Journal Entry 1 – The Dancing Man

05.01.21 – 10:39 pm

Several months ago, I ordered a couple dozen copies of my poetry book Chasing Dragons. Since then, I’ve been leaving the books in various spots around town. Each book contains a hand-written note on the inside cover, and a sticker. The goal of leaving these books around town is to create a magical feeling within anyone who may choose to pick one up. Establishing a connection with the reader is absolutely critical, and I thought this would be a unique and enchanting way of doing so.

Anyways, I departed from my apartment this evening around 7 pm, holding one book in my hand. As usual, it contained a sticker and a note on the inside cover. My intention was to give this book to one unsuspecting person on the street or in the park. I pictured myself saying “Hello! I’m a local St Louis author, and this is my first self-published book. I want you to have it, free of charge. And if poetry isn’t your thing, feel free to give it to the next person you see.” I was a bit anxious about having an interaction with a stranger (I absolutely love meeting new people, but also have social anxiety; those two traits tend to be at odds.) I arrived in the park across the street, and that was when I saw him.

A young man was dancing by himself atop a small bench in the corner of an empty baseball field. I had seen the silhouette of this gentleman several nights ago, dancing by himself on a dark street corner. I was driving with my roommate Noah at the time, and I made some remark about how carefree he was. And this evening, I saw him yet again dancing to his heart’s content.

I debated whether or not to approach him with my book, and ultimately decided something memorable was sure to happen if I did. So I put on my face mask, stepped over puddles of mud, and reached the dancing man. He was looking off into the distance, a calm and focused expression on his face. He did not acknowledge my presence. His black earbuds were connected to his phone, which he briefly pulled from his hoodie pocket, perhaps to change the song. He continued dancing.

I said something like “Excuse me.” I wasn’t sure exactly what to say. The dancing man did not stop dancing. He did not even look in my direction. He raised one arm and shook his index finger.

“No?” I asked. He said nothing, and kept dancing. At that point, I was unsure of what to do. I had expected either a full-on response, or to be completely ignored. The little finger-shake essentially said “I acknowledge you are here, and you want my attention. But I am dancing right now, and that takes priority.”

So, I stood there, quite awkwardly. I looked into the distance, and he continued dancing. He was so astoundingly in his own zone, unbothered by the world. I imagine a hundred people could have walked past, gawking, laughing, or taking photos… and he would have continued his dance. I waited another moment to see if he would turn my way. He did not.

“I just wanted to give you this,” I said, setting my book down on the bench. “Keep doing what you’re doing, brother.”

Without stopping the movement of his body, he glanced down at the book. As he did, I turned and walked away. Perhaps the dancing man eventually picked up the book and brought it home. Perhaps he inspected the book, and did not care enough to bring it home. Or perhaps the dancing man was so invested in his dance, he completely forgot I had been there, and left without giving the book a second thought. Regardless of where the book now resides, I am quite happy I had the chance to see the dancing man up close. I believe I could have stayed much longer. I could have sat down on the bench, or even danced with him, and he most likely would have kept his gaze locked on the horizon, and continued silently jamming out to whatever melody was playing in his ears. But something about that subtle finger-shake told me that he was dancing alone for a reason. So I left him alone.

I have tremendous respect for the dancing man. But I also have a good deal of questions about him, which are probably best left unanswered. My apartment lease ends in a month. Hopefully I will run into the dancing man at least one more time before I move away from the neighborhood. But even if I do not, he will surely stay with me.

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