Flesh. Money. Drugs. But these were mere accessories and had no meaning. Most of them had no idea how to live without them and surrounded themselves with those in place of an aura which had left them long ago. A question of status and reputation. “These men were abject”, he thought to himself once he had left the office. “There is not an ounce of them that has not been spoiled and overtaken by viciousness and cruelty. No part of their soul that is untainted. But their souls must have taken a raincheck a decade ago, plus, they were probably born stained.”
He was leaving the office with an unsteady step. He had realized a few weeks ago that he was, in fact, part of them, which made him no better than these despicable beings. Probably worse actually since he had joined them knowingly and willfully. Sleep started eluding him the day he realized where he was, the day he came face to face with himself. He had been turning it all in his head. Everything from the day he had been approached by them until that fateful day he had been brutally confronted with reality and could no longer go on pretending he did not know. That day he admitted he was nothing but an accomplice. That day he pitifully conceded he had sold his soul to the devil. Willfully.
His career had been at an all-time low when they approached him. He was exhilarated when they did. His work that had gone unnoticed was finally getting the respect owed it. Cultured and literate beings from a certain standing were finally giving his writing its due appreciation.
They had read everything he had written and they had loved it. Every single sentence, his style had been praised, the richness of his language, his mastery at the art of metaphors – they came back to that one a few times – the rhythm he instilled in every piece he wrote, the ever present elegance, they had missed nothing, they even commended the hidden sensuality he embedded in each and every one of his pieces. They came with an offer. The kind you cannot refuse. They knew he was too good for the public. They knew the masses of ignorants did not have what it took to fully appreciate him at his real and just value. They knew he deserved more and better and they were there to offer him just that. With the President’s blessings.
He felt elated after that first meeting. He said he needed to think it over and, ‘would it be fine if he gave them an answer in a week’? They readily agreed. No one had been fooled. Everyone present knew very well there was nothing to think about and that he had accepted the offer before it had even been made.
Such was his life: Reality, a wife and kids to feed, a mortgage to pay; pride, appreciation for one’s work. His last two books had been such huge failures, no editor was ready to publish his next one. Where was faith in all that? Well, he had faith, he had the need to believe it was not all so bad, the need to believe in the lies he had been fed since the day he was born. He needed to believe the man he had worshipped since he was a child was not really the bloodthirsty cruel monster that was depicted in the media. Some values had to be kept, otherwise he would be lost.
A week later he officially accepted the offer.
On that same day, he was given the keys to a new car, the keys to a new office – the first he had ever had as a matter of fact – and the keys to his home. They finished paying the mortgage.
That same evening he took his wife and kids for a tour in his new car to see his new office and then on to a fancy restaurant in town. Not the one they liked best because the road had been closed due to violent demonstrations. They went to the second best.
He spent the next two years of his life in his new office doing what he did best, writing, and being very generously rewarded for it. Even his wife had regained some passion for him and had started looking at him with lustful eyes again. Before the new job, he had felt totally transparent, she no longer seemed to notice his presence, she had stopped addressing him directly.
His first doubts appeared about a year after he accepted the job. Feeling strong with the renewed passion of his wife, he had wanted to share some of his doubts and questions with her, but she, too afraid to go back to his old self had cut him short. He never brought it up again. Faced with all he would have to lose and give up on if he continued digging, he decided he would be better off closing his eyes and pretending nothing was the matter, while keeping his faith in his government, in his president and decry anyone who opposed any of them.
He was quite good at it. He would have probably continued for ever had he not seen that picture a few weeks ago. He did not know who had put it on his desk. He did not know whether it was a curse or a blessing. It was a photo of his niece. She was barely recognizable, bruised and battered, staring up straight at him from the polaroid. Unbelieving, unwilling to believe it, he had called his sister. They had not spoken for two years. She had stopped talking to him the day he accepted the job. She had called him to inform him that neither she nor any member of her family would have anything to do with a traitor. After that she hung up, and never called again. Neither had he. Until two days ago. It had been a very short call. She picked up the phone. Her voice … She sounded drained and absent. She sounded like she had aged 20 years in two. He asked her if his niece was well and at home. She told him she had had no news of her daughter for the last three months. Upon hearing those words, his heart had sunk so low, a low he did not know existed. At the same moment some stupid thought crossed his mind, but it made sense at the time. And he had to hold onto something he knew, something he understood. He thought that must have been the reason his last books had had no success whatsoever. He knew no depth then and had been staying at the surface of things. He had been waddling in superficialities, when the rest of the world was already into new depth. He now understood. He finally understood.
He hung up without a word. He knew he could no longer go on. He knew what he was about to lose. He was ready for it. He had to take sides. Minutes after he hung up, he was in his car, his head full of joyous memories of him playing hide-and-seek or chess with his niece when he heard the explosion in the distance, his office. He checked his pockets, and saw he had some money, a passport and two pictures, the one of his niece, and another one with his children. He was on the run.
(February 5th, 2014)