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The Revolt of the Body Politic

Image: The Hanged Man, by Beau Stanton

Image: The Hanged Man, by Beau Stanton

Within the fabric of certain stories there sometimes exists a character that can, in a particular way, come to know the story itself. In so doing there is an empowerment that arises, an ability to affect their own fate in a manner in which the author had not intended. Such is often called an awakening.

This is a rare occurrence. More often than not, those whose roles have been written go to the grave playing them out. It is as one would expect. The wider rhythms of our world follow these patterns more so than any other.

Yet there is another direction, one that is sadly experienced more often than it is properly addressed. Such is the story of Samuel.

Throughout our lives we are, each of us, visited by many different bodies. There is the body we are born with, soft and pink and wrinkled, lost to this new world with a surrender that is utterly complete;  the many bodies of childhood, with their bruised shins and missing teeth, the suddenly budding appendages and all the sticky shame that accompanies them; there is the adult body and its slow passage over decades, condensing for us with some of the comforts that childhood denied; and then there is the final body, ambling out of time with a slow sigh so unlike the whine it had emitted upon entering, all those years past.

Yet there exist others. Bodies that frequent us far more often throughout the course of our lives, completely outside of the linear lines the physical bodies remain bound to. There is the waking body the one most often experienced followed closely by the sleeping body a creature that belongs to a wholly different world and then there exists the body between these two, however brief its visits may be. Out of these arise the emotional bodies Past, Present and Future. And it is these, more than any of the others, that ultimately determine the course of one’s life.

As are most of us, Sam was unfamiliar with the Body Present. The interplay of the others long obscured it. It was a typical story. As a younger man the Body Future had been the dominant vehicle, informing him in most instances, but as time slowly evened out before him, gathering as it does in the years left behind, the Body Past was becoming ever more dense. He was, in fact, now visited by it more than any other. He spent most of his time as the Body Past, moving in the manner in which it had informed him over the years, walking with the thoughts that had come to create his gait, as it were his bones, his blood, his brain everything.

The Body Future was normally dormant until night fell, when it was time to sleep. It would come on slowly, filtering in with a vague unease, familiar though it was. Drink usually helped. They had given him medication as well some to take during the day, others at night, some only on particular days. He often found himself wondering if it wasn’t making it worse. It had been too long. He couldn’t remember the way it had been before.

Lying in bed, he rolled over, sick with thought. There was no one there with him, no one to talk to, no one to listen to, no one to be mad at and turn his back to. It had been years like this. Only him.

The Body Future was already well upon him, changing everything, condensing solidly into form. His mind moved through all the different scenarios. Money. Job. The kids. Everything that still needed doing. What remained of the Body Past filled in the spaces that were left. Mary. The infidelity. The dog. Stupid things, even further back. Memories so well worn the grooves had walls.

He got up. The Jamesons was still out. What was the point in putting it away? He took some of the un-prescribed meds, had a glass, sat down to the T.V. It was easier, stringing his consciousness into its. He could breathe again.

In the morning, he got up, the Body Past. Work. A few good moments, some laughs. Mostly the overinvolved details of the same story he sold himself everyday. There were few visits from the Body Future. Everything he had was built upon that which had been previously built upon, all of it constricting itself, the movements so limited they had their own gravity, his thoughts well within their prescribed orbit.

“Have a good night, Sam.”

“You too, Aziz.”

He left, started up the truck, let it idle for a few minutes. People walked by, shadows, murmuring in the darkness. He sat there, thinking, unable to sense even his own breathing, the different bodies mingling fiercely. It was too much. He’d fucked everything up. He’d been fucked over. What a waste it all was everything he could’ve been, everything that now wouldn’t be. What was going to happen?

He drove home, same thing.

The weekend came. He puttered around, started in on the beer in the morning. He thought of the kids, wondered if he’d see them again, wondered if they wanted to see him. He thought of Mary, and him, of them together, of everything they were doing together. What would his old man say? What would the kids think when they were old enough? The whole thing, it was too much.

Weeks passed. Months. The Body Present faded ever further into its silence. Every second, someone else. Every moment, endless faces, the Body Politic and all of its players. Out of the past, there were so many sutures that had begun to come undone; not because they were unable to heal, but because they could not be left alone. Out of the future, so many new wounds that were not yet finished being inflicted. The blood of the different bodies were confused in their mingling, the constriction ever deepening. The only possible movement began to come more apparent.

By the time it happened, there was no other path. There never is. So many consider it a choice, scoffing and criticizing and condemning with the wholehearted fervor of those who fail to understand what they’re so seemingly sure of. Only the ignorant would propose that anyone makes a conscious choice of suicide. Only someone deeply unaware of their own fear regarding such a primal act could suppose such a thing. There is no understanding there; no compassion, no clarity.

When one loses to the Body Politic it is due to a mutiny of the messiest kind. All of the beauty and simplicity and wonder held in the Body Present has been obscured for so long it has become seemingly irretrievable. Even those with others close by remain alone.

This is the movement that occurs when one loses the ability to breathe, even as they remain alive. The passageway, as always, is through. Ever inward. Yet beyond the doorway lies dual paths. One leads to awakening, the other, to an even deeper sleep.

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