The Reality Institute

The Tired Old Man and the Big Bad Feeling

A tired old man explains in his head, “I’ll keep this promise to myself, never to say this thing that I feel because I don’t want to jinx anything.”

Tired as he may be, he grows tired still wanting the words of his feelings to spread his lips and inform those around him. This thing that burrows in his thoughts, hidden in every nook and cranny of the afternoon. He can’t help it, he wants to speak, but as soon as those words come out, the greatest desires he’s attached to this feeling will not be realized.

This feeling: the love he has for the weekend teller at the bank down the block. If he tells anyone of this love for her, nothing will work out, the walls will come crashing down on his greatest dreams and he will fall apart into his death.

A simple superstition was all it took.

Meanwhile, the Feeling (which he has named in his head) has moved in and lives comfortably among mental routines and past, present, and future anxieties. It kicks its feet up and orders the other thoughts around, commanding a presence in the old man’s head. He can’t deny that it’s there and he can’t let it out.

A friend asks him a question. The old man, distracted, can’t think of an answer, but only grows a small smile on his face. The friend, acknowledging the man’s lack of answer, asks him what he’s thinking about. The old man replies, “I’d tell you, but I don’t want to jinx it.” The friend laughs.
Inside his head, the Feeling raids the mind’s fridge of past loves, devouring the memories of women he once knew. There was Jenny, a neighborhood girl, who he gave a roll of Smarties to when he was eight. Then there was his first true love Martina, who moved away. Of course, the old man’s first wife was in there and as large a meal as she was, the Feeling was still hungry. It moved on to raid the pantry of enemies and the cupboard of pets.

Another friend tells a story to the old man. Though the old man is disrupted by the Feeling, he listens with some attention. The Feeling, however, has run out of food and consumes any little bit of the story that makes it to the old man’s mind. The story is done. The friend laughs. The old man stares blankly.

“Have you even been listening?”

“What?” asks the old man. The friend, annoyed, storms off, never to speak to him again.

Slowly, his interactions with friends begin to end like this more and more. He hasn’t even been to the bank in a month, for fear of jinxing their potential love. The Feeling is still there, with nothing to eat. It screams at his brain cells and gnaws at his nerve fibers. The Feeling kicks down the old man’s blood brain barrier and storms off into his blood stream.

And the old man feels a pain inside (which the Feeling does not eat, as it is busy swimming in the bloodstream). The old man desperately wants to cry out the Feeling to the world, to bring his friends back, to bring his thoughts back, to bring his life back. And yet… he doesn’t want to ruin a good thing. Because if word got out about his love for the weekend bank teller, that love would resonate through the air. It would disrupt the particles floating around, causing a butterfly effect. The movement of the air molecules would result in huge gusts of wind building into a cyclone. Houses would be destroyed, with families inside. Tractors would turn over. Newborn chicks would loose sight of their mother and spend the rest of their lives wondering. In essence: chaos. Certainly in the middle of all of this, the love would be destroyed. Either that or the teller would be blown to a faraway island. Or the old man would die due to his declining health. And none of this would happen if he kept his mouth forever sealed.

So he sits. His friends have stopped calling. His mail is jammed into the slot. The papers pile up on his front porch. And the Feeling remains. It takes a jab at his intestines, kicks in his spleen, and raises his blood sugar. The Feeling, with nothing left to eat, dies a boring and uneventful death (in comparison to his antics inside the old man’s digestive system).

The old man wakes up one morning. He goes into his bathroom, looks into his mirror, and opens his mouth. Inside is nothing but his gums, teeth, tongue, and uvula. He spreads his eyelids and sees nothing but the tiny red veins pointing to fading pupils. So he cleans himself up: showers, brushes his teeth, shaves, and dresses himself. And he goes outside ready to return to normal life.

Then the Sun tells the Sky, “The Feeling is dead, but the old man is not.”

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