[Wait by phone.
Wait by phone.
Wait by phone.]
This metaphor isn’t working. Of course, the advent of caller ID, not to mention the widespread usage of the cellular phone starting in the 1990s--has totally destroyed the brilliant efficacy of this metaphor of having to sit and wait by a phone.
Who hasn’t sat beside a telephone waiting for that one call? That one call?
Millions of people haven’t done it.
This was a very theatrical and clever motif in which I would set this piece. Having to sit and wait by a phone that doesn’t ring, when you REALLY REALLY REALLY want it to ring. To ring. Not tinkle or fart raindrops or belch ZZ Top. And having to sit by it.
This act signifies loneliness. Isolation. Stasis. Disconnection transformed to connection in mere seconds--and all the other kinds of anguish that make teenagers and adult women who are no longer in enrolled in any kind of school write terrible poetry.
If you call me, you like me.
If you call me, you love me.
If you call me, I love me.
If you call me, I like me.
If you call me, I can get up and pee
and make biscuits.
This metaphor--yup, yup--is OUTSTANDING. It’s going to WORK.
I am going to use this anachronistic metaphor. Because, thank God, I have a couple of important English guys to back me up. It was Coleridge who coined the term “willing suspension of disbelief,” and Shakespeare really got it when he said: “tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings” (or phones).
But it was George Michael who said: You’ve got to have faith-faith-faith-AH
[Pick up phone. Check that it is working.
This metaphor working, isn’t it? It’s not too…immobile, isn’t it? Waiting is active, right? Waiting is not wholly inactive but an act of being poised to act. It is not receiving but it is being…receptive. Receptive. This act signifies receptivity. Reception.
bass is pumpin
Look at the phone and
your heart starts thumpin
Says she wants to dance to a different groove
Now you know what to do g, bust a move
[Pick up phone. Listen.
Wait. Hang up phone.]
This is an active activity to show you now. Isn’t it? Waiting? An activity to entertain you. And to also demonstrate for you—no, prompt the recognition in you—through the outstanding use of a metaphor, waiting by a phone, of something abstract and significant that is going on at the same time as, and yet still represented by, my act of waiting by a phone. It is both the signifier and the signified, to use the terminology of the great Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who at the turn of the 20th century laid the groundwork for structuralist theory…
[check phone. hang up phone.]
Now, Derrida would argue that that words and signs can never fully summon forth what they mean—so the phone has no absolute meaning—only that which is produced from the systematic play of differences—“différence”, of course. This phone’s meaning is forever "deferred" or postponed through an endless chain of signifiers.
[check phone. hold phone.]
Then, of course, it was Barthes who employed signifier as connotation, of bourgeois cultural myths—you know, the signifier, a bottle of beer is not just a bottle of beer, it’s relaxation. A phone is not just a phone, it is…it is...it’s… What was I saying?
This is a sign that conveys meaning, which is…which is…
[hang up phone.]
No. Nonononono. No. I’ve decided this is a metaphor for surrender. That’s a popular word nowadays. I have read Eat Pray Love. I know that surrender means more than what Cheap Trick meant what it means. And I am signifying this act of surrender by doing absolutely nothing but one thing.
[Pick up phone. Listen.
Because waiting by the phone means only one thing.
I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly
I isolate myself from your eyes that I cannot forget
Your eyes that burn like a tiger burning bright in a
Haze of the night
The other night when you said you would call me
And you couldn’t wait to see me again
And you turned around and looked back at me after you walked away
And you got in the car you waited until I was actually all the way inside the house and had my coat half off and a cat in my arms
And then when it does ring, are you ready for who or what is on the other end? Because you have to be ready.
About the artist...
Megan Powell is a writer, performer, and proud native of Lexington, Kentucky who has performed / written / read / improvised around Chicago everywhere from that one place at the top of the stairs and the backroom at that one bar where we had to change into costumes in the surrounded by cases of MGD in the storeroom, to Navy Pier and the Double Door, The Second City Training Center, io Chicago, the Playground, Chicago Sketchfest, Chicago Improv Festival, Time Out Chicago, Wing & Groove Theatre Company, TenX9, Paper Machete, and Mortified. Learn more at meganepowell.com or fill up on photos of birds and trees on Instagram at @mego610.
Want to see more of Megan’s work?
Check out her work from past issues:
Ode to a Pool (with apologies to Keats) from Issue XVII: Poolside