It was a warm August evening in New York, about 11 p.m. We had all just come from seeing Marcel Marceau’s “Last Concert in America” (the first one of several; he changed his mind a few times) and were digest- ing this visual feast of silent communication, so the crowd was talking softly and going slowly. Except for one man.
This fella had his arm around a glitzy woman. They both were walk ing with a swagger, and his sarcasm knifed into my awareness: “I’m going to get on the train now, and go home to Connecticut. The little woman will have the kids in bed, and she’s going to say, ‘Oh, Honey, how hard you work, staying in the office this late, what can I get you?’” I spun away from my husband and in-laws and right into his face, the words popping out of my mouth before I could censor them in my head: “Oh, no, your wife is no fool. She’s home fooling around with your best friend and knows exactly what you are up to.” He, and she, stopped dead in their tracks. He stared into my face, to try to place it and remember who I was. He was afraid I knew him. They just stopped right there on the sidewalk, and did not walk any further.
I rejoined my family, walked on, and was greeted with “What made you do that?” It was definitely uncharacteristic behavior, and I had no answer in that moment. But I could not have held those words back for anything. It was a moment of voice, when I had to take a stand. I was compelled to speak on behalf of the woman in Connecticut, setting a backfire to this man’s lie with another. It was un-premeditated voice.
In writing, spontaneous words are harder to come by, because their very creation allows reflection. Yet, there are times when voice is pulled from us, when as we write, we find a depth or passion of voice which is unexpected. Knowing when we are comfortable with this, and when we are not, is part of fitting into our own skins, as writers.