Witness To Witless

Written November 2011

I’m much better on page than in person. I hate phone calls. I hate meetings. I love emails, tweets and texts. I don’t love letters, because writing anything by hand makes these digital digits feel like they’ve spent an entire victory parade attached to the wrist of Queen Elizabeth II. Handwriting hurts. Still doesn’t hurt as much as jamming my foot in my mouth, which I’m obliged to do any time I open the bloody thing.

I spent the weekend in the home-away-from-home, Cork (as opposed to my home-away-with-the-fairies, Galway), during which I made many jaw-pas. I really can’t help myself. I’m a writer, not a talker. I have the verbal dexterity of a ham sandwich. People imagine that I’m biting and funny and sharp as a splintered toothpick, until they meet me and I’m all fumbling and giggly, like Hugh Grant getting felt up by an octopus. See? I’d never have thought of that in real life. I’d have said, ‘I’m all fumbling and giggly like . . . you know some sort of thing that giggles a lot, with some fumbling as well for good measure. Something like that? Here, let me show you.’ Whereupon I would inadvertently clatter them with my knuckles and have to be dragged away, wailing, ‘But a kiss with a fist is better than none!’ I’m shit in real life, is what I’m saying. I’m Bella Swan crossed with a footstool.

During one of my first ever interviews, I was so uncomfortable and so not-at-all like the person I am on the page that I immediately forgot the very first question that was asked of me, and so I hummed and hawed as if I was thinking really hard of the answer, even though I was just desperately trying to remember the question, and in so doing gave the solemn audience the most awkward silence of the entire literary festival. This would never happen to Julian Gough.

Anyway, the weekend. I stayed with Louise, whose house is generally full of hipsters and gay people and gay hipsters, if you’re really lucky. We got bored and drank three bottles of Sauvignon Blanc on Friday, and ended up listening to lots of nineties Eurodance. Naturally, we thought this was fun and ironic of us, until one Amy, a slip of a thing at twenty-two years old, described us as being stuck in ‘a lot of shite music from the eighties or something’.

I responded with typical peeling wit by bawling ‘Shut up, Amy! You’re like, twelve or something.’

Should have written her a scathing limerick. That’d teach her for being so unintentionally cruel.

I take solace in the company of other writers, even when they don’t suffer from the same verbal inadequacies that render this one fucking useless in any live scenario. Other writers understand. Understanding is what writers do best, because they’re always pulling the world apart, thread by thread, and then weaving it all back together, but this time augmented in glorious Technicolor. In fact, that’s why you should distrust the absolute fuck out of a writer, especially if they’re looking all attentive and sympathetic.

‘Cheek of yer wan Amy with her youthful vigour,’ I said to Kevin, who is also a writer. ‘I’m going to call her . . . I’m going to call her If You Seek Amy. Haha. That’s fucking mad witty.’

‘I don’t get it. If you what Amy?’

‘If you seek Amy. Like the Britney Spears song.’

‘What? Why’s Britney seeking Amy?’

‘No, like, F. U. C. K. Me. Get it? If you seek is like F.U.C. You know?’

‘Britney wants to fuck someone called Amy?’

‘No. Like, Me. Not Amy. K. Me. F. U. C. K. Me.’

‘F. U. C.K. Amy?’

‘No! Jesus! Listen, it’s If. You. Seek—’

‘I don’t believe that’s a Britney Spears song.’

‘Well it is. It fucking is. Look, I’ll google it.’

See, if there’s one thing that tells you a witticism has died on its arse, it’s when you have to explain yourself at length afterwards, more so if you’re in a crowded beer garden and keep yowling ‘F.U.C.K. Me!’ in the same person’s face. It makes you look like a stalker too offended by her own trajectory to retire a hint that’s just not working. I should have just called the scamp Amy, ‘Lame-y’ and called it a day. That wasn’t witty either, but at least it made some sort of sense.

Yeah, I should probably just bring a portable whiteboard with me whenever I mingle with social butterflies, so I can retort through my fingertips, exactly as I’m supposed to.

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