Or What Was That Question Again?
Journalists seem to love what they call the “Questionnaire de Proust”, a mix-and-match potpourri of short and unanswerable questions designed to… to what? Actually, come to think of it, I cannot see any real purpose to being asked “What animal are you?” or “What colour are you”, except that it is assuredly easier than preparing REAL questions.
Most interviewees seem to have assembled an equally inane series of replies, and this verbal ping-pong seems to pass for an intelligent conversation.
Unable to even remember the simplest of jokes, I can never organize my thoughts long enough to be so glib, thus I end up seriously pondering each of these ridiculous interrogations, digging my own grave a bit deeper with each answer.
There always seems to be a “What was the first time you…” question or two in the lot, and these leave me even farther at sea (or digging even faster, depending on whether you prefer your metaphores of the nautical or the graveyard kind).
For a long time, I replied that I couldn’t remember, that I have the memory of a gadfly with amnesia, that I find last times far easier to recall – anything to move to the next question and possible salvation or at least redemption. I have also tried for ages to develop a politician’s skills – ignore all questions and talk about YOUR agenda regardless – but it doesn’t work for me.
Each question nudges me off balance. An interview is the equivalent of walking a tightrope with no safety net, each question ranging from gentle breeze to gale force gust. No two from the same direction.
And, inevitably, comes the “what was the first time you…” question, the one that will equally inevitably sweep me from my precarious footing and send me plummetting haplessly into the deep chasm of the botched interview.
I’m also one of those sorry individuals who dreams up the ultimate retort about a day later, or more likely at 3 a.m. wide awake and mulling bitterly over what I SHOULD have said, like some orchardist turning wrinkled crab apples on a tray in midwinter and finding they are all mouldy or spotted with rust.
Recently, I was reeling in the contrary winds of an interview, wondering what the devil I could possibly say when, in one of those epiphanic moments, I had the answer.
EVERY time I do ANYTHING, it’s the FIRST time. Every time I look at the sky or a tree or a wave is the first time I’ve ever seen those things. Every time I do a picture it’s the first time I’ve set pencil or brush to paper (admittedly, I do have a little technical experience, though I do tend to function according to the theory of lateral colour proximity – if the colour I need is all the way across the studio, I’ll choose another one I can reach without getting up). Every sentence I write is the first one I’ve ever penned, every bright dawn is the first sunrise, as is every bout of storm and despair.
It’s all new, no matter how many times it’s been.
Now, while this all may play the odd trick on me when I’m meeting people I should remember, it is vital to the business of LOOKING at things. (With me, “re” is never very firmly attached to “cognition”.) So now, when asked “when did you do your first drawings?”, I can truthfully answer “I’ll tell you next week, when I’ve done them.”
And it can’t be that this inherent novelty of circumstance is a recurrent theme here.
I’m absolutely certain this is the first time I’ve mentioned it.