A Case of the Shut-Ins

I’ll call it that.

I don’t know what it is, really. I think at times I called it a lot of things, many of which were really dependent on the age I was and what I knew about myself and what words I had to call those things: earliest on, it’s probably something like ‘shy’, or ‘timid’; later on maybe it’s ‘antisocial,’ or that adolescent catchall, ‘weird’; maybe later still after a few psychology classes in college it’s ‘social anxiety’. 

And it’s all mixed into this weird stew of what other people think about you, and those terms accumulate over time, so instead of really developing any new paths through the strangling underbrush of ‘avoidance’ (another more collegiate term, or perhaps slightly earlier if you’ve gone through sociology in high school because you’re trying to make a map of human experience in order to explain why you feel so out of sorts in the most normal human events: sports games, dances, family holidays, birthday parties, ‘going out’ aka dating, ‘going out’ aka getting chemically altered in whatever the local fashion deems most fulfilling to the expectations of disappointment foisted passively upon you by the wary words of the adult authorities in your immediate vicinity, at school, at church, at home) you just.. stay home. Stay in. Shut in. 

I always liked Philip K Dick. A weird (1 point), antisocial (2 points) agoraphobe (triple bonus score) whose words weren’t as intuitive as someone like Ray Bradbury to my younger self, but whose biography made for a more compelling artifact for endless examination in my mind late at night, when sleep stayed at bay, as though my thoughts were the torches my mind swept wildly in the late hours, an act against extinguishment, against the annihilation that sleep would guarantee.

But it’s all this complex pattern built of over many years, isn’t it? It’s self-reinforcing. When I went to see The Cure with an ex-girlfriend in high school, and felt so estranged and yet so desirous of participating in that social morass without the separation of self-consciousness that I lied about crowd surfing after sitting on a stairway, locked in my own head, staring aimlessly, wrapped in something that was equal parts guilt, shame, and self-loathing – for no real reason in particular except the one that rings through every situation: ‘Why can’t you just snap out of it?’

I know at least this much, now. Being alone is a lovely wellspring of personal satisfaction, when it happens properly. Only, I don’t seem to know how to delineate between the equivalent of gorging on a feast for five on my own, and partaking of a healthful repass. So it’s a lot of awkward all-or-nothing, with me either burned out, or locked in my mind, not wanting to go out. because I’ve forgotten my keys, or my water bottle, because it’s hot out or maybe cold and I need a sweater, and will I need my bag or not, and should I have a book just in case, and if so then also my journal and then of course a pencil case, and maybe a snack to be safe, but now I need to pack it into a larger bag because perhaps I’ll need some extra space.

You never know what you’ll need outside the doors of your room, or your dorm, or your apartment. 

So there bag stays on the couch, full of everything, and you stay next to it, filled from ear to ear with every tangential need that would possibly come along on a trip to the corner market. Or to the park. Like every step is one into a global expedition.

At least I cleaned the place.