94. The Disciplined Conversationalists

Cruz took his girl friend, Maricela, to the top of the mountain. He watched her make coffee. She watched him put wood beside the fireplace.

From the windows they watched black bears pass up and down the street, on the other side of which were other cabins like there’s. On the porch, which they felt must be safe, they waved to a neighbor who put an envelope into his black mail box and went back to his door. The man turned and called, “It’s good to see you both again.”

Cruz and Maricela waved to him.

“He’s a good man,” Cruz said, “but I wonder if he thinks about what he just said as something odd and strange, maybe one of the strangest things a man can say to another man.”

Marcela raised her coffee cup and clinked the body of it against Cruz’s. He took a sip. They watched a raccoon climb a tall pine tree and watch down as another raccoon followed. And, of course, there were the infinite bears.

“He was just greeting us. He might even be considering an invitation,” Maricela said. “Dinner and drinks.”

“Yet it’s a strange thing. Consider a man who has strong political opinions. This man, such as Benjamin from across the street, who may indeed invite us over for dinner and for drinks, never says what he really means. It takes incredible practice and discipline to speak directly and unambiguously.”

“Even more so to speak directly and unambiguously without effort,” Maricela said.

“That’s correct,” Cruz said. “Let’s say Benjamin loves freedom and tells people that he disagrees with them because their ideas confine him. He thinks they’re a trap. He tells them that their ideas go against freedom. What he doesn’t say is what really matters. What he doesn’t say is that he would strip them of their freedom because, more than a lover of freedom, he is really a creature of fear. If disciplined, he would would tell the world that he is afraid of freedom and that he would rather put freedom before the firing squad and shoot freedom dead and bloody and in this way wrest it from the arsenal of his perceived opponents because for him freedom is a weapon. It’s a rare, courageous, and lonely woman who can express what she believes with precision.”

“And the man?” Maricela asked.

“Both,” Cruz said. “Someone might be carrying a sign, a sign that says so and so hates this or that or the sign says so and so is a liar. It is always the case that on the other side of the sign the truer statement rings at a frequency no one can hear but it is there in various shapes but not in any human language. It says, I am a liar, or, rather, at the moment I don’t understand the nature of honesty; or, I hate, but I think that my hatred is really love, an abstract, unambiguous love, a love that only I can understand and so on the other side of my sign, in a language that is beyond reading, is another message, a message that says I love ignorance, which is another way of saying I love myself, which is a cruel kind of self destruction or narcissism.”

Maricela sipped her coffee. “You seem confused,” she said, “or worried, Cruz. You really don’t need to drive yourself so batty over an idea that may or not be true. You’re just going to end up frightened of everyone.”

“Look at that bear over there,” Cruz said. He pointed. A black bear of medium size had lifted the lid of a dumpster. The dumpster was small. It was painted green to fit in with the landscape. The bear looked up the street as if from that direction someone would come to chase it off. Another bear, a smaller bear, climbed into the dumpster as the medium sized bear held the lid up. Startled at the action of the smaller bear, the other bear dropped onto his forelegs. The dumpster lid closed. The medium sized bear lumbered away.

“When my father had cancer, the doctor told him that he had cancer,” Maricela said.

“I remember,” Cruz said. “The doctor really meant that your father was going to die. The doctor was trying to avoid cruelty.”

Just then Benjamin came out of his cabin carrying a trash bag. The man walked down the stairs of his porch. He called to Cruz and Maricela: “You should come over tonight. Six o-clock. We’ll have dinner and talk politics. I know how you all love to talk politics.”

“That would lovely. See you then,” Cruz called back. “But beware, there’s a bear in the dumpster, a small bear.”

“Ha,” Benjamin laughed. “You’re such a joker. See you at six.” He threw the trash bag over his shoulder and approached the dumpster.

“Do you see what I mean?” Cruz said.

“I can’t watch,” Maricela said.

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