Friday, 3 October 2014

The constant and totally welcome voices.

After knowing someone for a while, you begin to take them on. Their habits, mannerisms, poses and ticks become definitions added to our open-ended dictionaries written by our over-active brains and fuelled by our fascination with friends who continuously surprise us, or addiction to acquaintances who offer something new and different to us every day, pulling us out from where we're sat stuck in our familiar frames.
Their face sharpens a little more in your memory each day, clarifies and takes on their character – in maybe a harmlessly exaggerated way. Their voice becomes comfortably ingrained in your mind. Their accent is a warm familiar area of the woods, and you find solace in the little quirks that escape their lips even in the most light-hearted fleeting conversations. Their inflections bring a smile to your face, they build and paint parts of the puzzle you're piecing together each time you see them.
You start reading their text messages, social media updates, pieces of work they may ask you to proof and spellcheck, all as an homage – in their voice, in your head.

I make myself laugh more than anyone else. When I say that, I mean it in both senses – I make myself laugh better than anyone else could make me laugh, and I give myself the giggles more than anyone else ever would.
However, when I'm deep in a pit of hysteria, so deep I can't even see the surface any more much less remember the joke that sent me there, I hear a little echo of my friends' laughter. One of my oldest and dearest friends has the most outrageous outburst of a laugh, a sudden spluttering high-pitched hoot often accompanied by tightly shut eyes, a full-body shake and a signature spin into a nearby wall for support. It's one of those laughs that makes you laugh all the more – and as a little bonus, an even funnier joke that attaches itself seamlessly to yours soon follows from his chuckling mouth. I do love that little character quirk, the infectious and memorable trait, in fact I love it so much that I hear it whenever I ought to.
Interestingly, I've found a few certain friends at uni who also have memorable titters and chortles, and very occasionally I'll hear their laughs mingle with the one consistent reminiscent reminder. The original laugh is tinged with a northern accent, as are two of the newer laughs. Another is very deep south. Interesting.

After seeing my beautiful idol Caitlin live – Caitlin who is blessed with hilarity in her heart, has creativity blooming and bursting from her ashy lungs and girl power streaming through her veins – I had devoured her clear voice and vague Wolverhampton accent as it rung out over the crowd in the charming little theatre that perhaps had never housed such a passionate little universe, and locked the tones away in my mind for those more overcast days. I finished reading How To Build A Girl afterwards and was delighted to discover that she was now actively narrating the novel for me – and not just the passage she'd read aloud onstage about Big Cock Al from Brighton.
It was as I read '...the deepest irony about the young being cynical is that they are the ones that need to move, and dance, and trust the most. They need to cartwheel through a freshly burst galaxy of still-forming but glowing ideas, never scared to say 'Yes! Why not!' - or their generation's culture will be nothing but the blandest, and most aggressive, or most-defended of old tropes', and 'I can see the operating system of the world – and it is unrequited love. Every book, opera house, moon shot and manifesto is here because someone, somewhere, lit up silent when someone else came into the room, and then quietly burned when they didn't notice them' and then 'I have had more fucks than you've had hot dinners', that I realised I wanted her to read everything for me. Before long I was a couple hundred pages into a Charlotte Roche, an Alice Sebold and even an Andrew Kaufman; I was picking up newspapers off the tables at work, catching the headlines; I skimmed Vulture articles or mindless Buzzfeed trumpery – and I was hearing the deeply satisfying all-knowing voice that always seemed right on the cusp of a ridiculously accurate declaration followed by a victorious cackle. There's also the phrases she taught me – 'YES-thefuck', and 'NO-thefuck', perfect for some situations when I can't express how fantastically cocksure or supremely wank I am feeling.
The funniest part of this shameless inherent fangirling is that at the gig, Caitlin did mention how one can have someone else's voice ingrained in their subconscious for as long as they need it, and they could even become that person whenever they feel that it would help – she had Courtney Love, and now the world has her. I can only dream that one day I'll be locked in a hotel room with her, talking about life and fashionably chain-smoking, demanding room service go out and buy us more packets from the corner shop. Someday.

Revisiting my never-ending hashtag trend #postop for a second here, advance warning – sometimes when I get a flash of pain down the side of my head or just feel a little too low for my liking, I make myself hear the uncanny accent (unconfirmed: Romanian) of my ingenious neurosurgeon as he says 'I am dee-LIGHT-eddd!' or 'Fan-TASSS-tickk!'; I do see the trained eyes, the nod, I do feel the impassioned shoulder claps and the tender two-handed handshakes, but above all I hear the calm and steady voice telling me I'm fine. Usually the disembodied voice of my support nurse chimes in with an unexpected ringtone, a light laugh and tinny words of encouragement, too, as I tell her she's called me at the perfect time.

When something unfortunate unexpectedly occurs, and it's not necessarily completely my fault – for instance, falling down the stairs or tripping over the cat, finding one annoying typo in a lengthy piece of work or forgetting to switch on the dishwasher at work – I am reminded of a friend at uni who'd always mutter 'nice job Gracie' with a patronising smirk whenever something like that happened to me over the past year, making me feel useless, thoughtless and clumsy in one fell swoop. That isn't as nice and welcome as the other people living in words or sounds – however, I'm reckoning that since a few of my other ex-friends' and ex-somethingmores' nonsensical garbage expressions have faded from my mind recently, this one won't be lingering much longer. There is the occasional involuntary 'la vie' spoken in the deepest drawl that springs out of the darkness when I hear anyone utter 'c'est la vie'; sometimes a gutsy pretentious 'mmm' between bluesy guitar chords comes from nowhere and I automatically roll my eyes, but for the most part, the unwelcome are eternally expelled.

I do hear other people's voices in my head. Even if it's just the tiniest little jogs to the memory – like whenever someone utters the word 'five' I inexplicably hear my Year Three teacher yelling 'FIVE?!' incredulously when I tell her I'm only up to number five on the spelling test, followed by 'c'mon Grace, you're an AERO!' (My Year Three class was divided into groups fundamentally based on their abilities to recite times tables and string sentences together, and their group names were animals for Numeracy, sweeties for Literacy, the names corresponding with descending letters in the alphabet. Basically, the Antelopes had sparkly high-speed science calculators for brains, and the Aeros were the bee's knees at crossing their T's, therefore should be on top form when it came to assessed spelling.)
I hear my mum's accent on words that she'd say differently; vitamin, dance, project, hessian.
Recently I've been occasionally hearing the most exasperated 'fuck' said in a husky Irish accent, ever since I discovered Once, the musical and more importantly the gorgeous Guy, David Hunter.
I hear vibrant, positively sensual, tones of encouragement and words of inspiration which would usually be accompanied by the most explicitly beautiful gestures, by my ECP tutor; her words 'I think someone should die', spun around my skull for weeks after that fateful meeting when I decided the destiny of my favourite character in the story.
I hear my Grandad saying my favourite three words when I catch sight of them inked permanently on my wrist. I hear the fella's funny reiteration of 'you got disss', when I'm not sure I've got it at all. I hear my high school Drama teacher saying 'Go get 'em, tigers!', and my college Drama teacher saying 'Just go for it', and the cheesiness can really work.

The compilation of voices is endless. Wise, hilarious, encouraging, painful – they are all of the above. Blink may not have intended their lyrics to be applied to one British girl's life so literally, but there you go. I have voices inside my head, and they are you, you and you.

I'm sure I can't be the only one who has this happen; I can't be the only human to associate certain things with certain people, to hoard and hone until I've absorbed, to keep sworn secret the most unlikely memories and revel in happier times as they sit hot in my ears. It's a comforting phenomenon and I'm convinced it will keep me safe and warm when things are looking bleakest. I'll be sitting on the last train home one night and trying to remember why I'm here, why those things happened and what I could have done differently – and I'll tune into my memory bank. That oughtta do it. That, and some cheap cooking Scotch. 

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