09 Feb Mauvaise Foi
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"Mauvaise Foi"Written by Stephan D. Harris
Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
“The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”
Somewhere out there in this great blue world of ours, across oceans and throughout time, there is a familiar face. Attached to this face is of course, a familiar person. This is a person that you can only recall in the vaguest sense of memory, someone that you may or may not actually know as a person at all. More or less, they appear as only a fleeting moment of human interaction, but not as an individual. Really, if anything at all, to you, they’re simply the negation of everyone whom they are not. It is in this way that this seemingly random stranger is timeless, immortal if you will. There will always be a familiar stranger, a stranger that you think you may remember from a past experience, ingrained into the backdrop of some greater scene of drama. Keep in mind though, that this stranger has a name. It could be Mike, or Lindsey, or Brian. Maybe it’s one of your father’s old coworkers, or perhaps a neighbor from that one house you used to live in when you were thirteen. You know that you know them, but from where, well, you just can’t put your finger on that part.
One day, you’ll be passing a downtown café in Chicago, and outside on the patio, you’ll see him. He’ll wave and smile and you’ll wave and smile back, the whole time trying to think of who he is.
“Do I know him? Didn’t we go to high school together?” You’ll ask yourself. Or maybe you’re walking across a bridge in Dublin, and look, there she is, offering you that cigarette you’ve been craving all morning. You think you remember her name, but you won’t be sure, not really.
“Isn’t she my sister’s friend? The one who was dating that one guy?” It could be, but who knows? You’ll see her motioning for you to approach her, or you’ll see him offer you a seat, the way a casual acquaintance would. Go ahead, join them for a moment. You know each other, even if you lack the memory. Join them, and have yourself a chat. Follow them for a while if the opportunity comes about, it’s perfectly fine. After all, they may be a stranger, but that doesn’t mean you can’t trust them. It’s okay, just take a nice walk, and catch up if you can. Try to get their name if you can. It shouldn’t be that hard, it’s been on the tip of your tongue since you laid eyes on them at the bridge. Or in the parking lot. Or at the library.
If they seem friendly, it’s only because they are. Always urbane, always witty. No need to be cynical here, just because you lack the certainty of their motivations. If you begin to doubt that they are who they say they are, then feel free to ask as many questions as you please. Ask them anything, things like, “Who are you again?” or, “Where are we going?” You’ll probably forget a few minutes later, but that’s okay. All that you need to stay focused on is the box.
Oh, did I forget to mention that, or did you already lose track of the situation? Well, you may want to check again, just to be sure. You’ll notice it eventually, tucked under one arm of your long lost friend. Your familiar friend, your pleasant friend. Yes, you’d be correct in saying that it is a box, a wooden box. Small and polished, with steal bolted to the trim. It’ll have a handle too, and even a lid. You won’t recognize this box. It’s something far too important to be swept under the carpet, even if it means nothing to you now. Despite the generally mundane nature of this small, banal box, you’ll still notice it regardless. It’s much too intriguing to ignore, in a simple way. Naturally, you’ll become curious, and conversation will inevitably lead to the contents. Here’s your chance to learn something, somethingvery interesting.
“What’s that for?” You ask the stranger. If you two find yourselves walking, your company will cease all movement. If you find yourselves near a bench or a few chairs, they’ll take a seat. No no, don’t worry about it, it’s perfectly normal. Just sit down, and try to enjoy yourself. If the mood is still right, the person you are with, whoever they may be, they’ll start to speak.
“Why do you want to know?” they’ll ask you, but only if you truly want to find out. Trust me, you do want to know.
“I was just wondering.” You’ll ask, or something similar to those words. Your friend, the stranger, they’ll start to smile. They’ll hold the box out in front of their chest, almost offering you to take a look inside.
“What do you think it’s for?” You won’t be sure how to answer that question. It could be anything for all you know. Anything at all, or nothing at all. Maybe even both. The stranger, if they are in fact a stranger, will see the confused look on your face. They’ll know that you don’t know, and smile.
“It’s a portal to hell. It’s every nightmare you’ve ever had.” They might say in grave voice. Or maybe, “It’s an abomination, a crime against nature, the likes of which you’ve never seen.” Or something like that. Then, they’ll stare at you, with a look of engraved seriousness.
Then you’ll laugh. You’ll both laugh; because there’s no way those things could be in that box. It would silly to think those things. There’s absolutely nothingdangerous about this box. Don’t even consider it. But, it does hold something that all containers hold until opened, an intangible thing. In that old box, in that strange and familiar box, held in the hands of that strange and familiar friend, there sits a secret ready to be rediscovered. More of a surprise really, a pleasant surprise. Definitely not a bad surprise. Just keep telling yourself that as reach towards the lid. Just keep telling yourself that you want to open the box.
Because you do want to open it, don’t you? Who doesn’t like a little adventure now and then? Now now, don’t worry about a thing. It’s normal to get a little nervous now and then, just so long as you don’t let those feelings get the best of you. Just have a little faith, and everything will be alright. Don’t be scared, it’s just an old wooden box, with a latch and a lid. Just open it up and take a look inside, just a little peek. It’s a good thing to be a little bit reckless now and then, curiosity has always been a good thing. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? It’s absolutely and perfectly safe.
So when you meet that certain familiar person, and you most certainly will, go ahead and just ask to look in that nice old box of theirs. Don’t be skeptical or rude or pessimistic. Open that box, and experience something that few others have. What’s there to lose? What’s the worst that can happen? It’s perfectly safe, so go ahead and look.
You can trust me.
Credit To – Stephan D. Harris
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