I just want to write | theunderargument.com

I just want to write

I just want to write | theunderargument.com

By Rachel Delahay

I write. I promote my writing - each time a bit more to get the project seen.

“Will you do a profile piece...?”

“Women’s hour would love you to go on.”

“There’s this new fashion mag that...”

Only they don’t want to know about the play, the TV show - that story.

They want to know about me - exactly who I am, what I’m about, where I’m from. 

“We can’t place you - your voice, your face, your story.” 

They want it all. The work is never enough. I shrink myself. I’m being set up to fail. 

Not every story can be mine and once they have it - know my truth, the work ends. Those stories will run out. 

My work is given an agency by my skin, my sound, my history. If I deviate, it becomes fake. It’s this silent accusation of inauthenticity I have to protect myself from. 

The idea that if I don’t know a world, haven’t been born into it, I’m visibly not clever enough to have done the work. 

I clip my speech, pitch smart. They smile. It doesn’t wash. It must be based in truth, be mine or…

There’s a pause. Another accusation. I’m a fraud. I’m asked if my background is similar, in any way. It’s now me who smiles. In truth, I can do it. I’ve learned to be whatever they need me to be. There’s a version that can fit any one of their assumed narratives. 

Young? Sure. I wash off my make-up.

Poor? I flatten my vowels.

“Would you describe yourself as working class...?” I explain how my mother is a nurse.

“And your father?” 

I shrug. They understand what I’m saying but still push. 

“What does he do?” 

I think, about what is going to serve this story best - their story. What do they need me to say? He left? I don’t know him? Or is that too sad, too broken. Do I explain he’s in prison, last I heard? Is that too vulgar, too edgy? I think again. And conclude to return to my shrug. We now both fall to silence. I wait, desperate for their assumption to reveal itself. What do they need from me? And then a crack.

“He’s black, right?” 

I smile, I have it.

“Yes.”

“From St Kitts.” I offer.

“Have you been?”

I smile again - a yes. Because I have. Not with him, but no one seems to pick up on that, care about that. They want their story not mine and I provide because in truth, I’m tired. 

I just want to write.