Confluence

from Nick Suss

July 28, 2014, 10:43 a.m.

It was recently brought to my attention by someone close to me – you know who you are – that the stories I post on this website are often too sad. I don’t mean to do it. I’m sorry about that. I don’t want to bum you guys out or anything. But when you have an online platform that, for some reason, hundreds of people read, sometimes you tend to treat it like a 12-year old girl treats her diary. The truth of the matter is, my life doesn’t have that much drama. The only reason I portray it that way is because I tend to write most often when I need to cheer myself up. So when I’m happy, I don’t feel a need to make overly-dramatic claims in the tone of a depressed 1920s playwright.

But tonight I’m going to change that. I’m going to try to revisit my favorite thing I’ve written for StoriesHouse this calendar year, except with an over-explanatory nuance the last one lacked. With all due respect to my Sober Downtown Adventures, I haven’t had as much fun writing a post as I did when I wrote Minutiae, the post where I ran through all of the thoughts that came into my head in a single day, in a very long time. But this time I am going to focus on just one weird quirk of mine. I hope you like it.

The phenomenon of having a song stuck in your head is foreign to me. That isn’t to say I can’t have songs stuck in my head. There are perpetually songs in my head. But that’s just it. I never have just one song stuck in my head. I often have a jukebox playing in my head whereupon if I see a single word it triggers the A8 button in the organic vending machine I call a brain and out pops out a song. As I write this, the songs most present in my head are Something by The Beatles and All the Right Moves by a band that I’m pretty sure is OneRepublic but I’m not sure and I don’t really want to look it up. But on the backburner I know that single words can trigger out While My Guitar Gently Weeps (If you can’t tell I’m going through a George Harrison phase), Back to the Shack (WEEZER!) and a plethora of others that I’m too embarrassed to admit are in my head. (I don’t listen to Pink. What are you talking about?)

This in itself isn’t a problem. Plenty of people have soundtracks in their heads. But sometimes my head likes to play selections from the dictionary instead of from albums. As I’m sure those who know me have heard me lament in the past, I have the weird habit of getting single words stuck in my head. And it’s not like it’s a single-word lyric from a song or an important word I need to remember. It’s just a run-of-the-mill word that won’t get out. One time I had the word “sofa” stuck in there. Another time it was the word “autonomous.” As some of my older friends may remember, I had the word “olfactory” stuck in my head for a large portion of the ninth grade. It’s like my brain is playing the same repeat of the Electric Company over and over again and I have to visualize a random word for days on end.

I bring this up because the word stuck in my head now is absurd. Right now, the word I can’t find a way to banish from my skull is the word “confluence.” Now, I understand that a lot of you might not know what confluence means. Frankly, I didn’t until a few days ago. But I’ve been saying it in my head for so long that I had to check if it was a real word and not a rare form of insanity. (Some of you may remember that in the original Minutiae piece, I wrote that I have a passion for making up words. That thought crossed my mind too. That’s why I had to check.) But as I remembered once I looked up the word for the fourth time, confluence can either mean to place where to rivers intersect or the coming together of two things. Since the former meaning has literally no purpose in my life, I assume it is the latter meaning that forced the word into my head.

It would normally be at this point where I would go into a long-winded explanation about a confluence in my life, but I said I was going to spare you the theatricality this week. You’re welcome. Instead, I’ll continue with how unfortunate it is to have a single word burrowing into your skull like the drill of the Underminer. (Of all the references you expected me to make, where did the final scene of the Incredibles rank? Be honest. Post your answers in the comments. Or don’t. What do I care? You probably haven’t made it this far. Post in the comments if you have.)

You see, my job involves quite a bit of writing. In fact, a lot of people would describe me as a writer. If you’re reading this website, who are you to argue with that logic? As a writer, having a word stuck in your head presents a curious dilemma. Allow me to backtrack for a second. When you have a song stuck in your head, what is the first thing someone always tells you to do? Exactly. They tell you to listen to the song. When a word such as confluence is stuck in your head, there is only so much you can do to will it out. You can follow a river to its confluence with another, but that might involve procuring a walking stick. You could type it into a generator that says random text, but that involves other people hearing you or seeing you listen to the word confluence on repeat like it was Gangnam Style in 2012.

Or you could work it into your work. Ah, there’s the ticket. I could sneak it into all of my stories. And I’m pretty sure I have snuck it into a lot of my stories this summer, mostly because I’m pretentious and love big words. But also because IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY! I don’t want this to be a repeat of the olfactory dilemma of 2008-2009. My head is like that scene from Elf where Buddy keeps saying “Francisco” over and over and over and over and over and over and over. And over. But it isn’t funny because my head isn’t Will Ferrell dressed like a man-child who grew up in the North Pole thinking an infant-sized Bob Newhart was his father. (It wasn’t until I began typing that sentence that I realized Bob Newhart played Papa Elf. Weird.) So what am I to do? Do I sneak the same word into my work repeatedly despite the fact that I’m often working harder to try to find an instance to say confluence than I am in actually writing the story and despite the fact that it doesn’t make much sense to use the same word over and over again unless, of course those words are “over” and “over.”

So whatever is a boy to do? (Okay, Frasier references had to have rated higher than Incredibles references.) I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll find something. And there comes the song again.


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