Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Radio Zoo

I wake from a nap and walk into the living room, only to find that it has changed back into the lion’s den of a few years back. I hear the sounds of a radio play well remembered going through my head—the familiar discomfort in my heart and my nervous system. I’ve slept through time and traveled through space, as radio waves do, to the days of young lion old lion again. I had thought these days were behind me.

I stop in the living room doorway and look at my two men. An audible “oh no” escapes, despite my wish to ignore what they’re doing. They both turn in my direction, pausing—a referee’s timeout—both acquiesce. Then the lions return to their discussion, debate, verbal confrontation, scientific argument, power struggle, childish interaction, never-ending tug-of-war that’s based in a fear of separation. It’s long past anything a casual onlooker might mistake for conversation.

I feel as if I’m locked in a car, driving down a midnight road on the holidays, listening to an old-time radio play that keeps cutting out and cutting in. The plot is rich with angst and conflict without the subtleties of Tennessee Williams. I want to tune the static out and hear what they’re really saying, but I can’t quite cut through to the message. There's too much extraneous dialogue, worse than a chick flick.

“A tomato is a botanical fruit, but scientifically it’s still a vegetable.”

I can’t be hearing this right. I try turning the knobs to tune the signal, to adjust the volume, to lower my stress level. They merely spin in my fingers. No response occurs. It’s as if the radio is in the Twilight Zone where I can hear it, but the radio’s caught in a loop where the only input is itself and it. There is only one station, no switching it.

“A tomato was made a vegetable by law to save California.”

“You told me that a million times.”

I want to listen with compassion, but both the topic and the fact that they cannot hear themselves or each other only serve to make me feel the stress they should be feeling, yet apparently do not. They’re embroiled, and I’m the one who’s in a knot.

“Excuse me, please,” I think. “Do you care more about tomatoes than you do each other?”

I think it, because they are long past hearing me. What they don’t know is that one is playing to win, and one is waxing philosophically. In the end, both will be hurt. I hate watching accidents happen, especially ones I’ve seen happen so many times before.

It’s a radio play about a car that’s going to drive over a cliff, and I can’t stop it. I’ve never liked high suspense about characters I care deeply about. I wouldn’t watch “Heidi” for 17 years because they took her from Grandfather, and it bothered me so.

I asked my men to please stop, please don’t be selfish, let a dead argument go. Then I left the room. That was my last attempt at making the radio play end.

I must have jiggled a connection because when I returned, one was reading a book, and the other was watching history TV. Not chancing a break in the beautiful silence, I found my way to my computer. I put on my headphones and began to write.

The playlist I chose is called Radio Zoo. “Ah, turn on the Radio Zoo.”

—me strauss Letting me be


mergrl said...

Liz, your writing is so powerful, I feel as if I am with you, feeling the emotions as you did. That is a gift my friend, a truly wonderful gift.

I am well, on vacation, so how could I not be :0)

take care (hugs)

ME Strauss said...

On vacation! Yea!!!! What fun! You had better be getting some sunshine for me!

mergrl said...

I'm trying to figure out how to bottle the sunshine and the ocean to bring home :0)

enough to share with all of us stuck in the cold :0)

mojo shivers said...

I'm not a big fan of the radio these days, but you do present a compelling argument.

ME Strauss said...

I thimk you already have it in your writing voice. That sure does plenty for me.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Patrick,
I hope your holidays are turning out to be most wonderful. I think you'd love old-fashioned radio plays--if you could find a good one.

Ned said...

The true definition of family is that radio plays such as this don't alter the underlying ties that inextricrably bind the players.

On the subject of radio plays, a great way to spend an evening with a small group of friends is to read a radio play transcript with each taking a role. It's a lot more fun that watching TV.

Hope your holidays were merry, Liz.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Ned,
You're right about family and about radio plays. Though I also like to listen to audio books with the lights out.

My holidays were uneventful and with the family in a nice way.
I hope yours were joyful as well, Ned,