First, there was silence. A wintered burning numbness. Then there was a disbelief. The complete crash of reality. But whose — mine, his? Innocent bystanders from society who thought they knew who he was?
Then there were threats. Legally unfounded yet intended to intimidate. Then there was crying and collapsing. A chaplain from Harvard said that anger was okay. Tears, too. He also said that everything circles back in life. This was one of the Super Soul Sunday Moments. Although this was not Sunday; and I was not interviewing with Oprah.
I was teaching at Yale. In my public life, lux et veritas was my lighthouse of comfort and stability. Teaching the next generation of America’s brightest. I don’t give up easily on excellence. The students did not too. They were cracking global affairs with flying colors. An American God was watching me. And he made sure I got the message.
But then I got the calls – inquiring friends. The light and truth I knew on campus disintegrated to shares of humility and bewilderment. They were hungry for the facts. Finally, an opportunity for them to provide empathy (most of them genuine demonstrations of friendship, some of them simple exercises in moral expurgation).
I switched off my phone. Then I changed my phone number. I changed my home address, too. It’s easy to change your life with a few apps on your iPhone given the right resources.
I needed a distraction. Vacation – Palm Beach.
I found Zoe Heller’s Book: Notes on A Scandal. March 1, 1998. More like 2016 – but, hey, who’s keeping track?
“For most people, honesty is such an unusual departure from their standard modus operandi-such an aberration in their workday mendacity that they feel obliged to alert you when a moment of sincerity is coming on. ‘To be completely honest’, they say, or ‘To tell you the truth,’ or can I be straight?’ I read and read and read. The phone rang again.
“There are so many versions of the truth,” Cyrus told me over the phone.
“Only until you compare the notes. Then, there is only one version of the truth,” I let myself conclude.
“Wow. That is true. You are so smart,” he said.
“I don’t have to be a psychologist to observe the pattern of misconduct in a time series’, I responded, overlooking the boundless Atlantic. There was a waiter next to me, cutting a fresh watermelon.
I stepped into the Ocean – it’s all a wash. A great, timeless wash.
No one cares
Betrayals are good in their own way. If I were to appear on Oprah, I’d simply formulate the credo that “the only betrayal is the deception that one commits 0nto one’s self.”
When you abscond from a life of integrity, honesty, and truth – nobody will care about you anymore. They will gladly trudge into the waters, away from your reach. To escape you.
Nobody will care about you.
He no longer matters.