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lots of words and a tungsten cube by Fatima A. '25

monologues and dialogues.

in the past couple of months, my floor has found itself back in the trenches of memorizing speeches and monologues and poems (but mostly the first two), started by Jonathan learning the critic’s monologue from Ratatouille and the tungsten cube Amazon review. because he is part of multiple communities and because it is funnier, the tungsten cube monologue has stuck with many people. i am not really sure what i mean by that, but i just hear about the tungsten cube more than most other things. 

i looked at the person who posted this review, and honestly, he mostly seemed pretty legit to me, although i might just be too generous with my judgment. he reviewed some particle physics book and some other math book, so he just seemed like some Jonathan-like MIT kid who one day decided to write this review and good job on the review, it sure is dense.

on October 23rd, i walked into my recitation room and Jett, the TA who teaches recitation before me, had a shiny cube on the table at the front of class. i looked at it and my brain immediately went, huh. but, i acted normal, convinced that i am biased because i have just been hearing about the cube a lot and began to erase the chalkboards. at the same time, i am also recalling that the tinyurl from Jett’s recitation last week was also tungsten. a couple moments later, Jett hands me the cube and asks if i know what it is. i stand there with the cube in my hand, my brain going, is it? is it? but a second, more skeptic thought going, it can’t be, it can’t be.  

eventually, he goes it is a tungsten cube and i turn around and hold it for Matthew, who had come for this recitation, and declare, it is the W-cube.

there is not much to get out of this story, i just like telling it because i find it funny. how a silly little review can make a silly little cube mean something so exciting.   

had you come up to me with a shiny, heavy cube before this, i would not have thought anything of it.

having exhausted the poetry workshops offered at MIT, i am taking a playwriting class. i was partially inspired by Alan and partially, just because i found myself thinking more in dialogue/monologue style in my writing. to some extent, poetry is just a monologue, right? right? i don’t know if i want to make large claims, i just find that it is probably easier to transition from poetry to playwriting than another fiction class. 

one thing this class has given me is that i have really started noticing how people talk, the various eccentricities, the different styles people adopt, and even just, the analogies and literary devices people employ to make their points. (if you know me, i hope you can deal with the knowledge that i am listening to you.)

often, dialogue that may feel unnaturalistic feels more natural in specific contexts of various people. when i think about some of the conversations i have had on my floor, both that i was actively a part of or just conversations i was listening to, part of me does think that if someone had presented this to me as dialogue without context, i would not believe that people really talk like that. but people talk in all many ways and with all different quirks. 

i also really enjoy seeing the convergence of language (i don’t know if that is a real term or not, but it seems appropriate to use). little quirks in one person’s language permeates through other people around them. on a somewhat side note, it helps me better understand how language forms (get destroyed by linguists in eight words challenge).

something my professor said that really stuck with me about pacing in plays is that one, human interaction is interesting and two, we think audiences would not be able to understand everything we say but they are often smarter and more perceptive than we think. 

i walked into the first workshop for my short play with twelve pages of dialogue. the minimum requirement was fifteen. most people in my class were way over, so much so that the professor changed the requirement from 15-20 pages to 15-25 pages. and i truly felt like i was saying everything i needed to say. but truly, i think i was giving talking less credit than due. the play was moving very fast and the character dynamics were just not as clear as they could have been. 

in the second draft, i mostly only focused on adding more scenes to lay out a better foundation in some sense. to the second part of her comment, i think i am generally okay with that because when writing poems, i am very okay with expecting readers to not immediately get everything and have to read through multiple times. so, some combination of lowering expectations, audiences of poetry seem more likely to read a poem twice than audiences of play to watch a play twice, and acknowledging smaller things more hopefully helps me get to the right spot in terms of this balance.

i have been in a strange writer’s block this semester. i am not able to write poems at all. i feel very, very stuck. but, i am still completing my assignments for my playwriting class. maybe they are not great, but i am generally happy with them. i am barely able to write anything for the blogs. i feel like i have so much to say, but even writing in a journal seems difficult.

all this to say, i have been thinking about words a lot, both because i am at a loss of them and because i have so much to say. in a more detail oriented way, the way you present something, the very specific words and choices of orderings completely changes the reader’s experience. both in terms of clarity but more pressingly, different framings create different narratives and compel different perspectives about the exact same thing. i don’t think anything can be truly free of bias, but it just seems crucial to be aware, both as a writer and as a reader. 

on a high level, i am constantly in awe of the impact and power words hold. when i read something my classmates bring in, i often forgot that someone wrote that. it feels real

more personally too, i both take words too seriously and not seriously at all. it seems so easy to be hurt or happy by silly little sounds that we attribute oceans of meanings to, just because other silly little humans made the same sounds before us. but, then again, it feels like the most meaningful part of my life: the words i have said and the words that have been said to me. i do not know how much of what i have said i now own, but in some way, maybe, those words are the parts of me i had decided to be known at those times. whether i like or own those parts now might just be irrelevant. 

it is the same way i yearn to cling on to little details people share with me—windows into a life i can never experience. there is no judgment on whether these parts are no longer who they are, it is just a beautiful acknowledgement of our shared memories and existence.