Unable to be Moved—a Fiction Vignette

I need to write how I feel though it rarely makes any difference. The birdsong, the calm of Sunday evening, everyone in their homes, the loss of light as night overcomes the day: none of it moves me. My own unhappiness moves me least of all. It disgusts me. I went to a place where people who sometimes move me get together, but my heart did not stir. I flipped through books that had moved me before—to tears, to adventure and the road, to longing, to love for wildness and people great and small, to love for quiet and peace within me. I tossed each book down again. None of them could move me. Oh, but I would not be resigned! In the morning before the sun had risen I got on my bike, rode up in the direction of a mountain to the south for 15 miles up a steep grade. I made it to the top and flew down. But to move oneself is not to be moved, to feel oneself moving closer to some destination is not to move closer to oneself. I could see the trees pass by in a blur on the side of the road; it could not make clearer the blurred confusion within me. I moved my body but my soul was left unmoved.

Knowing I could not simulate the love for people I didn’t presently feel, I moved myself into the simulation of anger to see if that emotion could change my mood. I riled myself up. People? I despised them. Always smiling, unconscious or unable to allow themselves to feel their own suffering. It was all pretend, a never-ending game of Risk that ends with each player being dominated by the world, except in this pretend game people were stabbed for their shoes and thrown into gutters to die with rats. And me? I was experiencing my anger about people faking happiness and about the injustice of things in a superficial, fake, non-genuine way, without the compassion and sadness that I knew were deeper than the anger. That only sunk me deeper. I could not think of one happy moment.

Just two nights before, I had danced to funk, soul, and rock and roll. I could not hold the memory in my mind. It flew from me into unreality. Dancing—when I felt most myself, most able to express the truth in my soul—did nothing to me. Its restless, self-abandoning and self-revealing movement was only a way to escape the inability to be moved. It was no better than riding a bike. It was nothing but a last ditch effort to rid oneself of burdens that, at the end of the night, would come back with unforgiving vengeance. It failed like all other futile efforts. I remembered with greater clarity the visceral feelings that came into consciousness after the dancing was over and the glow from it gone: unable to sleep, pummeling the keyboard like I always do, trying to approximate in writing the feelings I get from dancing, and failing there too.

It was all failure, and success was the greatest illusion and entrapper of all. I had never succeeded, though perhaps nothing is more fortunate than this. I had lost jobs, lost prestige, lost relationships that had not even begun. No one had lost anything for me. I had lost them all the way I prided myself on being: alone. But none of those outward losses bothered me as much as the inner feelings: my felt sense of deficiency; my inverse and hidden grandiosity, the distance between who I was and who I felt like I could be; my loneliness yet my barely unconscious shattering of all possible opportunities I had to moderate that loneliness with a long-term romantic partner. But what good did that do? How could someone else take the loneliness away? It was not possible. The loneliness was there, and all I could do was understand and express it as best I could. A partner would only put temporary distance between myself and what I could not be parted from.

I could lose everything as long as I could create a work of art that expressed all the pain of those losses and the much greater pain of which those losses were only a symptom. I could not do it because I didn’t even feel any pain, only apathy and a frustration I felt would engulf me from the inside. I suppose I cannot say that I did not feel pain, but my greatest pain was being unable to express the pain I felt. Everything I wrote was inadequate. Only dancing provided an immediate and full expression of feeling. But the expression of pure and complete feeling possible in dancing was inadequate because inarticulate. Energy without meaning. I could dance and express the truth in my soul, but what was that truth? What did it mean? What good did it do after the fact? Nothing was left on the floor, though everything had been propelled out and onto it. It was depth brought to the surface with nothing that remained after the cessation of movement. Nothing that explained the contradictory feelings of overwhelming nothingness and unbearable passion impossible to keep down, the feelings that had caused the restless movement in the first place.

Soon all the feelings would plunge back in and down, become invisible, practically non-entities, as insignificant as the empty dance floor in the closed dive that only moments before had been the site of such forced exuberance. The feelings would be sucked in like dirt into a vacuum, the only thing to show for their existence and expression the fading neurotransmitters that would make it difficult to sleep for a few hours at least. And in the morning a hangover as psychologically painful as that from booze, though the night had been spent without the suspect benefits of that wrecking substance. The extreme ecstasy that dancing can bring at its most intense moments does not lead to long-term happiness and the comedown is just as severe, just as strong as that from any intensely enjoyable experience, whether naturally felt or artificially prompted. It is important to find the center, but not if it precludes the dancing, not if it prevents the soaring. Let monks and spiritual titans experience that grounded, centered equanimity. I know nothing of the center. It is as alien to me as I have become to myself.

“Insanity in the air”

Well, now it’s gotten dark
I got nothin’ to do
I walk wistful through the park
Wishing I could stop thinking of you

I stop in a teashop and find an empty chair
I look around and observe the scene
I try to absorb the tension in the air
Feels like not a soul in the place is at peace

Some people are on computers
And the rest are on phones
A few people sit by themselves
But no one lets themselves be alone

The lone man is suspect
The lone woman rare
I can’t help but detect
Insanity in the air

Abstract paintings on the inside walls
A real life hobo sleeping out on the curb
That cute cashier could be my downfall
I’d get up and talk to her if I had the nerve

All I wanted was to see it through
Now all I want is to be left alone
All you wanted was for me to be with you
Now all you want is to be well-known

The hobo sings a mournful dirge
The woman next to me gives a mighty sigh
I think how we three will never merge
And how difficult it is to be unified

The hobo is suspect
And brought to despair
Does it pain you to detect
The insanity in the air?

Bright college girls talking about their travels
Something about it all is making me sick
I wonder how quickly I can unravel
I wonder if anything I’ve learned will stick

Wish I had a pair of sweatpants
Seems like they’d be nice to wear
I feel like melancholia
Has got me in a trance
It won’t let me go or stay anywhere

I go outside and stand on the corner
I’m trapped and wrapped up in cyclical thought
I feel like some lonesome wordless foreigner
His only claim to fame a spot-on jump shot

The foreigner is suspect
The native is ensnared
Everywhere I go I detect
Insanity in the air

Thought I had something for a second
Well, I lost it fast
Tomorrow the weather will be sunny, I reckon
While I’ll feel frozen in the heartless past

Thought maybe things would be different
All I know now is that I was wrong
You know I can feel awfully deficient
Wherever I go I’ll never belong

I’m watching people and doubt their actuality
I’m watching myself slowly slip away
I thought I’d get better acquainted with reality
Now I wake up disgusted with the break of day

Everyone is suspect
Especially the solitaire
Tonight it’s clear and so direct
I can almost touch it
The insanity in the air