The truth will set you free, but—
May 19, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Like almost everything, there’s a caveat. The truth will set you free, but only if you can take it.
I don’t begrudge anyone their desire to spare themselves terrible knowledge. We’re under no obligation to know the truth. That’s different from lying. Here’s how I look at it: The truth is behind a closed door. You don’t have to open that door, ever. But if you put a bookshelf in front of the door and tell everyone—including yourself—that there’s just a blank wall there, what’ll happen is you’ll go insane.
Lying makes everything worse. I’ve seen many lives and souls lost because of lies.
My mother’s favorite phrase was, “I don’t have to know the gory details.”
That’s perfectly reasonable. Once you know something, you can never un-know it. What if it’s too gory for you to handle? We all have our limits.
In my case, I want to know everything. I’ve been on a quest since my parents died. Every day I look through photos, correspondence, and records. I now know the full story. The secrets have been revealed.
The more I learn, the better I feel, despite the nature of the secrets. Everything now makes sense. Uncertainty was always my personal bugaboo. Here’s a memory from almost forty years ago.
I knew a kid who lived down the street from us in Tyler, Texas. He had an absolutely gorgeous little sister. I was thirteen, and she was twelve. One day I went over to the kid’s house to sample some venison jerky. It was winter, so I had on a heavy coat. The gorgeous little sister let me in, and as I walked down the hall to my friend’s room, it felt like the girl hugged me from behind. I turned around and found her smiling, but then my friend called me into his room to try the jerky.
A couple of weeks later, we moved to the Netherlands. I never knew if that gorgeous girl hugged me or not. It’s always bothered me because if I’d learned that she had a crush on me, it would’ve helped me through a really tough period of my life.
The uncertainty of that moment still gnaws at me.
Since Mom and Dad died, I no longer have any uncertainty whatsoever about who they were or why things turned out the way they did. None of what I learned was good news. In fact, it’s nearly beyond my comprehension. Some people would consider my new-found knowledge a burden impossible to carry. I understand.
This particular life is pretty much spent. Tim and I have plans, and we both want to hang around and see what happens next. As optimistic as I am, the reality is that I’m much closer to the end than to the beginning. I can carry my burden because I won’t have to do so for very long.
Also, my knowledge has made all the good I’ve experienced even more precious. Why? Because I didn’t know how bad things really were. In lots of ways this was a stroke of incredible luck. The knowledge that Tim and I now carry would’ve made the year 2013 impossible to survive. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it protects. Many people were protected by my ignorance. When I learned the truth, several destructive relationships had already ended.
The timing was right in another sense: I was emotionally able to accept what would’ve destroyed me only a few months earlier. I’d given up on Ghosts and Ballyhoo, Chasing the Last Whale, and Hallucinabulia. As badly as I wanted them to succeed, they didn’t. But that’s all right. I’m writing a book that will succeed, and then my previous work will be rediscovered. In preparation for that day, I’m having audiobooks made of Whale and Hallucinabulia. The narrator is a genius.
I can’t do anything about Ghosts and Ballyhoo because I don’t own the rights. The publishers promised an e-book, but they lied. That’s another reason I’m going to self-publish my next novel. I won’t have to depend on others keeping their word. Lies have cost me more than I can ever reveal.
Even so, what I learned since my parents died gives me a vital sense of perspective. There are existences far worse than that of unsuccessful author.
Tomorrow I receive a package containing the last of the research I did for my novel. Here’s everything else. E-mails, timelines, PDFs, photos—you name it.
In doing my research, I found a photo of the Venezuelan woman who raised me until I was four. Her name was Delia. Here she is with me, Paul, and Tim.
Photos are moments in time. Tim likes to say, “The camera doesn’t lie.” He’s right. Often the camera catches what the eye can’t. But in my life, there have been moments of light that were also captured.
They live on, and they give me strength. I have a great project ahead of me, the best work I’ve ever done. It’s my duty to write it. Still, keep in mind that it’s just a novel. I made it all up. Pure fiction, every word.
In a few hours, I begin.
Does she tell the truth?
Does she hide the lie?
Does she say it so no one can know?
Fat man and the dancing girl
And it’s all part of the show, you know
Stand on the tightrope
Never dreamed I could fall
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