Wednesday, July 26, 2006

“Secrets” a Radio 4 inspired monologue

I grew up listening to Radio 4 plays in the afternoons, being swept away by images created entirely by voices and a few (fairly low budget) sound effects. It engaged my imagination in more active and less directed way than television.

Although I enjoyed the normal plays, my preference was for stories read aloud or for the monologue. The definitive monologues in my view were by Alan Bennett’s “Talking Heads” where a single voice would paint a life while seeming simply to talk to you in an unstructured way.

I don’t normally write monologues – it’s not a form that lends itself to erotica but the other day I was staring at the screen of my laptop, waiting for my fingers to produce some words, when a voice in my head said “We all have secrets. You have one don’t you” and I knew I was listening to an echo from Radio 4 bouncing off my on-going obsession with secrecy and disclosure and what they do to us.

I listened to the woman speaking in my head, my fingers moved and “Secrets” appeared on the screen. It’s not particularly erotic but it does have a noir-ish tension that to me smells of sex the way that pubs always smell of smoke and spilled beer.

When I read it over I realized that somehow this short piece had pulled a lot of my emotions around secrets onto the page in a way that feels dynamic and yet has no real dialogue and almost no action. I think that this is because monologues speak to us directly, with no distractions of detail and context and make us engage with them in a way that is almost hypnotic.

The text of “Secrets” is below. If hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear whether this speaks to your experience of secrets and what you think about this kind of monlogue.


© Mike Kimera 2006. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission from

We all have secrets. You have one don’t you? Don’t look so shocked. You’re in your forties. You have a ring on your finger. My guess is that you’ve been married a good long while now. You look like a nice person. I’ll bet you’re good with kids and animals and so on. So, seeing all that, I know you have to have a secret.

You don’t even have to think about it do you? I can see it in your face. It’s there, just below the surface of your mind, pecking at you like a chick trying to hatch, that thing that you know that your wife doesn’t, the one that would change everything, the one that you desperately hope doesn’t define who you really are.

No. Don’t get up. If you’d really wanted to get up you’d have done it when I sat opposite you in this cosy little booth, in this quiet little bar, where it feels like midnight even when it’s noon outside. Stay. Finish your drink. Let me tell you more about secrets.

Well that sat you down fast enough. Who’d have thought that a cute little thing like me could make a big man like you sit? Amazing what producing a brown envelope and a smile can do.

Do you know you’re holding your breathe? I’ve been told that men feel it in their balls- the anticipation of being caught. You’re wondering what I know and what I can prove and whether there is hope for you in the gap between the two.

But I bet that some small part of you, possibly even the part that you think of as “really” you, is more relieved than afraid.

People start out thinking that the hardest thing about a secret is keeping it. But someone like you, someone who’s had a secret for a while, someone who’s learnt that they can smile and lie and not get caught, you know that the hard part is that, in the end, the secret keeps you.

You’re good at this. By now lots of guys would’ve started to speak. Started to deny or threaten or even plead. But you’re sitting there silent because, speech, any speech at all, might give you away. I bet you’d be a real good poker player, except I suspect you don’t like to gamble unless you have to.

You know, the sad thing is that most guys, right up to the moment that they’re caught, don’t really know what their secret is. Oh they think they know. They think that’s it’s the mistress that they slip it to when they can’t face going home, or the whores they buy when they’re away on business, or the preferences that they only reveal through their (highly traceable) choice of on-line porn.

No. Don’t relax, not yet, I didn’t say that your secret was like that. Because we both know that the real secret is about who you’ve become.

Do you do that a lot, turn your wedding ring between finger and thumb? I bet you do. I bet you know why too. It’s because you love your wife. And you want her to love you. But even when she looks in your eyes and says she loves you, when she opens her legs and welcomes you in, when she comforts you on the nights you can’t sleep, you know she doesn’t love you. She can’t love you because she doesn’t really know you. If she knew who you really are then she’d know the secret and then what?

What do I want? That’s what you say when you finally decide to speak? Nice move. Let’s stop talking about you and talk about me instead. Nope. That’s not going to happen. This isn’t about what I want. This is all about you and your secret.

Do remember what it was like before the secret? When your wife trusted you and you knew you deserved it? Then, if she was sad, you knew it wasn’t your fault. If you made her happy you knew her joy wasn’t tainted by lies. You were happy then.

Those nights when you can’t sleep no matter how tired you are, the ones when you lie awake thinking and hope that she won’t notice. Think about what’s really keeping you awake. With some men it would be the fear of discovery. Not you though. You’re careful. Very, very careful. But you’re still afraid. You’re afraid that somehow, at some level beyond facts and logic, she already knows. You’re afraid that she is also pretending. You think about it don’t you? What it will be like when the kids have gone and there’s just the two of you, alone in the house except for the secret that neither of you mentions.

Tears. Good. I hoped for tears.

I cried when this happened to me. When I was liberated from my secret.

The envelope is empty by the way.

What happens next is up to you. I think you’re brave enough to break free of your secret. I hope so.

If you do, I ask only one thing: find someone who needs this envelope, needs it as badly as you did, and give it to them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

“The Last Taboo” – a transcription story

Most of the time, writing a story is a lengthy process for me, involving multiple drafts, maybe an outline, perhaps some research, or just the time to let an idea or a character or an image mature.

But every now and again a story will arrive in my head almost fully formed. Writing it feels more like transcribing something that is being read aloud in my mind.

Recently I’ve had one of these transcription stories, “The Last Taboo” published on the ERWA and I’d like to talk about it a little.

One of the things I’ve noticed about these “transcription” stories is that they are often in the first person and told in the voice of a character. It’s as if they are speaking in my head. Sometimes I find myself listening, wondering what they will say next.

“The Last Taboo” is told from the point of view of “Fat Frank”. All I knew about Frank when I started to write was that he enjoyed having sex with his wife. I let Frank talk and a picture built up of an introspective man who (just about) manages to be one of the lads but whose heart isn’t really in it.

I became curious about the kind of woman he would love and what sex between them would be like. I knew there had to more to it than just lust. She would have to value his introspection but not mirror it. I also knew that there would be something in the sex that would spark the imagination.

Yet it is misleading when I say I knew these things. Certainly I know them now, but as I wrote, it seemed to me that I learnt these things only as Frank shared them with me.

The story took a couple of hours to make first draft and then maybe an hour more to finish. Finishing with these kinds of stories largely consists of reading the story aloud and listening for the things that aren’t true to the voice of the character or that would pass in day to day speech but would grate upon a reader’s sensibilities.

One of the problems with these transcription stories is that, when they are finished, I have great difficulty knowing if they are any good or not. I’ve had too little time to evaluate them. To me they always seem “true” but I have no idea if they are hot or if they will speak to the experience of others.

“The Last Taboo” got good feedback on the ERWA list and was selected for the ERWA site that month, so I figured that it had worked as a story.

Two things told me that it had done more than that. The first was that ERWA put the story in their Treasure Chest section. You’ll find it here.

The second was the email the story attracted. At the same time that “The Last Taboo” was posted I posted “Brave Enough To Cry” – a story it had taken me over a year to put together in fits and starts of activity. I was very pleased when two people took the time to write to me and tell me that they enjoyed it. “The Last Taboo” got eight comments from readers. Now this is a story that has very little actual sex in it and yet people liked it because it either reflected their own secret lives or it depicted a life they wished to have.

I’m still not sure to make of all of this. “The Last Taboo” is not autobiography but it came from somewhere in my head and strikes a chord with people I’ve never met. This points to one of the most exciting and the most demoralizing things about writing: effort is not enough, talent is not enough – to have impact writing has to capture a truth about our lives as we think they are, as we would like them to be or as we fear they might become.

When I write, these truths are not something I create, they are something that I always hunt and only sometimes capture.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

700 US Soldiers dead, 2,500 Iraqi Policemen dead, 12,000 Iraqi civilians dead - all in the past 12 months

Most of the time all that differs between BBC World and CNN is the grammar.

Today BBC world has been flashing numbers under interviews about Iraq for the past hour or so.

They put it in this sequence





And the numbers are rising.

Taking out Hussain unleashed sectarian violence.

Taking out the local al-Qaeda leader has had little or no impact.

I remember the grief of 2001. The disbelief. The incredulity at the sheer numbers of dead.

Even so, I went to remind myself September_11,_2001_attacks

2,986 people died that day as a result of a terrorist attack

That's less than number of US soldiers and Iragi policemen who were killed this year.

Hurrican Katrina killed 1,836. That's less than the number of Iraqi police who died this year.

In Afghnistan, as of June 30, 2006, there have been 396 coalition deaths during Operation Enduring Freedom — 308 American, 18 German, 17 Spanish, 16 Canadian, 12
British, 7 French, 6 Italians, 4 Romanians, 3 Danish, 2 Swedish, 1 Australian, 1 Norwegian, and 1 Portuguese.

I'm not trying to play a this-is-worse-than-that game based on numbers.

I'm only trying to set a scale for the death.


It's Independence Day today.

If I was a praying man, I'd pray that someone will guide America through the dreadful, heart-aching path they must walk in Iraq and
Afghanistan and find a way to make the death toll smaller for everyone next year.

As an athiest, all I can do is make a noise about the numbers and not let any of us get so used to the conflict that we think any of this is normal.