One Story. One Hour.
They move mechanically, with no fluidity, no attention to space. It’s as if each one has been programmed to perform a variation of the same set of steps. There is no true rhythm, no innovation springing up from the soul. Does the music even touch their souls? Do they feel the beat? It has to be more than mere sociology that compels them to gather together in that tiny square. Why do they swarm and sway and swivel? Why do they stutter and careen into one another and jockey for precious floor space?
I don’t dance. I don’t understand it. I’ve tried but I don’t have the false sense of grace these fools have.
Yet, they’re smiling and laughing and flirting and this place, all this around me, it was built for them. I’m the interloper here. I’m the square peg.
My sense of superiority is completely unjustified, and that makes me feel even more smug towards them all. There's a furnace being stoked within my chest. I want to go out there and beat them with my fists. I want to feel my knuckles devastate someone’s nose. I want to bring my knee crashing into someone’s crotch. I want to see the fear in their eyes that comes when someone they didn’t notice before suddenly turns their world upside down.
Jack comes in from the next room to see how I’m doing.
“Good,” I tell him. “I want to murder everyone in this room.”
“Cool.” He says. He reeks of Camel cigarettes and Polo aftershave. I hate him. He was my ride here.
The song changes, tempo – beat – everything, and they dance exactly as they did before. No pattern recognition, no situation-specific response. They don’t even have the rudimentary environmental adaptability of insects. They’re of a lower order than any other species on earth, and yet they are the future. They own this planet. And what do they do with their mighty sway?
They grind their bottoms against one another.
“You need another drink, my friend.” Jack says.
“No. Really. I don’t.” I say. “I’m already feeling impervious to shame.”
“Not enough. Not until I see you out there having fun.” He pats my shoulder and heads off to wait in line at the bar. I see him strike up a conversation with a black girl in her early twenties. The girl has straight purple hair.
For people like Jack, for people like the dancing robots, the world is simple. They simply co-exist together in a shared mental space of collective narcissism. Each believes they are the star of their own sit-com, rom-com, and dramedy. They speak as if they’re reciting lines written for them by someone else. They’ve been taught that they’re special and unique and that they’re entitled to have it all. Yes, entitled. That’s the thing that kills me. They all act as if they’re entitled. Entitled to go where they want, do what they want, say what they want. What nobody seems to grasp these days is that we’re only entitled as far as someone else is willing to indulge us. There are no unalienable rights. There is no right to life, or right to liberty. These are illusions. I could walk right up to any of those fools this very moment and break their neck and what then? Did I violate their right to life, or did I mere exercise my right to liberty? In the end, we only exist as long as someone else allows us to exist. Everything in our lives is potentially transitory. Yet look at them. They don’t understand this. They live in denial, or rather, ignorance. They chauffer themselves through a state of perpetual bliss and woeful disregard for anyone else’s life but their own. Everyone else is either a co-star or an audience member. In their heads they hear laugh tracks and string quartets and applause when they finish out their days.
Jack comes back with a couple of Long Islands and sits back down. He’s trying to tell me about the girl he talked up in line but I’m busy staring out at that dance floor, at the children of the MTV revolution, their lives an incomprehensible sequence of jump cuts and accelerated zooms. I feel like I’m caught in between signals, lost in transmission. I should have been born in a time where people flowed and moved in one continuous arc from birth to death. Not like today, when everyone is expected to leap effortlessly from one money shot to the next, never fully appreciating just how vital and precious every single breath is.
I take a sip of my Long Island. It’s very good.
“Thanks, Jack.” I say. “I think I needed this.”