covid confessions commission
I was commissioned by Toronto's Convergence Theatre (along with over 70 other artists. The COVID Commissions will all be on their website) to create something inspired by some "Covid Confessions" they collected. Below is a little piece I wrote, SMALL ADJUSTMENTS (for smaller spaces).
It is much better when read by the wonderful Michela Cannon (who you'll be able to see in
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD on Broadway, once it is safe to do such things again).
Read by Michela Cannon
Recorded & Edited by Evan Desjardins
Written by Julia Lederer
For Convergence Theatre's COVID Commissions
Forget about the way I walk. Think about the way I post instead.
(intermittently and with anxiety, they're not that different)
Instead of missing eye contact, contact me on Zoom.
There, my eyes look like they're looking into yours, but really I'm looking into my own.
Are we all doing this?
An echo-chamber of faces, a funhouse mirror that's no fun at all:
this one tiny window that can Zoom us out of our immediate realities is actually just reflecting them back in more pixelated forms, that make us rethink the placements of the posters on our walls behind or the ponytails on our heads. If we’re being honest. And there’s no need to be.
Honesty doesn’t exactly govern the internet, and that’s where we live.
We are depending on an invisible net to hold everything up.
I am tired of my own face, my inner monologue, my habits, my faults,
of the way I see the world and the parts of the world that are currently in view.
"Do you ever feel so lonely that you want to rip your own face off, just to look at it?
But then you know you’ll hate it, like you’ll throw it onto a moving truck, and then you’ll just be left…
still lonely but without a face."
Is a line from a play I wrote in 2016.
I am recycling my own thoughts as if they were messages in bottles sent sometime before this,
from another reality, now in boxes at a yard-sale in my brain where I’m unsure if anything is still of use.
Still relevant at all. Ideas like items of clothing I need to decide whether I've outgrown.
(From a style and identity growth-perspective.)
Whether or not clothes fit doesn't matter anymore.
I have received emails from every retail store I have ever walked into, virtually or in person,
asking how I'm doing during these “trying times”
and then trying to sell me their new spring line of "loungewear"
(which I believe are sweatsuits).
Every twenty-two-year-old I have ever followed on Instagram wants to teach me an exercise class
filmed on their phone in their parents' basement. And I'm here for it.
I have nowhere else to be and I admire their ingenuity and adaptability.
I imagine my future in sweatpants for all occasions,
my only occasions being watching other people work out on a tiny rectangular screen
and trying to picture what the rest of their parents' basement looks like, beyond that self-sized frame.
The thing about staying in my own mind is that there are no external checkpoints for my internal digressions.
I can slip down winding waterslides built from digressions that run the length of mountains.
It's very possible I will get caught in a digression and move there for a while.
A thought town I assumed I was driving through, but now realise that my car has been in neutral for two years
and there are apple cores and candy-wrappers all over the seats and
ink stains up my arms, yet no working pens.
And no clear thought to drive away with.
How about this one:
In place of sharing meals, we'll share emails instead.
I'm better at emails than cooking anyway.
I don't think I'm a terrible cook, I think I'm just terrible at trying to cook.
In an email, I always try.
To me, words are more enticing ingredients,
no line ups or plastic gloves, no masks or money I'm not making is needed.
There is a thrill in discovering new combinations, with syllabic notes that sit on the tongue.
They can still get stuck in your teeth.
I'd rather share metaphors than meatloaf and then melt some cheese on bread independently later.
Shared meals from two meters apart are hard anyway. How do you pass plates?
Easier to pass poetry instead.
And now, when we (Google)hang, too-long pauses are the result of a poor connection.
Those happen in real life too. But now, there is a technological culprit to take the blame.
All conflicts contained and framed in rectangles.
Every exchange we have is smooth and flat; shiny and swift.
No emotional bumps in the road, just a secret shared sense of denial,
like a shield made of paper we have all agreed to pretend is made from metal instead.
The power of a shared delusion so necessary in a moment when there is no other power to be found.
I hate the saying, "Wherever you go, there you are."
The thing I hate most about it is that it's true.
Yesterday I was going for a walk through some previously unassuming trees
and found myself assaulted by a sign;
the time-passing, joy-spreading craft project of a (misguided) stranger.
In a cursive too perfect to come from the hand of anyone born after 1999, it read:
"There is always something to smile about. Find It."
It made me angry. My facial muscles don't need that kind of pressure right now.
I'm not going on a scavenger hunt for happiness.
This is just a walk, straight ahead, step-by-step is good enough.
For the first time in a while I had the sentiment:
Leave me alone.
Outside we pass as if we’re the points of geometric compasses
set to draw circles two meters wide.
It's a dance, the pattern of its steps projected through our eyes now,
all over the sidewalks, the roads,
the earth itself.
We follow respectfully, and swallowing our irritability at this new inconvenience
that emerges now in the physical presence of another,
we orbit each other like planets.
Everyone is a planet.
The sovereign leader of their own tiny country.
But it’s a vanity position.
We follow all rules and make none.
We know nothing. We have no control over anything but ourselves.
And even that is questionable.
In a novel I love, an old grandfather clock is filled with notebooks, a different way to mark the passing of time. Right now, I could fill a clock tower.
On every page would be the same question: What now?
No Google search can answer this question. No podcast. No post. No sign. No book.
How often are we in a place where absolutely no one knows what will happen next?
small adjustments (for smaller spaces)
Commissioned by Convergence Theatre
Facebook = Convergence Theatre
Twitter = @TO_Convergence
Instagram = TO_Convergence