(This story was written in response to the prompt: ” Don’t tell me what to do” by Josh Cunningham. To be fair, though, that’s pretty much all he ever tells me.)
Being sent to my room was never a punishment, because it was where the magic happened. Everyplace else in my life as an unruly third grader tried to place walls around my imagination.
My parents did not like it when I thought about disturbing things. At the playground it was easy to get laughed at if you stepped out of line. School had an incredible number of things they never wanted me to express – they were failing to teach me to read and write, but they had made it very clear what they didn’t want me to think.
My room had no such walls. Restricting my body freed my mind. Like Lucifer in Hell, I could only create a world all my own when I had been banished from the world I was created in.
Eventually the world made room for me – though it would tell you I “matured” – and I became one of those lonely, asocial, strangers who is actually very good with people. I got invited to parties and office functions and discovered that being attractive and apathetic is the key to being loved.
But these social ties are far more effective than the rules and walls and schools of my childhood ever were: the more I socialize, the more my imagination stays grounded. Satre’s Hell – other people – is very different than Lucifer’s.
The solitary mind thrashes and reaches, it creates something out of nothing – this is why people in solitary confinement go mad, their imaginations are unleashed to a degree they can neither control nor stand. But the socialized mind is tamed, its creative powers reduced to constantly asking “does he approve of me? Does she like me? Where do I stand among the tribe?”
Socializing, “networking,” is just map making. The more detailed your map, the greater the cage your mind sits in.
This is why I have come to realize that every creative act begins with the words “Fuck off.” This is why, every year, I shed the people I’ve collected like a layer of dead skin. The only true barrier to the human imagination is the demands of people, and I would rather reign in hell.
You will not limit me, you will not tell me what to do, and I will live in a world that you literally cannot imagine. It only seems like madness if you’re afraid to be born.
Like this? Benjamin’s collection of short fiction “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City” is available.
“Benjamin Wachs reveals a distinctive and highly personal flair for storytelling that will engage the reader’s total and rapt attention throughout.” – The Midwest Book Review