There but for the

It’s been a while, Zonk, and I have things to tell you. But I can’t talk about them yet. And so I’m here to leave you something somebody else wrote. I read it just now in a book I’m reading: about a man who went to an acquaintance’s house for dinner and locked himself in their guest room and didn’t come out or say a word, for months.


Imagine the relief there’d be, in just stepping through the door of a spare room, a room that wasn’t anything to do with you, and shutting the door, and that being that.

There’d be a window, wouldn’t there?

Were there any books in there?

What would you do all day?

What would happen if you did just shut a door and stop speaking? Hour after hour after hour of no words. Would you speak to yourself? Would words just stop being useful? Would you lose language altogether? Or would words mean more, would they start to mean in every direction, all somersault and assault, like a thuggery of fireworks? Would they proliferate, like untended plantlife? Would the inside of your head overgrow with every word that has ever come into it, every word that has silently taken seed or fallen dormant? Would your own silence make other things noisier? Would all the things you’d ever forgotten, all layered there inside you, come bouldering up and avalanche you?

– Ali Smith (from ‘There but for the’)


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