Now, we’re in a completely distinct period of time, one where we have all been forced to tuck ourselves away, estranged from loved ones and friends. But even before all this, while I was writing my first collection of stories, Paradise Block
, named after the tower block where most of the stories are set, I was thinking about human cocoons. My therapist and I talked about the urge to tuck yourself away and hide, contrasting against the need for human intimacy. It can be a very alienating and confusing thing, these two opposing instincts acting at the same moment. For me, anxiety is the sensation of exposure: a ringing telephone can feel like a screeching alarm, the bedroom walls coming down and the room filling with canned laughter. It’s a chance for failure and rejection, for the truth to out: you’re Boring, Silly, or Not Funny, but at the same time, you also feel lonely and very much want
to talk to people. I often get hooked on the idea of dark and light to explain this feeling. The idea that darkness is frightening is wound deeply into our culture, but also light – bright, brilliant whiteness – this can be very frightening, too. Light is blank spaces, large sterile rooms and clinical eyes, rejection and judgement – in the darkness of a cluttered bedroom there are jumbles of shadows, nooks and crannies – there is mystery and places to hide.