Would I give you one? Maybe once, but now ...

Far more persistent than any “to be or not to be” nonsense is the question, repeated by the subconscious of horny homo sapiens since time immemorial: “would I or wouldn’t I?”

This mechanism lives in the daydreamy part of one’s head, and is linked neurally to the reproductive function, the biological imperative and the silky Marvin Gaye voice inside that whispers: “Let’s get it on, ooh, ooh ...”

Like blinking, it just happens, and so quickly an abbreviation – wiwi – is needed. It’s never a question of “will I or won’t I?” or “should I or shouldn’t I?”, both of which belong to a fleshier, steamier stage of proceedings, woohooh.

Wiwi resides in the dry hypothetical realm, as safe as Santa’s fishnet stockings. As a general rule, the head only fires off a wiwi-wooh-ooh once, on first meeting/ seeing/ walking past someone, and the brain’s immediate answer is definitive: “I’d smack that”/ “I’d rather not”.

As always, there are exceptions. If you were stranded with bleeding gums in a dilapidated high rise following a nuclear war for what you thought would be eternity, say, with only one other person for company (an obese man; your elderly neighbour), what was “I wouldn’t” could very quickly become, “Stuff it, I would – meet me by the microwave in five ...”

Conversely, surefire woulds can metamorphose into wouldn’ts with the etching of time, the gaining of experience and daily soakings from the shitstorm of life.

But wiwi abides, or so I thought. Mine has been wonky of late, making at best a fuzzy sound like a radio running low on batteries. Strangers who would before have been an “oh aye” with a capital O and A, register only a vague, incomprehensible thrum, and then silence. My wiwi has been replaced (temporarily? – by whom, goddamnit?) with rusting cables and dirty buffers, like the lift shaft of an empty love hotel.

If you have to prompt your wiwi there’s no point – you’re better off joining a monastery. These days, for one reason or another, it’s nigh-on certain that I won’t, barring the bomb or some other catastrophe, and so my wiwi, I can only assume, has atrophied. I’ve been reconditioned, perhaps – the thought police have won. I feel OK, considering.

Time was I couldn’t have conceived of life without my wiwi. Frequently the answer was “I would” tempered only by the type of insecure self-questioning young men with more libido than Liberace can feel: “but would you, sweet baby, would you, ooh-ooh?” Just realising you wooh-ould – and they might – was a form of conquest, even though it lasted just a second and affected nothing and no-one around you. You would.

The matter was settled, and your feelings were compartmentalised. Squeezed tight by the palpitations of youth I couldn’t help thinking older people were pretending not to have a wiwi, or had switched it off for essential maintenance, but now I’m not sure.

In fact, the more I think about it, the very idea of wiwi seems faintly obscene, and not in a good way. I don’t see people the same; there’s been a fundamental shift in the way I feel about the world and my place within it, none of which, as far as I can tell, has been conscious. Are you a good person, a good laugh, a good daughter, a good mother, a good sister, a good socialist?

Forget your wiwi: that’s all I need to know.

First published on Herald Scotland.