There's hair in my plughole. Like, a lot.
What a fall from grace! When they were safely attached to my head they were as individuals making up a crowd, part of something bigger than themselves: soldiers in an army, people in a protesting crowd, chocolate buttons in a family sized bag of chocolate buttons.
I feel sure that as a collective my hair is the source of all my power. I’m not Natalie Portman okay, no one is. “Why is that potato wearing eyeliner?” the people would ask if I were bald. The strength of the hair is mythological. Call me Samson. Now some individuals have become detached from the crowd and have got caught in the plughole. They lie half in half out like the fallen angels splashing about in Milton’s hell-lake.
Crouched in the bath-cum-shower I examine the situation and it's pretty dire. The hairs have clung to one another as though afraid of falling any further into the plumbing and have formed a makeshift and hirsute plug. There's no water getting through that. The pipe has been compromised and its structural integrity is at stake. Someone has to do something.
Luckily for the plug and the pipes and all my future showers I'm the woman for the job. I glove up and get to work. No man is left behind. There's a brief moment of pathos when I realise I've saved the little guys from one watery grave (the shower pipes) only to condemn them to another (the loo), but I move past it bravely and, saying a few words in honour of their service to my best looks, I flush.
It's only when I'm back at the plug to inspect my handiwork that I spare a moment for self-reflection. The results are even less appetising than my hair-plug. It's my day off. I've cleared my schedule very ostentatiously by telling all who would wish to keep an appointment with me that I am in fact very busy trying to be my best most creative self. All writers need their space to create, to let their ideas gestate, to give birth to them in peace. Sometimes they slip out nice and easy, sometimes it's a painful birth. I read that once and this is what I tell people in my head and also sometimes myself in the mirror. At this point I've yet to write a single word, and I'm staring into the abyss aka the plughole.
I gather myself enough to step out of the shower, and take my seat at my desk. The page is blank. There would be tumbleweed but I've swept it away, along with all dust, crumbs, and errant strands of hair. The flat is impressively clean. I have removed, got rid, cleared the decks. My computer is also fabulously well-organised: every single document I don’t need has been trashed or saved somewhere I can’t see it. I’ve spent the day taking away, but at no point - at no point at all - bringing anything forth. I’ve created negative space, never filling it. I realise I've failed in my aim, have written nothing, and have also missed out on a brunch.
It's hard to criticise a blank page for anything other than its blankness, which doesn't belong to me, but to it. I can't be criticised for the absence of mess in my flat either. Its dust-free surfaces are testament to my diligence and my flatmate will probably buy me a Milkybar for it, which is payment enough and more because Milkybars are a delicious and healthy snack. In cleaning I was able feign productivity. If I write something though, I’ve produced something tangible. I’ve filled the empty space. But with the tangibility comes risk. There’ll be something to judge, and if it's a mess I can't as easily clean it up. Perhaps the trick is to let the dust collect for a while. Another trick is to stop giving one’s hairs funereal send offs but you do you and I'll do me.
Find Anna on Twitter at @annaerichmond