Pinter and the practice of pause

It has been a long time since I studied Harold Pinter’s work in a scholarly fashion and yet I was saddened by his recent death.  I love the seemingly simplistic dialogue in his plays that were anything but simple.

Pinter had the miraculous gift to put ordinary people into misleading situations that often brought about emotionally brutal results.

And, of course, the pauses.

Cannot help but love the pauses.

When I was an actor, interpreting the air and being alive during those pauses was more than an exhilarating challenge – it was akin to  becoming a prima ballerina.  To get it right could take years of experience and training and yet it needed to appear effortless to anyone watching.

It could be as basic as letting the directed time pass until your next line or it could be as difficult as thinking of the eight million things you want to say until the sound of the scripted words makes the journey from the bottom of your diaphragm through the saliva pooling at the back of your throat where it finally escapes through your possibly trembling lips.

Those are the pauses I remember.  Those are the pauses I have more experience with in my real life.  I have never, ever been even remotely adequate at allowing time to pass without marking every second with a blistering bombardment of questions waging gangland warfare on my conscious state.

Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older and have less time in which to participate in these paralyzing games, the previously determined pauses are fewer and their duration far shorter.

The unexpected pause, however, still, well – gives me pause.

A comment from one of my kids that pierces my sternum because it comes from someone too young to couch it behind anything but the truth.

A pointed remark from someone I had believed was not capable of tossing them out at me especially when it is repeated and shared with others.

The extra wrinkles, continuous pain from a distant surgery, and rapid mood shifts that I was not warned about occurring so early in my aging age.

The moment unimaginable news is delivered about someone I love that absolutely alters my cellular makeup.

The intensity and reason for the pause may have varying levels of degree and importance within whatever hierarchy the linear part of my brain has placed on my life while the pause itself reverberates the same Pinteresque array of colors in the other.  Together, they create an internal conversation akin a stage play performed by extremely talented actors without an audience.

Voice on the Phone
You know, it was our anniversary on Monday.

Pause. [Me thinks “oh, shit” what do I do now?  How mad is she? I really did mean to call – even picked out a present but just ran out of time to get it done.]

Me
Oh. Yes. I am sorry. I forgot.

Pause. [Me thinks the Voice on the Phone is thinking, I cannot believe you didn’t call – what does that say about you?  What does that say about your relationship with me?]

Voice on the Phone
Yes.  Well, I almost forgot, too, until he reminded me.

Pause. [Me thinks well, crap, you forgot my birthday more than once.  I didn’t realize we were keeping score but now that I know we are I guess it’ll have to be game-on.]

Me
Well, I am sorry I forgot – Happy Anniversary.

Pause. [Me thinks I don’t want to fight with this person.  I want to love this person and have this person love me without conditions like I thought it was supposed to be.  Will it never be possible?]

Voice on the Phone
Thanks.

Silence. [Me thinks I won’t outlive this one either.  It will be added to the ever-present grade-book that I don’t know where it is hidden nor the grading system in which to get a passing grade.  I guess that’s okay as long as I remember the rules I was never told.]

Me
Okay.  So, I’d like to order a large sausage pizza with light sauce and black olives?

Voice on the Phone
Will that be for pickup or delivery?

5 thoughts on “Pinter and the practice of pause

  1. Voice on the Phone
    You know, it was our anniversary on Monday.

    Pause. [Me thinks “oh, shit” what do I do now? How mad is she?

    Did I read this wrong? I couldn’t figure out what anniversary you might be sharing with a woman. Basically, I’m being nosey! I figure if it’s on a blog, however, it’s fair game. : ) You can also tell me to mind my own business.

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