My laptop died today. Or maybe yesterday. I got a message from the system: 'Unable to find Operating System'. That doesn't mean anything. It may have been a virus, or maybe my hard disk just burnt out. I don't know. It's always the good ones that die young.
Why, Lord-I-don't-believe-in, why? Why take away my computer - the one thing that truly makes my life worth living? There are plenty of organs I don't use on a regular basis - why not take some of those instead? A kidney, perhaps, or a couple of toes. I wouldn't mind parting with those. But why cut out the very living centre of my existence?
I feel like there's a hole in the centre of my existence, through which my life is dribbling out like sand. I sit in my room at night staring at the wall in front of me, dreaming about the dark ages and wondering what people did with their time before their were computers. I look down and discover that my fingers have been 'typing' even though there's no keyboard. I am like an addict craving his next fix. I can feel the itching need for a computer under my skin. I try to involve myself in other things - read the New Yorker, listen to music - but these things seem distant and obscured, like figures glimpsed from under water. Always the desire, like an aching in my body, like the need to breathe.
No, I shall not go back to office at 11 pm to check mail, I tell myself. But the urge is surprisingly stubborn, like a dog scratching away at a door, trying to get in. I sit on my bed reciting crime rate statistics to myself, hoping someone will call so I'll have a distraction. When the fire alarm goes off, I rejoice.
Back in my room ten minutes later (these fire alarms are always false), I tell myself I'm going to write. After all, I used to be able to write with pen and paper - I didn't always have Microsoft Word. I rustle up a notepad, find a ballpoint, and start. It doesn't go well. To begin with, I can't manage to get the 1.2 line spacing that I prefer. This means that the text looks all scrunched up and difficult to relate to. Then there's edits - every time I scratch out a line it doesn't just disappear. It just stays there on the page, an ugly black scar. Given that I rephrase every line a minimum of four times, this does not bode well. Before long the page looks like a jumble of barbed wire. I try reading what I've written and find I can't actually decipher my own handwriting. I give up.
Half an hour later, reading Didion's White Album, it begins to dawn on me that not having a computer at home might be an awfully exciting adventure. Like living without indoor plumbing, or camping out in the wild (wild in my case being defined as any place that squirrels run free). I have this vision of myself as a sort of lumberjack, living free, surviving on nothing more than my wits and whatever scraps of nourishment the barren, unwired world may have to offer. I dream of Walden. I dream of Atwood's Surfacing.
Not that I aim to do this permanently, of course. The first opportunity I get I'm going over to get my laptop fixed. It's just that till then, since I'm going to be without a laptop, I might as well enjoy it.
Some of you might be wondering if this means the frequency of my posts is going to go down. I'd like to say that's true, but I'm afraid it's more likely that I will spend obsessive amounts of time surfing the net from my office over the weekend. If, however, I do actually not get around to posting as much over the next couple of weeks, it's either because I'm communing with the soul of the universe, or because I got mugged trying to get to office at 1 am and am lying bleeding to death in a ditch somewhere. Either way, it's for a good cause.