The light in the kitchen is clear. The radio is playing a song from 1975. My mother always has the radio on. I know the words of most of the popular songs from the 1970s and 80s. It’s one thing I’m good at, remembering the words of pop songs. It’s an unrecognised form of genius. I won’t even know I know a song and then I’ll suddenly be singing along word perfect.

The light in the kitchen is clear and I am a pair of eyeballs looking back at the kitchen window from the top of the table. As a baby you don’t have a position so much as a very fixed point of view and until you can crawl (a manoeuver I never mastered) that point of view is the point of view that others allow you. I’m looking up at the kitchen window that runs the length of the kitchen counter. I’m not placed high enough to look out the window, but I’ve got a good view of the light, and even a baby can get a kick out of good light. My mother has placed me on the table in a bouncinette that is made of yellow crocheted netting and it gives when you wriggle your legs, and the whole contraption bounces. It’s cool-fun.

The radio is on and the kitchen door is open. If you poke your head out the open kitchen door you’ll see it leads down some concrete steps, along a narrow concrete path with some freshly laid grass seed to the sides of that path (so, lo and behold, don’t walk on the grass seed, stick to the narrow path). The path leads to our white letterbox and to the corner, around which my mother will tell you ‘trucks thunder.’ Thundering trucks are the stuff of nightmares for my mother because my sister, once she could, escaped on her hands and knees out that same back door, along the path and out onto the road on which trucks would thunder.

My mother is baking. Neenish tarts. She is a very good baker which is something you should be if you are a mother, a housewife in Newlands in 1975. She is blonde, she is twenty-four, she is from a farm in Rongotea, she is a trained secretary, she has married a man in advertising.

I asked her if she knew she would always leave the Manawatu, did she always know she would end up a town-girl? ‘I don’t know,’ she says and her eyes glaze over, unapproachable. I don’t know.

Her back is turned to me, the baby on the table in the middle of the kitchen, but I don’t mind because I can still see her, I can still look at the window and admire the clarity of light that comes through it.

Then I startle and wave my baby arms and maybe I fart or blow some spit out of my mouth because there are two people at the open door. They are smiling people, very smiley, and I smile back because I am a baby with a high point of view.

If I hadn’t been given this point of view would I remember this scene? Do I remember this scene or has it been told to me over and over so that I’ve made it a scene? The clear light, the unnamed pop song, the window, the profound position I’ve been given on the table. And now the smiling people who wave at me and say to my mother, ‘Excuse me, Madam, can we talk to you?’

My mother has not seen me startle and smile at the smiley strangers, but now she suddenly turns at the sounds of their voices, and she says, ‘Oh, I did not see you there,’ by which she means, ‘What are you doing in my kitchen? Get out of my kitchen, you are frightening me.’ But we do not say that we are frightened, because to say that would be to admit that we are frightened.

‘That is such a delightful baby,’ says the woman at the door and she steps over the threshold toward me and holds out her hand to touch my baby cheeks. A baby is a thing to touch and to speak of in the third person. That baby. Is such a. Thing.

The woman rubs the back of her finger against my cheek. I smile and kick my legs to bounce my bouncinette, how clever of me.

My mother wipes her hands on her pinny, instead of hitting the woman’s arm away from me. My mother says, ‘What do you want?’

The man, has stepped over the threshold now too and into our kitchen, and he smiles and says, ‘This is a lovely kitchen, very light.’

The house is new. It’s the only time in my life I have lived in a brand new house. In the land of the new. My father once told me he wanted to live in the southern suburbs, Island Bay by the sea, where a friend of his lived. But my mother didn’t want to. He told me this when I was living in Island Bay, as an adult. He said, ‘You know my friend who killed himself? Guy? He lived in Island Bay.’

Why did my mother want to live in Newlands? It’s so far from everything, except the motorway and the rubbish dump. Perhaps they could agree on it because it was new. Perhaps people who live there will never kill themselves.

The kitchen smells of my mother’s baking. It’s ten in the morning and it’s autumn. The man and the woman are moving in our kitchen now, moving around the table to admire the baby and the kitchen. They talk to my mother using words. I don’t really understand words yet, but I’m absorbing them especially if they’re in a pop song, in which case my brain is storing them in my pop song data files, which take up something like 32 gigabytes of space.

That sort of data file space is unimaginable back then. Back then data is stored on records, in the magical shape of a groove and when the needle is on the record, lo and behold, don’t jump or run because it will confuse the data and scratch the vinyl. Data is stored in words on pages in books. Lo and behold don’t be so rough with the pages or they’ll rip. The telephone book, the Edmonds, the Bible, the Hamlyn Family Medical Dictionary, Busy Town, Scamp the Dog, Snow Day at Blackberry Farm. Data is stored in a person’s head behind firewalls, so that nobody else can get at it and share that information with the government or with your parents or your friends or your lovers. Why would we want to share so much data anyway? Share and like. Am I telling you this so I can be shared and liked?

Yesterday David held up a tiny piece of plastic and said, ‘This has a whole movie on it.’ We marveled over this. His first new computer when he started to write film scores around fourteen years ago was 500 megabytes and then he got an external drive that was 1 gigabyte. This was indescribably enormous and exciting. Now you can fit a 16 gigabyte movie file onto a piece of plastic the size of my fingernail. I asked him if the movie used up all the space on the tiny plastic and he tried to explain that it wasn’t space so much as a string of 0s and 1s and the data is using up those 0s and 1s, like beads on an abacus being pushed up to count for something.

‘You can write over the 0s and 1s,’ David told me, ‘If you don’t mind losing your original data.’

He’s telling me this and I try to listen but all I can hear is the Flight of the Concords’ Robot Song when they start singing, ‘Zero zero zero zero zero zero one’ etc.

‘So is data like a box into which you can fit a finite number of shoes, and if you want to add any different shoes, you throw away the ones you don’t like anymore or have worn down so much they’re dog tucker, so you chuck them out and replace them with new shoes?’ I say.

‘Um?’ says David.

Zero zero zero zero zero zero one.

If I download the kitchen and the clear light and the man and the woman at the door, then moving over the threshold into the kitchen, will I be able to write over that space with something else? What would I want to replace it with? If I do replace it will I still be me? Am I the view of the light in the kitchen or the 0s and 1s storing the view of the light in the kitchen?

I kick my legs and bounce and the man walks behind me so I can’t see him anymore. My mother is right in front of me looking over me, across the table to the man. She has her hands on her hips now, making herself wider, like a chimp mother might. When the man behind me talks to my mother his voice is detached from his body, he’s a voice-over in a movie.

‘Do you have hole in your life?’ he says. ‘Do you think about God?’

The song on the radio has become louder. No, not louder, persistent, and because of that, all consuming. The radio has been on for years. The radio is a fly buzzing around the bedroom at nighttime. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, says the fly, and all you can focus on is the fly, every muscle fibre in your body strains towards the buzzing fly, so that the fly might not just be in your room, but in your brain, it might not just be the only sound you’ll ever hear again, it might also be the only thought you’ll have again. The radio is always on because without the constant buzzing of the radio we might hear ourselves think. Thoughts are doubts, thoughts are flying daggers – reach out and grab one, stab it in your gut.

On the radio we hear parts of our lives sung – the aching part of us played out in chords, words we can’t speak ourselves made into simple metaphors, similes and then resolved tidily in rhyme. In a pop song we are made into palatable fragments, fragments made sweeter, more attractive than in real life. The pop songs my mother favours – the Carpenters, ABBA, Barbara Straisand and Barry Gibb construct syrupy dream worlds.

‘So much of life ahead, we’ll find a place where there’s room to grow. Yes, we’ve only just begun.’

Karen Carpenter didn’t grow though, did she? She did the opposite. She shrank herself until her heart gave out.

Pop songs perform a double act of repression and release. If you have been left alone all day in a kitchen with a new baby in Newlands, a pop song might be a way to not go crazy, to not hear yourself think. Keep the lid on the boiling pot.

Strangers entered our house while the radio was on, and my mother did not hear them. Strangers who wanted to sell us God. We weren’t buying. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t afford it.

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