Catch Me If You Can (or Something Like It)

There’s something inside me you’ll never know. Its depth, its breadth, its implications for existence and its presence in the underneath of the world itself–these things will forever be a mystery. To you. I, of course, know all of this. I, of course, possess of all this knowledge and shall forever keep it to myself. If I release this, I will cease to exist.

32. Secrets

Secrets may be an odd sort of thing to be thankful for, but in all honesty, we all have them. And, as I said before (until I erased it, hahaha), my secrets define me. But how can what no one knows make me who I am?

I’m gay. I’m Jewish. I’m an honor student. And a tutor, and a teacher, and a friend, brother, son, future father, future lover. (In no particular order, which varies at any given moment, at any given location, at any given circumstance.) These labels make me who I am. Caucasian male, maybe six foot give or take a couple inches, something around 175, almost 22, green eyes, unworkable dark hair and unnaturally pale skin.

These things are how you see me. These things are how I allow others to define me. But they’re not how I define myself.

These labels speak of roles that I have fallen into, that I have been placed within, that I have not always chosen for myself. Take the one I failed to mention: Leader. I have never been a leader in all my life, but when others did not lead, I had to step up or stay down. I never chose this label. It was forced upon me.

All of these things, they have been forced upon me. Some, such as tutor and teacher and friend, I have embraced; others, such as father and lover, I hope to someday make true. But inherently, each of these things is only a part of my outward self. But who I am, who I really truly am, is something defined only on the inside.

And by what? My secrets.

(When I was thinking of this last night, it seemed much more compelling.)

Let me give you an example.

There’s someone special in my life. And I mean special like the special you want to watch stars and sleep under the empty sky with, the kind of special like all the world should stop for the two of you, the kind of special when everything seems, for that one fleeting moment, as if the world itself has come to order just for you.

It’s a beautiful feeling. I wish it upon everyone at least once. Rather: Just once. Because when you feel it, I hope it lasts as long as you do.

Point being, holding that feeling inside gave it life. And slowly opening my heart, slowly letting that feeling come into the light, is threatening to take that life away. I think another example is in order.

Whenever I write a new story, the characters and their conditions, their personalities and their problems, become a part of me. They leech inside me and thrive on my life and the time I put into them, the heart and soul I let like blood into their veins while they swim in mine. They grow: And sometimes I become the parasite, living off them instead. There’s this sacred bond between us, this unparalleled connection that cannot be shared between two humans.

Then the story’s over. We part ways. We don’t see or hear or think of each other for months. Life returns to usual. But sometimes, after this silence, we return to each other. And sometimes, after this silence, others join our relationship. A friend here, a reviewer there. Now it’s not the two of us: Now there’s more than the steadfast bonds between us. Others look at us, tear us apart, try to piece us back together, tell us how we should be, why we went wrong, why what we felt was an illusion and why we could have been so much better. Why there’s always something better.

That love between us is sawed away slowly, severed, sunk and swallowed by an abyssal sea.

Occasionally a like mind can save the day. These secrets, strengthened, shared, can no longer be washed away.

But more often than not, when the cat’s out of the bag, curiosity kills it. (Schrödinger would be proud.)

What I’m trying to say is this: Identity is a self-preserved condition. Just as 1a always equals a, and 0b always equals 0, and cosine squared plus sine squared always equals one, identity is defined by itself. Labels like algebra and trigonometry do not in themselves equal identities: Neither do self- and society-imposed labels define a person.

Instead, that person defines himself. But the moment he shares that self-definition, it becomes a label to be manipulated and misinterpreted by others. No longer is that identity self-imposed; now that identity is cycled through the lens of another and is never what he saw in himself again.

Secrets define us. We don’t like to think of it like that, we don’t like to think of ourselves like this, but it’s true. What’s ours and ours alone is all that holds us to ourselves. These secrets inside me, these things I grasp and cling to, carrying them inside my heart and inside my soul and inside my mind, these things keep me sane. They keep me knowing I’m an individual, that what I have inside me is unlike what anyone else has inside them. They keep me unique. They keep me myself. And I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way.

And now the secret’s out. It’s scary. It’s downright terrifying. This special thing I’ve shared, now it’s not just between us. It can no longer be defined solely by us. Now there’ll be labels, those who support us and those who talk us down, those who agree and those who disagree, those who condone, those who condemn. Some may say those who mind don’t matter (Dr. Seuss), but minds matter, and there’s no denying that. Thought gives power gives manifestation, and whether you like the thought or not, it’s still there. Information is conserved: Once given, never lost.

Secrets keep us sane. And when sanity is lost, chaos reigns.

Makes you wonder my secrets. I hope it makes you wonder yours.

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