Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday 12 July 2017


The Secret Place

(for J.)

Though not too far
it is difficult to reach.

I sent my eyes
but they misread the signs.

And then my tears
though they broke down on the way.

Now it's just me
and I'm not going away

till you let me in from the cold.

15 July 1994
J. never opened up about everything. She told me stuff she’d told nobody—or at least not many bodies—before but not all. It’s a mistake we often make. We learn something shocking about someone (or at least something that shocks us) and assume that’s it; lightning doesn’t strike twice and all that guff. I pressed J. to reveal more because I could tell there was more but whatever had happened to her or she’d done wouldn’t say. Did I need to know? No. Would it have helped me understand her better? Maybe but probably not because even what I’d learned only told me so much. None of us really understand each other and the bare facts don’t help. Because we weren’t there. 

Let me give tell you a secret. When I was at the academy a thing started: two boys set upon a third and, for no good reason, gave him a beating. Afterwards the third joined their gang which sought out a fourth to initiate. At the time I was the fastest boy in the school so by the time they came looking for me it was a mob and until you’ve had what felt like the whole school chase you intent on beating you to a pulp you can’t possibly understand how I felt fleeing for my life. They never caught me—the second-fastest led the chase but I outran him—and the whole thing simply went away after that; they never tried a second time. Does it help knowing that about me? Sure, it’s an interesting anecdote but it really had no great effect on me in the long-term.

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