Da Capo
Steven Felicelli

There once was a man and a wall. (Arguably, that's all there ever was.) The wall stood straight as an Eleatic arrow en route to Olympus and was composed of matter. As such, it was for all practical purposes, solid. To the man, the wall's practical purpose was obstruction. Occlusion. From what or wherefore, he couldn't say (or didn't know). The man knelt before the wall, hands prayerfully folded, slightly hunched, diminutive (in opposition to the wall -- almost negligible). This was the man's position in life, his post. His vocation was the banging of his head against the wall.
He practiced this vocation from the time he assumed the position until that moment a coup de grace concussion knocked him into dream-ridden slumber. This duration comprised what the man would call, day. A day. And of these there'd be countless many, inasmuch as he'd neglect counting them. Numbering the days would have been supererogatory, if not altogether pointless.
The wall's antithetical vocation: Stand. Obstruct. Occlude. A duty the wall seemed to relish. Each day the wall stood (straight as a vertical tightrope), unmoving. Unbuckling. The man would have described its posture and attitude as smug or even arrogant. Almost malicious. But this appraisal could be ascribed to the man's tendency to anthropomorphize. He was impotent to empathize with the wall qua wall. To speculate on the wall's nature and disposition (the man could not imagine the wall's position as changeable -- in fact, heretofore the man could not imagine). To say nothing of the wall's desires, dreams, darkest fears, etc. To the man, the wall seemed patently fearless. In fact, if one were to intervene and say, Listen man, that wall is shitting bricks, you're frightening the poor wall with all that head banging, the man would dismiss the notion as preposterous. Nor would he so much as break the rhythm of his incessant percussion to turn and laugh at your little joke.
The man eventually came to call this incessant percussion his life. (Equating the wall's standing as its own life.) For variety's sake, the man would occasionally modulate this percussion (these variations he deemed his artistry). Staccato, adagio, largo, etc. Sometimes con brio and other times with a dying fall. For a time, he even experimented with a twelve-tone percussion, but it made him feel ridiculous. He could almost hear the wall snickering between each percussive note. This perceived mockery would enrage the man and he'd break into a violent, skull-striking stretto, as if to once and for all knock the damn thing down (as if signifying similitude). This aggression would only amplify the perceived snickering into uproarious laughter.
The wall did not buckle, nor lean, nor quake. Not once. And yet the man maintained his belief (unaccountably) that one day, the wall would give way. It was a mere matter of persistence, fortitude, skill, virtuosity, etc. The man would exhaust every gambit known to man. Every modulation, method, force, trajectory, etc. Still the wall stood (straight as the shortest distance between two points).
And then one day, as he was hammering away, a flake of dried paint chipped off and cascaded like a single snowflake down to the hardwood floor. The beauty of it engendered an ache in the man's chest and abdominal region. He gasped, shuddered, forgot for a moment how to breathe. And then something in the man began to deliquesce and flow faceward from the deepest reaches of his system. He did not at first call it tears, because it had yet to reach his orbital apertures. When finally it did, the centrifugal force of his skull flung hot tears against the (sur)face of the wall. At which point, his inveterate adversary seemed to wince. Seemed almost to recoil. And for a fleeting instant (between the head-thumping systole and diastole) the man felt somehow triumphant. He would go on to call this moment by its nighest name (would -- were it nameable).
Alas, such moments were rare. Far more frequent were the subsequent moments of despair (which the beauty seemed only to exacerbate). And yet somehow this despair never quite turned to defeat. On went the man. Bang bang bang. He was determined to go on banging his head to the bitter end. Even when the man could not any longer go on, he went on. He refused to acknowledge his futility and eventually came to euphemize this despair: inspiration. As a further conciliatory gesture, began to address the wall, Muse (which had heretofore been all manner of abusive epithet Bane or It or Fate or God). Each of these bouts of inspiration proved no more than an interim between futile gambits. He would forever try as he might (as he must) to make the Wall (Bane, God, Fate, Muse) give way. But oh the headache -- you can only imagine the headache. Or more likely, you can't.
Over the course of a given day the man could be heard (were there anyone within earshot) muttering to himself. Words seemed to placate the bewilderment somewhat. Words were almost reassuring (almost signifying similitude). At the very least, they muffled the silence. The percussive resonance could never quite bridge that momentary quiet, which bloomed in the intermittence of each drumbeat. And so the man, in a shoo-fly gesture, would mutter the silence away.
Yes, in the beginning, the man muttered. But the man, as has been demonstrated, was resourceful, resilient, artistic. As such, the man evolved. Made what he came to call, progress by way of what he heretofore referred to as Volition. Apropos of which, the man made a conscious decision to cease muttering to himself.

Resume intermittent silence.

Disquieted by the resumed silence, the man tried humming tunes to his cerebral drumbeat. (No avail.) The tunes fragmented into lyrics. (No avail.) The lyrics into recitation. (No avail.) The recitation into oratory. (No avail.) Oratory into casual conversation (one-sided, the wall had nothing to say). Conversation into sweet nothings. (The wall did not so much as blush.) The sweet nothings into maledictions. (The wall snorted.) Maledictions into threats. (The wall guffawed.) Threats into lamentations. (. . . .) Lamentations into groans. (. . . .) Groans into muttering. (Thump. Thump.) And the muttering devolved back into silence.

Da Capo.

Repeatedly thwarted in his artistic endeavors, the man decided to take a scientific approach. He set up an experiment, which would decipher whether he was banging his head against the wall or the wall was banging itself against his head. This heuristic endeavor yielded only provisional inconsistencies. The man was unable to distinguish cause from effect, much less volition from action.
And so he took refuge in philosophy. Between pate-knocks he endeavored what he liked to call ratiocination. Thrown back from the precisely What, he luxuriated in the Why. Why is there a wall? Why am I a man? Why am I banging my head against this wall? These querulous soliloquies led to a significant incident:
One evening, as the coup de grace concussion approached, the man was seized by a particularly violent inspiration. It suddenly struck him (just as the wall struck him) that he might cease and desist. Such an act need not constitute a surrender or an abject failure, but rather a supreme act of the aforementioned Will (or Volition or what have you). Conceivably, he could unfold his hands, arise from his knees and simply turn his back on the wall. He could and so he did. At which point the throbbing in his temples began to ease and the waves of his aural ocean ceased beating. (The interior drumbeat quelled.) The feel of matter against his forehead benumbed. The new vista was of nothing (he could not now see the wall nor anything else). The wall bore neither scent nor taste and so from the senses five that wall simply vanished. Became a product of the man's ratiocination.
Behind him the real wall stood glaring at the man, puzzled, discomfited, visibly shaken (at least this is how the man postulated it -- for all he knew, the wall had been unmoved by this act of defiance). And then suddenly he could sense the wall beginning to buckle. In the man's mind's eye it swayed, tottered, doubled over as in pain and then almost miraculously (almost), it collapsed and crumbled to the hardwood floor.
At that moment of what he would later call transcendence -- the man emerged from his ideation (as if awakened from a bad dream of head banging) -- only to discover he'd all the while been on his knees, hands meekly folded -- banging his head against the wall.
Demoralizing indeed and yet the man had discovered something wondrous. He called it imagination. No longer was the man resigned to blankly bang or ratiocinate or mutter and/or pray to a deified scapegoat. Instead he could take refuge in his imagination. He could, for instance, imagine a flexible wall (with perceptible curvature) and a more pliant skull to bang it with. Alternatively, he could imagine the presence of absent objects. Like a razor blade, say. Or a length of rope.