About a year ago, I accidentally told someone the truth and paid a dear price for it.
I don’t mean to imply that I typically lie. More’s the pity for it, too; I nearly always speak with the strictest of honesty, at least as far as I understand. On this occasion, I had kept a difficult nugget from someone regarding a mutual friend who had maligned the person. I didn’t tell the person because there was no point in doing so. The only possible outcome would be pain.
I can be forgiven for blurting it out after six months of silence. I had just knocked myself senseless on a sidewalk and then dragged a heavy suitcase upwards for three flights. The other had arrived, ignored my disheveled appearance in favor of rummaging in the kitchen, and, apropos of nothing as far as I could see, casually asked about my lack of contact with the person whose malfeasance I had long kept to myself. I spat out the truth, then watched in horror as a ripple of anguish flamed out to consume us both.
I paid the highest price: The loss of friendship in the face of my unfortunate disclosure. I had been the hopeless unwitting instrument of malicious damage. Denials could come later, from the source; I would be considered the evil-doer. I would bear the shame. I saw it all in that instant; a clever and cruel plot; or just a nasty trick of fate. I’m not complaining now; I understand. Perhaps I should not have kept silent so long; perhaps the gravest offense was the sudden telling of an accidental truth.
Yesterday I walked along the row of tiny houses in the middle of which my own home sits. The heat of our one brutal summer weekend shimmered around me. My legs wobbled; I grasped my walking stick for support. I stumbled, nearly pitching to the ground. For that precarious instant, I traversed again the broken sidewalk of a Kansas City Street, clutching the air, crashing against the cement. My mind froze. The world went black. My stomach heaved.
I found myself standing motionless on the smooth surface of my California deck. From the highest branches of the nearby oak, the low mournful cry of a dove echoed the clenching of my heart. I listened to her song, eyes closed, hand on my breast. Then I went inside and started a kettle for tea.
It’s the twenty-ninth day of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.