The blank page looks so inviting. I pull my navy jumper straight and flex my fingers, ready to type. My fingers hover over the keyboard… and I can't think of a single thing. Not a sausage. Well, I do have some ideas, but they're all rubbish. Rubbish! They all seem cliché, hackneyed, and I'm tired of feeling ordinary.
My already published works sit on the shelf behind my new computer, their hardback covers gleaming. Ah, I had fun writing Enough. And Gamma Rays. How was I inspired to write those? I can't remember. The last time I wrote anything was… well, the last time I thought of something worth writing… OK, I give up. I guess I'll have to accept the fact that I, Pierce Harvey – or, to use my real name, John Harley – have run out of ideas. My muse is gone.
This depresses me so much. I sigh, and switch the computer screen off, wondering if there was anything I could do to inspire myself. A magazine lying on the coffee table catches my eye. It's the local What's On magazine. I pick it up and skim through, my eyes not fully resting on the page. One particular play leaps out at me though: Déjà Vu To You Too . Sounds complicated… the reviews say it's 'haunting'. 'Dramatic'. 'Electrifying'. Maybe I'll give it a go. Who would go with me? Now that I'm 31, I can't face going to a theatre on my own. It would just look… odd. No, I correct myself – it would feel odd.
I ring all my friends – unfortunately, tonight Ana is 'busy', Matthew is 'visiting his mother', Rob is 'on a date', and Kat – loud, screechy, embarrassing… my last resort – is 'having her bikini line waxed'. (After that particular information had been given, I made my excuses to hang up as soon as possible.) I'm sure they're all lying to me, but to keep that feeling at bay I look at the magazine again. My heart sinks – the last performance is tonight. Maybe there won't be any tickets. In fact, there probably won't be. I cheer inexplicably at this, and ring the theatre. Yes, they have one seat left. For a second I struggle with a desire to see the show, and embarrassment. "Can I reserve that, please?" I ask, kicking myself inwardly. For the first time ever, I'll be going to the theatre on my own. The prospect fills me with dread.
You may be wondering why I just don't go. Well, I'm scared. That's right, I'm scared. I think that's the right word. Apart from writing books, and the occasional collection of poetry (none of which have been published), I'm not as cultured as I used to be. In my late twenties, I'd go out almost every night – cinema, comedy club, and of course, theatre. I used to know who was at the top of the bestsellers (I certainly knew when Enough was on the list), what critic was in trouble for mouthing off. Now it's 2003 and I've only just heard of J.K. Rowling. And because of this, I've become pretty useless with people. Someone will make a reference to a new film, and I'll say, "What?" And so the conversation will be interrupted for them to explain what it is, who's in it, and by the time they've finished they've lost their thread completely. I noticed that people gradually phased me out – well, my lesser friends did anyway. Ana, Matthew and Rob stayed, but I think even they are tiring of me.
So that's why, on a cold March evening, I battle my way through the centre of my home town to see a play I reserved a seat for two hours ago. After queuing for what seems like hours, I get to the box office. "I reserved a ticket a few hours ago," I say wearily.
"Hope you enjoy it," the kind woman says. She's quite plain, apart from being phenomenally obese. "Div Tit received some great reviews."
"…Div Tit?" I repeat. Have I come to the wrong play?
"Oh sorry, that's our little nickname for it," she squirms. As I walk away, shaking my head in disbelief, I hear her whisper, "Sharon, I've done it again! Honestly, when will I learn?"
As I pass the coffee bar, I decide to indulge myself with a king-size bar of chocolate. When I get into the theatre, I'm dismayed to see that the seat I have paid £21 for a seat behind a pillar. There is no way I can see round it; the pillar is wider than the woman at the box office. Glancing at my watch, I calculate I have four minutes until it's scheduled to start. OK, I think. Sit here until it starts. Then, in the dark, sit by the side of the pillar. Or stand. Either's good… The pillar incident has increased my anxiety slightly. I bite into yet more chocolate, even though I know I'll be sick. And then the curtain goes up, and I slink to the side of the pillar. If I sit, I still can't see, so I guess I'll have to stand.
The play is… well. I have no idea whether it's good or bad really. The basic plot is the lead character, Freda, has amnesia. She can't retain anything new after an accident involving a surfboard and a vicious storm, and has a hard time explaining to everyone what happened – seeing as she doesn't know herself. The plot's good, I like it. It's the sort of thing I write… I wrote. But the acting is appalling. The lead woman is such a ditz. She stumbles around the stage, over exaggerating, speaking in a horribly upper-class way. At one point, she says, "Oh yars, frightfully so!" and it's all I can do to stop myself walking up there and kicking her. Thinking of kicking makes me think of my legs, and I discover they've gone numb. I walk on the spot for a few seconds, trying to induce some feeling back. Suddenly, there's a lot of clapping and the lights come back on. And I'm still there, walking on the spot. The pillar thankfully blocks me from view. I sit in my seat, and suddenly feel very disappointed. One of the reasons I came here was to inspire me, and I still cannot think of anything to write. Apart from a letter to the lead actress telling her to get some elocution lessons.
I leave without watching the ending. Luckily, I still have half a bar of king-size chocolate to consume, so all is not lost… yet. But what happens when I finish the chocolate? Where will my energy come from? I can't continue with ready-meals-for-one, made-for-TV films and solitary theatre trips. I need more people in my life, people who don't care about the latest idiot in power, or what David Beckham's right foot has done this week. Basically, I need to be with people who don't care about the world.