[This is a hooded merganser. I took this picture in Mississippi.]
I’ll start with a story, an actual incident. I was visiting some friends, a married couple who had moved out of state. It was a long weekend visit, memorial day or something, I don’t know. I was single.
The first day, while the husband was at work, I spent the whole morning talking and laughing about old times with the wife. I remembered something about her husband and prefaced my remark with, “Now don’t tell Don, this, but…” She immediately stopped me. “Oh, Paul, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with that. You know, Don and I agreed when we got married we would NEVER keep secrets from each other.” “Wow,” I said. “That’s great.” I moved on to another topic.
The next day Don and I went dove hunting with some of his co-workers. We had a great time. On the way we home, we smoked a pack of cigarettes in the truck. Don turned to me and said, “Don’t tell Linda, I smoked a cigarette, okay?” “Oh, hell no, of course not.” I lit my fifth cigarette and puffed away. We laughed, joked, cussed, and stared at pretty girls. We were good ol’ boys.
Back at the home place, we clumped in, leaving our dirty boots out in the foyer. We had hardly taken off our jackets for Linda to haul into the wash room when suddenly she turned on her husband, “Don, you’ve been smoking!”
“No, I haven’t.” he said with a frown, affronted at the accusation.
Linda looked to me. “Your coats smell of cigarette smoke. Paul, did Don smoke?”
“No,” I lied. “We didn’t smoke, Don didn’t smoke. It was the coworkers. They smoked like crazy in the truck.”
“That’s right!” Don chimed in. He hadn’t thought of that excuse.
“Oh,” she laughed. “Thank goodness, Don promised he’d never smoke again.”
I never forgot that moment. How I had helped the husband, not only lie to his lovely wife, but also to break a marriage promise.
Now all of that was years ago, and I still remember it. But my take on the situation has changed. I don’t intend to go on and on about ethical behavior and such. But it has occurred to me that all humans, especially that singular group who call themselves “writers” need a secret place. And they perchance may need, on occasion, to lie about that place. Why? Because it’s a secret, of course.
I don’t believe our secret world needs to be as such that it is damaging to the happiness and welfare of another…no, no, no. It simply needs to be a secret, and being so, it must be protected.
I believe reading is a secret world of sorts. How we feel about what we read. It may be your dearly beloved isn’t reading the same book. Or perhaps it is your own writing that your are reading. And you have experienced an epiphany of some degree, but you can’t explain it. It’s personal, deeply personal, it’s a world that can’t be communicated so easily. It is where that “you” of you resides.
That secret space of the writer. How to explain it? I don’t know. But I know it’s necessary.
Don’t we all need that secret world, the cozy corner where you reside in a world of your own, and don’t we truly need to protect that space?