The Secret

There was a terrible secret that Peter had kept to himself for years. It was something about himself that you couldn’t get away with. Many, even most things could be uttered. You would probably horrify a few people, but most people would just laugh and share their own secrets. And everyone would drink some more and it wouldn’t be so bad.

But this was something that he knew no one would laugh about. No matter whether they thought it was funny or not, they would grimace and clam up and end the evening. If they did think it was funny, they wouldn’t want anyone else knowing that they did. So they would just look uncomfortable for a minute, and then they would have to get going, and he would be left sitting there, exposed. And no one would ever invite him again.

So even towards the end of the night, when everyone was pretty drunk, Peter still managed to keep his mouth shut. He knew that people thought he was a bit of a tight-ass because he didn’t talk as much as other people. But whatever they thought of him, it was better than what they’d think if they knew.

While he was walking home from the bar, he whispered it to himself. He was a little drunk and in the mood for something dramatic, so he decided that he wanted to say it out loud. But he still knew enough not to let anyone else hear it, so he waited until he was walking down an empty street. There was no one around, and even if he had failed to notice somebody, they would just think he was just some crazy guy talking to himself, and that he wasn’t saying anything important.

He knew better than to tell me what the secret was. If I knew, then even though I’m tired of judging, inevitably I would judge him. And he also knew that if I knew, I would tell you. Then you would judge him as well. He understands. He knows it’s not vindictive or anything. We all make judgments in order to survive in the world. But the last thing he needs is to be judged, so he’s not going to let us know.

And now you’re thinking that the secret must be really horrible, like a rape or a murder or something. I admit that his unwillingness to tell seems to indicate that his secret must be pretty awful.

But, after giving it a little thought, I can see that that’s not necessarily true. Let’s face it, there’s only two ways this can go, either you think the secret is really horrible, in which case he’s right not to tell you. Or you might think that the secret is kind of stupid and lame, and so, by extension, he’s lame as well. So then you would be judging him in another way. So no matter what he does he loses, and so he’s better off keeping the secret to himself.