Would you want to know?
May 2, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
I grappled with this question a long time ago: If people in your life had terrible secrets, would you want to know? For me it depends on the secrets. I can overlook some things, while others are deal breakers.
The first time the question really came up was when I met the Cardinal Ghost. Within a few weeks of that first encounter, we were an item. Though we kept it from our colleagues, word got out, and people took it upon themselves to warn me that she had quite a history of conquests among our male colleagues.
At the time I was jealous, insecure, a drunk, and a self-pitying fatso. But nothing I heard about Carmen made me think any less of her. It didn’t matter how many notches she had on her belt. I wasn’t besotted; in fact I saw her more clearly than any other paramour, before or since. After Carmen found out what people were whispering in my ear, she began to tell me about her adventures as a tour guide in another country. Then she filled me in on her previous boyfriends and what she and they accomplished between the sheets…and in many other exotic places.
Did you know that two people can actually arrange themselves so that— Ah, never mind. Who knows what was real and what was just bluster? Acrobatics never did anything for me. Connection was what I sought. Ballistics and logistics? Way, way down on the list.
By compulsively spilling the beans, Carmen was testing me. In college I saw a cartoon that made a huge impression. A nude woman speaks to a man who’s off screen.
“Would you still love me if…?” she asks and cuts off all her hair.
“Yes,” comes the answer in a word balloon.
“Would you still love me if…?” And she cuts off her ears and nose.
“Would you still love me if…?” And she cuts of her breasts.
“Would you still love me if…?” And she sews up her vagina.
“I KNEW IT, YOU SON OF A BITCH!” she screams.
When the verbal testing didn’t get the intended reaction, Carmen graduated to physical tests. I overlooked them until one night she brought a mutual friend to one of my band’s shows and sat at a table in front of me, making out with him. So I gave in and broke up with her. That was my limit. She then became the victim of a truly horrific crime, and I didn’t see her for a long time. One night we accidentally ran into each other a club.
It was too painful to be in her presence, so I told her I had to go. We hugged, and she grabbed me; a former gymnast, she was immensely strong. When I kissed her, she started laughing and crying the way she did when she was very happy. That was it. We got back together and had three years of happiness until I volunteered information that made her drive me away.
Today I got a bizarrely timed piece of junk e-mail.
Notice the subject line: “Find Out Your Parents[sic] Past-Crimes[sic].”
Would you want to know your parents’ past crimes? I would, depending on the crime. Violent or serious felonies that caused great harm. Mike Albee-style fraud. Murder. Rape. Arson.
You have to be emotionally prepared for anything, though. You can’t start out on a quest like that without bracing yourself for the worst.
After my parents died, I started finding out all sorts of things about them. I’ve posted this photo before, but here it is again because I can’t get over it. Mom in 1958, standing in Lake Maracaibo.
Though Mom and I never got along, I became her closest confidant in the last three years of her life. For whatever reason—and I honestly don’t know why—she overcame her antagonism toward me. In our nightly conversations, she told me a lot about herself that she said she’d never shared with anyone else. Mom was very aware of what was appropriate and what wasn’t, so she didn’t violate any boundaries. But she left no doubt that she sowed a lot of wild oats before she married Dad.
I’d always thought of my father as a man interested only in his job. That, however, was only the image he put out there. Since his death I’ve discovered the real person behind the facade. Here’s Dad (center) speaking with Latif Ramazan-Nia on the left, board member of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Head of the Engineering and Projects Group.
Dad’s expression shows that he’s listening and letting his mind wander. He could do that. My father was a man of many minds.
As I said yesterday, I’ve hired a researcher to find Dad’s military records. I have questions that I want answered. In very real ways, my own background is such a mystery that it’s disorienting. I need a few handholds to keep from flying off into space. Reality—even unpleasant reality—will ground me.
Looking around, I see almost nothing but floaty obfuscation and play-acting. I absolutely reject it. By doing so I improve as a person and as a writer. My next novel will be the best work I’ve ever done. It’s outlined and ready to go. I’m very excited about it. The story will make your hair stand on end. Or fall out.
To write it, I needed to understand certain things. Once I’d accepted them, I could create the art I wanted. It’s almost like automatic writing. I enter a kind of trance and surprise myself with the turns of phrase that appear on the computer screen. Part of it is practice, the reason I write these posts every day.
But I can’t take credit for all of it. At least, the me that writes these posts can’t. Maybe like Dad I’m a man of many minds. If so, one of them can write like a sonuvabitch. He’s finally come into his own.
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