My computer’s like a presence in the room sitting waiting for me to do work. Why aren’t you producing something worthwhile it seems to ask. It’s my conscience, out there in the world, looking back at me and seeing me for the gormless twerp I really am. The exterior Protestant work ethic, ticking over there, even though its face is closed and blank, I know its waiting for me, counting the hours, accruing viruses and emails and Things That Should Be Done
That’s why we love to go camping, to get away from the household guilts—that’s also why it makes no sense to take the household paraphernalia with you on vacation. What’s the point? You haven’t got away from anything, you’ve taken it with you. Like those bumbling overloaded Winnebagos laboring up into pristine mountain meadows to begin unloading the household they thought they left behind.
For me a vacation is the chance to vacate the persona I always am, to become someone nobody knows, to be one of those possible personalities I left behind on my way to adulthood, to strip away the armadillo shell. Now I can no longer travel by air, I must find ways to vacate differently—women change their hair color, makeup, clothes, gyms, husbands, households, banks—even perhaps names. Authors do it all the time. Nom-de-plumes area an honored professional house trick. So a vacation is living elsewhere, as someone else. Which is what reading fiction gives us. Writing it too.