again.
Come on then. What do you mean, “same old same old”?
That you’re doing what you always do. Avoiding.
Oo! And what am I avoiding, Mr Enigmatic?
Avoiding facing up to reality, Mr A-Quote-for-Every-Occasion. Just when you’re on the verge, when you’re oh so close to looking clearly at yourself, you veer off with a line from a poem or a song or a play. Or you go all intellectual.
You haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.
Of course I have. I’m you, aren’t I? We’re the same person. I’m just the part that tells the truth while you hide behind all that learning and literature and stuff.
Rubbish, is it? Right. I’ll prove it. You wrote a piece in that blog thing about how people project an image of themselves on Facebook. Right?
And that made you start to think about the image you project. Right?
And this… what you’re working on now, was going to be about who you are, who the real person behind the image is. Wasn’t it?
But that’s not how it ended up, is it? Because, as always, you started quoting songs and poems and plays and even literary criticism for fuck’s sake, and there’s nowt, nowt at all, about you in there. Is there? So what’s the matter? Are you scared?
Scared? What do you mean, scared? What could I possibly be scared of?
Having to abandon your intellectual smokescreen…
Oh, don’t be silly!
… and realising there’s actually nothing behind it, perhaps?
This is rubbish.
Is it now?
Of course it is. I just got a bit carried away, that’s all. An idea occurred that I found interesting and I just wanted to follow it, to see where it led. It’s like when you’re writing a play and you have to do a bit of research and that takes over because it goes off in an unexpected direction and…
I see. So you’re an undisciplined thinker, is that it?
No! That’s not… I mean, I can see why you might… But no…
Or is it that you’re scared of taking a good, hard, honest look at yourself because you might just realise something that you don’t like?
I honestly don’t understand why you should think that. I’m perfectly happy with myself. As for the poetry and the music, they’ve been such a part of my life for so long…
That you think they’re you when really they’re just stuff you know.
Then prove it. Do what you set out to do: write about you.
Or are you too scared?
Of course I’m not scared.
Then do it. And I shall look forward to it.