Figments of my imagination

From a very early age I have sat down at a machine, with a keyboard, and summoned up people.

It was something I knew how to do, and something I wanted to do.

First, the manual typewriter.

It was hard work, especially on the shoulders, but the way those people would talk to me! And insist on their manifest destiny.

Then! The electric typewriter. I bought her with my first cheque from television. My cat freaked out at the way she would do automatic return.

And then! And this was hard. My word processor. Apparently for people like me to woo us off the typewriter and into computers. I did some damn good work on her, once I had understood that what you write on a screen is not, necessarily, permanent. But I only pushed Delete instead of Save once. Or, at the most, twice. You learn. You learn.

Then. You could not buy ribbons for her any more. They had withdrawn support for your halfway house. And she went up in smoke after a particularly bad power-surge day. Literally. Up in smoke. That was the day I found out that you can get plugs to protect your delicate equipment from too much or too little electricity.

So. I bribed the boy with ‘There is a CD in it for you’ and he got me going on the husband’s computer, keying in a book of poetry so I could post off a floppy disk to the publisher.

How 21st century!

How he screamed abuse when I got screen freeze at 3am. Bursting into the study in his boxers, punching madly at Esc or Ctrl Alt Delete.
‘Learn, will you! Learn!’

And then! Invested in a laptop.
Got plugged into the internet.

So do not be surprised, all you people out there, if I do not see you as exactly real!

Since the late ’60s I have been sitting at a machine, with a keyboard, waiting for people to arrive and talk to me. And insist on their manifest destiny.

And they always have.

And when I plugged into the internet and people arrived to talk to me, it was not such a major surprise. It was as if, with my sheer yearning, fingers paused over a keyboard, I had summoned you up! I invented you.

Jennifer Compton is a poet and playwright who lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW.



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