Almost immediately after publishing Episode One, I set out to write Episode Two. The first four parts came quite easily. But then I paused. My pause seemed to extend passed the normal length of time acceptable to still be considered a pause; I had stopped. It wasn’t writers block. It was avoidance. Episode Two was designed as a new writing challenge. And I had perhaps challenged myself a little too well only two episodes in.
The very nature of these stories is to ask difficult questions of society. But a story that consists of just two characters talking for the entire time, well that posed more hurdles to overcome as the writer. How to keep it interesting? How to keep it moving? How to get more answers? How to ask more questions?
There are tiny moments in this episode that are some of my favourites. The description of Victor making the tea is one. It’s very telling of how Victor feels at that moment. All of his attention and focus is on brewing those cups. He can’t comprehend anything else at that point. For me as the writer, those descriptions offered me the chance to focus on the mundane. I think it would be very natural to avoid the extraordinary information that you aren’t going to live passed that day, and pour all that you have into normality. It’s what John tried to do – and it consumed him. But Victor is very different. He has lived his life; it was full and happy; he isn’t being struck down in his prime. He manages to get passed the all-encompassing grief, with a fair amount of help from Maggie, and it moves him to finally ask those questions; those hard, hard questions. I like that. It took me a while to move away from deep focus on the little things, and start getting to the harder stuff. But once I got passed it, I found that I was just as angry, confused and scared as Victor was.
I tried to mix it up by dedicating an entire chapter to a letter from Tom (Victor’s partner who has passed away). I think this episode needed the letter by means to break up the intensity of having just these two people talking about what’s about to happen. But also to bring in another perspective. Tom’s letter allows us to learn so much about Victor’s past. I wanted this episode to be one of description and reflection; on his life and his love, before he was able to get his head around his imminent death.
But, I think the main reason I found it so difficult to write is that in writing this installment I discovered potential parallels to the possible end of my life. Being a gay man, I might not end up having children. It is entirely possible that I could outlive my partner and this idea scares me. As I dove deeper into Victor’s last day I realised that I was empathising a little too well with him.
Couple that with the fact that the house I describe as his, was the house that I lived in at the time; the cat that I described as his, was next door’s cat that basically lived in our garden (and did in fact sit on our lawn by the fence with the broken panel); the hobbies that I gave Victor and Tom (listening to vinyl and Doctor Who) are very real hobbies that my partner and I have… It all got a little bit too much.
I stepped away. I paused. I stopped. The whole life imitating art argument just took on whole new levels, and I found it too difficult to write. I was too close. But in time, I revisited Victor’s story and I was able to finish it.