From my bedroom window, I could see the clock and weather flashing on top of a bank building a few miles away.
Late into the night, I’d sit at that window and pound out on my typewriter whatever self-indulgent, derivative insanity I was obsessing over at the time.
And when I was not writing, I would stare out at that clock — a oddly apocalyptic beacon that made me feel that I was the only one awake, the only one left alive.
Admittedly, this is not an uncommon feeling for a kid just starting to feel the muddled effects of becoming a teenager.
I’d pound on the typewriter, driving my father crazy with the noise. I’d read and think about whatever girl I was twitterpated with and listen to Chet Baker’s ‘Moon and Sand’ over and over again.
And I’d look out that window, feeling very much alone.
Not necessarily a bad feeling nor an unfamiliar one for me, by any stretch. I could write for hours about being alone and how it lies at the core of me and everything I am. But it’s hard to write with the back of your hand nailed to your forehead, so I’ll leave off on the angsty self-analysis — at least, on that subject.
Writing this, I was reminded of a brief little monologue that wrote into my first play:
…and when I was young, I’d look out my window at night. There was this flashing clock on top of a building that I could see from my window. It flashed all night long. I used to watch it, counting. Seeing how long it would go on . . . just flashing the time away. I’d watch this from my window, when I was young. And sometimes I’d wonder, how long it had been going? How many years had it been there? How long would it keep going? And, maybe, thousands of years from now will it still be going? When everything else is cold and still, and the only sound is the wind blowing through an empty world. Will it stil be there? Flashing? And will it still have the exact time? And when it stops, finally, when it’s done, what time will it be?
Well . . . it’s not great writing, I’ll admit. But I’m a long way from when I wrote those words, a long way from that window.
But that window, that clock, that feeling of being awake in a sleeping house . . . it’s that feeling, that odd sense of disconnect that comes sometime around 2 AM, that keeps me a (more or less) happy insomniac even now, twenty years or more since I first looked out and watched the gentle strobe of the time and the weather floating out there in the dark sky.
A few months back, Jack mentioned Twitter to me. It wasn’t anything I’d heard of and I’ve learned to be wary of whatever the latest little widget someone at work is suddenly addicted to. Under the surface of our desktops you can just make out the rotting masts of countless shipwrecked applications that sailed for a while until they sank under their own weight, or neglect, or lack of seaworthiness.
But I was talking about that 2 AM feeling, wasn’t I?
Long story short, I didn’t pay Twitter much attention apart from going on and making sure I secured the “tmcamp” account name — colonial, yes, but there it is. Just another Damfino waiting to sink, I figure.
At face value, Twitter was interesting in that it started off as a way to indicate a fairly up-to-minute status of where you were and what you were doing. At first glance, I could tell already that the rolls were already populated with the typical roster of stay at home parents, teen pornstars in training, wannabe writers, lunatic cat ladies, Second Life addicts, freelance geeks-for-hire, and pedophiles.
Not my usual crowd.
And, it was pretty obvious that the users were making the Twitter-space their own. The answers to the “What Are You Doing?” question seemed to run the range from the mundane “Making instant noodles, again” to blatantly suspect “Naked, wet, and waiting for someone to callâ€¦” to the heartbreakingly vague “Just found out, it’s positive. No idea what to do now.”
Again, not my crowd. I got my own angst and, traditionally, I don’t like competition.
But then people at work started using it and I started to get the sense that I was missing out on a new channel for office communication — or, at least, a new way to make fun of Jack.
So I got back in and started posting tweets or twittering or whatever the hell people were calling it.
I used it for a while, not exactly sure how it fit into my general day to day insanity.
The blur between personal and business was particularly sticky. I’d be at home, posting a quick one about making dinner while my coworkers were posting about how they had to work late.
It became a problem for me and so I stopped altogether — just, as it turns out, that it was starting to get interesting.
People were using Twitter for some pretty interesting things. Some were telling stories, one line at a time. Others were promoting their blogs or their businesses. One person was posting these amazingly cryptic, odd semantic constructions that still fascinate me.
Most people though, were just chattering into the void . . . listening for echoes, watching for brief flashes out there in the dark.
That’s something I recognize.
So, after a thoughtful moment or two, I gently opened the window once more.
Nowadays, I don’t really use Twitter at work or for work (although a few clients have managed to track me down there). I’ll eavesdrop on the others throughout the day but I don’t really post an update until I get home in the evenings, until the night has been more or less squared away and I’m just sitting down to write. If you check in some evening, around midnight, you’ll probably see me there.
One of the most unexpected things that’s come out of my time on Twitter is making connections with other people who are, in their own way, also staying up way too late to stare at a flashing clock.
Like most exiles, we recognized each other pretty quickly.
I don’t have a good word to describe these people.
Officially, by the Terms of Art that the Twitter Team has defined, these people are my “followers” (or, in many cases, they are people that I “follow” — an interest which may or may not be reciprocated). But that’s an odd, unwieldy word in my mouth — charged to some degree with a faint whiff of menace, these people I am stalking and who also stalk me — so I look for other ways to describe them and come up short.
They’re acquaintances, I suppose. A few of them might even be on the outskirts of friendship. When I login, I look to see if they’re there. They give me a little shout and I do the same for them. Sometimes it’s the nod you give in response to seeing the same faces in the hallways, the grocery stores, in the neighborhood. Other times, it’s a quick handshake or even a hug. Sometimes we stop and chat for a bit.
And I’ve come into contact with some writers that I really enjoy.
There’s Akela, growing over all the absurdities a wolf finds in a man’s world. And Melissah, who just started a really interesting 100-word project online that I can’t wait to read more of. And there’s DarkGracie who is the scariest, sexiest big sister anyone could ever hope for. And Twila_Zoned. And Mercy.
And, well, all of ’em.
Late at night, writing . . . Twitter is running in the background and every so often I peek over to see what’s going on, to see who’s flirting with FoulBastard this time ’round, to say howdy to Dayngr, to commiserate with Bryce, and well . . . just seeing what everyone is up to.
It’s been a long time since I sat and looked out that window.
I don’t know if the clock is still there.
Hell, I don’t even know if the window is still there.
But it’s feeling like 2 AM now and I’m still awake.
Looks like I’m not alone.