“You’d never hurt me, would you?”
I cradled you in my lap in the overstuffed chair. The small of your back was pressed against me. I remembered how firm the muscles on either side of your spine felt when I rubbed oil on them the other night. They responded to my touch. Your whole body responded to my touch.
You looked into my eyes, deeply as you always do. You left your eyes completely clear for me. I could see as deeply as I had the courage to look. The woman, the girl, the teacher, the courtesan, the mother, and daughter, the goddess…. they were all there, asking me to be kind and needing me to be honest.
“Honesty,” though, had recently twisted in my grasp and become nearly incomprehensible.
There was a time when I believed that honesty was as simple as telling the truth. Of course I didn’t always tell the truth. Tell the boss he’s an idiot? Tell my sweetheart she does look fat today? “Yes Officer, I knew I was speeding but I thought you’d still be at the doughnut shop.” But I didn’t lie to myself and that was, perhaps, most important. “I don’t rationalize,” I thought, as I explained to myself why I was telling this lie.
When my lover asked me if I loved her, I told her that I did. I told her that I loved her from the bottom of my heart as she turned her naked body toward me, gently spread her legs, and invited me inside. “Of course I love you. I always will,” I whispered, with the last few syllables lost in the throes of her tangled hair.
My business associates have always appreciated my honesty. I’ve heard it said that I’m the kind of person that has the courage to say “I don’t know.” They trust me; as well they should because, indeed, I have their best interest in mind (as long as I am getting paid.)
But when I look ‘my’ knowledge I see several kinds.
- The things I know from personal experience. I can always tell the truth about that. Does it hurt to hit your head against a wall? Yes.
- The knowledge I’ve gained from others. If I speak the truths I have been taught then I am being honest, but am I being accurate?
- The things I believe. I believe that plants feel pain. That’s my truth, but is it the truth?
- The things I only think I know. Should I wait until I understand, fully, what love is before I tell you that I love you? Tell me what love is and I’ll tell you if I love you. “Wait! Don’t leave!”
- That which I don’t know. But even there is a gray area. There’s so much I could know but hide from. I don’t want to know about starving children living down the street, cruelty, and my own darkest corners.
- Then there is the unknown unknown. The facets of the infinite universe I can’t imagine – I am not even aware that I don’t know them. “Tell me the truth, my friend, what is the universe thinking about?”
The purpose of honesty, I have realized, is to invite people into the same world — to share the same ‘present’ — to truly be together. If I tell you that I love you and, indeed, all I want is to make love to you, then your world is quite different from mine. In yours, you are deeply loved. In mine, you are fucked. We are not on the same planet.
This means that if I tell you the truth and you misunderstand, then honesty has not happened. Whether because I spoke poorly or you listened poorly doesn’t matter. If I tell you “I can’t commit” because I am afraid and you hear, “I don’t love you enough” because you’ve been used in the past — then are we together in the same moment?
“You’d never hurt me, would you?”
I want to tell you how deeply I love you but I know you’ll misunderstand and hear that I want to possess and control you. I want to treasure your heart and cherish your soul but I’m afraid you’ll hear a promise that I’m not prepared to make. Will I hurt you? Yes, my love, I will hurt you because every marriage ends in death or divorce. Because if bliss is Heads then pain is Tails and our coin flashes blindingly in the sun as it spins in the air.
We’ve never loved or been loved like this before. It’s different this time. I’m different. She’s different.
Is that the truth?