THE HARDEST SECRET TO TELL
(for WDR, Jr.)
The hardest secret to tell is the one you do not tell at all. For so long. And then the secret dies. The secret withers and rots and sits in the lowest place. Then there is only the keeping that lives on. There is only the silence whose substance is replaced with consequence. That is how it becomes a ghost. That place where the secret lay, where it tickles and sizzles when it is on the verge of tripping over dry tongue and squenched lips, that is now the dark haunted forest that stains everything after with a phantom fear that is long forgotten how to address. That has lost its name. Thats the hardest secret to tell. The dead ones. You have to fight ghosts to get back to it.
So now the secret is that he is weak. The secret now is that there is no way to say no. At least not without a bit of violence and hate in the words. Not with out a lie which is a bit of violence. Which has hate in the words. Now, the secret is he no longer even knows how to tell a truth. The secret is that everything is just one thing. The secret is a wind and the lie is a fire and together they conspire to send the world to ash. To melt the very breath of it into a clean lump. One clean thing sitting across a field, under a tree. But he just had too many drinks the night before and smoked too much to get up from where he sits and make the trek all the way over there. Besides. He has to go to work soon.
So now the secret is that he is a drunk.
So now the secret is he just drinks and he goes to work and he waits. The laziest man in the world.
And the phantom lay in the mirror reflecting back the different parts of his face borrowed from the strangers that came before him, that still linger in his blood. The parts that, close up, when there are things moving too fast, too close, he doesn't want to see. The parts that did nothing at all when they should have been fighting back. When they should have been defending himself. When they should have been reaching out and holding and kissing and pulling and closed up around and over.
The secret is silence.
So now the secret is that he has no idea what he is doing.
The hardest secret to tell is the one all the eyes and voices around you tell you to keep inside. No one ever tells you to lie. They just look at you. They assign your secret to sin, to the dirt below everyone's feet, and they do it through booming voices and booming eyes and whispers and it rests on the ends of their fingers.
They do it from the pulpit because that is when you have to stay quiet and that is when you have to do exactly what they say, because respect is very important. It is true, respect is very important. And so you know you have to tell that lie. Lie of silence. Lie of smiles. Lie of respect. And it is not the voice telling you to make that lie, nor the shriveled, angry little man in the collar and funny hat, but it is GOD. God wants you to lie, stay silent, don't be the thing that is in your heart because "I" say hell awaits.
And you never think to question god's motives.
You never think to tell god to go fuck itself.
The first taste you get is in Sunday School where they send the kids during service, where instead of the booming voice and the million eyes stretching around and into you from the pews you have only the one nun, Sister Eunice, and graham crackers and orange juice, but not before properly setting yourself on the square-tiled floor, in order boy-girl-boy-girl and with two of the six- inch tiles between you. And you do not touch. And you do not talk. What you do is listen and you sit straight. What you do say "amen" every time Sister Eunice says it.
You learn to take a sip of orange juice before you start to chew your graham cracker so it will soften and not crunch when you chew. You do not want to crunch while Sister Eunice talks. You want to listen.
And just before Christmas there is a social. Sister Eunice explains that there is dancing and pairs each child with another as their escort. Boy-Girl-Boy-Girl.
For Easter the boys dress in blue or grey and the girls in yellow or pink, and wear white, feckless flowers over their future breasts and brightly painted eggs in their hands. Bows in their hair. The boys hold the girls' hands while they look for more eggs in the church yard. Its a challenge for Sister Eunice to keep the boys from throwing the eggs at each other.
1 Timothy 1:9
The hardest secret to tell is that you truly despise every one of these sons-of-bitches.
Day in and day out, in and out of class, lunchroom, playground, chapel.
But amongst the boys it is not the booming voice and it is not gospel and it is not hell that awaits. Mostly it is jokes. Jokes are tests between boys to see which side of the line you stand on. To prove which side they are on.
Heard the one about the four guys at their High School Reunion?
Know how to get a nun pregnant?
They all laugh, but the smiles are vicious. And the eyes scan for the fakers.
What you do is you learn to laugh without laughing too much. Smile without being the guy with the goofy smile. You learn that eye-contact is an enemy to be avoided at all times because though the mouth may be able to keep secrets, the eyes are eternal truth-tellers.
As a child you learned to be silent. In school you learned to be invisible. You become a ghost, caught only in the corner of their eyes, only late at night when, really, they should all be asleep. Only in the shadow and you swore you were all alone. You are the ghost. You begin to clink your chains and you interrupt the dinner party.
But no, because the hardest secret to tell is that you are a coward and you don't want any of them to know. None of them deserve to know a thing about you. Long ago, you forgot how to say it. You forgot how to even speak. Too long you spent keeping it all in. Soon enough, you may even just forget what it is you were keeping a secret because by the times you spend your lunch break with the bottle you stole from your dad's liquor cabinet, just about every damn thing about you is a fucking secret.
Soon enough, the eyes melt away. Soon enough, you are coasting along and everyone knows what to say and they know to just stay out of your way.
The secret now is that you are just like them. The fact is evident in the tie around your neck. The black leather shoes on your feet. The stiff collar and the crease in your pants. The way you answer the phone and brush your hair. The way you smoke cigarettes. Drink coffee. The fact is evident in the way you laugh at the jokes.
Ever hear the one about the gay picnic?
Remember to stare at the woman's ass when she walks out of the store. Once a month you must remember to go out with them to a bar and you must be seen trying to pick up at least one lady.
You try to make your voice low and mean, because thats how a man sounds and the older you get the more you realize you are just whispering. Shrink up inside your tiny little voice. Fold up the thing you are and pack it away. Borrow the thing you are supposed to be. Just enough to get by. And the more you drink, the easier it is.
It never gets easy.