He observed the motion of his left arm as it reached out for the recorder, feeling momentarily detached from the action. An inner voice said ‘no, don’t, not now’. He gripped his Olympus LS 10 tightly, enjoying the feel of its familiar heft. The two little soft black mufflers that fit over the mics were missing, but everything else looked just as it did when he bought it new fifteen years ago. Black hard plastic casing, the array of silver control buttons on the front, play back and record dials protruding from both sides. It only ever failed him when the batteries died unexpectedly, and the few wasted times he forgot to push the record button that second time.
He reluctantly replaced the recorder beside the tangled white ear buds. Maybe this wasn’t the time to talk, but where was that decision coming from? He had recently suspected that podcasting might be serving as an escape, like a prescription drug that takes away all your pain and loneliness. That nagging inner voice asked if recording had been a subconscious way of avoiding thoughts he didn’t want to confront.
Talking at length, unscripted, gave him control over the present moment; his life then became whatever he said it was. He could make himself happy or sad with his choice of words. He could give thanks for all his blessings. He could laugh, shout, rant, rage, sing, read, act, burp, fart, grovel and apologize in any way he pleased. He just let it tumble out, seemingly unrehearsed, leaving him feeling purged afterwards.
Of course there were filters, used mainly to maintain the persona he had created for his handful of faithful listeners. He liked to think of them as his friends, even though the the communication was in one direction only, outwardly. There was never a co-host; the show was entirely his own, and it was up to him to protect and preserve his online reputation. He’d already invested more than nine hundred hours in keeping this character alive and out there; ending it was unconscionable.
But now, this very now, wasn’t the time to shut off the real world by pressing record. He had to let those other thoughts surface, the ones he’d been avoiding, the ones concerning some vague but uncomfortable truth. Where did they originate? Why were they haunting him? What was it that made him so afraid to stop and acknowledge that something was wasn’t quite right.
He wanted to believe they weren’t really his thoughts, that they belonged to someone else, an intimate friend maybe. That way he could dismiss them, put them out of his mind. They weren’t his problems, he wasn’t the one who should be worried. And so what if podcasting offered a refuge — everyone needs a safe place to hide.
It wasn’t like this a year ago. There was never the uncertainty that he was feeling now. What could be wrong about letting loose, having fun, sharing good times? So what if he repeated some of his stories, or forgot a few words. But that cloud still hovered, growing larger and more ominous. Turning on the recorder could make it disappear, but he knew avoidance was no longer an option.
“There’s no time but now,” the voice seemed to mock.
“What do you want?”, he demanded angrily. He was surprised at realizing he had spoken the words, loudly, as if engaged in real conversation. He stared at the lake through his windshield, waiting for an answer that was his alone to give.
“I know I’m forgetting things. It’s not that important. Everyone gets confused at my age. It doesn’t matter. No one’s complaining. It’s still a good podcast.”
Like a sudden downpour, sadness overwhelmed him. He gripped the wheel with both hands, head down, and hot tears trickled down his face. His shoulders shook as he tried to muffle the sound of his crying.
“I can’t tell them!”, he cried out. “I can’t let go — it’s all I have. I need this.”
Silence followed, indifferent to his pain. The cloud had lifted, the secret was out now. It’ll be okay, he assured himself. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he once again reached out for his recorder, smiling faintly.
Ear buds in, thumb on record, no rehearsing, he began.
“Welcome back folks! This is your host, the one and only. And have I got something to share with you today! So listen up eh.”