I am aware that more and more Americans are traveling to distant countries on business, often remaining there for extended periods of time. I am equally aware that some of these distant countries are under the control of less than democratic regimes, and that many, if not all, less than democratic regimes, by their very natures, are infused with an insidious culture of suspicion. Especially about foreigners.
(I am trying to be careful in my wording, lest those tendrils of suspicion reach out and engulf innocents, not the least of whom being…well, perhaps it’s best not to mention any names. One can never be certain who is scrutinizing these missives.)
You are an American businessman, toiling in a semi (or more) police-state environment. You are invited in for “questioning.” Entirely uninterested in espionage, you are precisely who you seem to be – a public citizen traveling for your company. A public citizen, as it turns out, who is scrupulously committed to the truth, wherever it may lead. This is fortuitous, as it coincides with the single demand of the Interrogator, which is:
“We want the truth.”
“That’s perfect. Everyone knows I am nothing if not truthful. You want the truth? You have come to the right man.”
“Let the chips fall where they may. Here it is:
“I really think the Lakers are going to miss the playoffs.”
“That’s not what we want to hear.”
“Tell me about it, they’re breaking my heart! I’m not saying they’re awful, or anything, they can still beat the sub-.500 teams – the Sacramentos and the Orlandos of the league – but the Spurs or the Heat, even the Clippers – are you kidding me? There’s no way. They’re too good and too fast.
“Excuse me, sir…”
“I know what you’re going to say. ‘There are future Hall of Famers on this team.’ – Steve Nash, Dwight Howard if he stays healthy, certainly Kobe. No question.
“Do you remember what it was like at the beginning of the season? People – and I mean experts, not just yahoos calling in on the radio – those experts were predicting seventy wins or more this season. But Kobe, even with his flashes, and Nash for sure, are no longer in their prime. Dwight’s still recovering from back surgery, and he seems uncomfortable in L.A.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially in the year when we lose Mr. Buss. But maybe it’s better he’s not here for this. It kills me to say this – but you asked for the truth. The Lakers will definitely be home for the post-season.”
“We are having a misunderstanding here. The truth we are interested in is about you.”
“Oh. So that whole Lakers rant was a big waste of time?”
“We’d like to know the truth about you.”
“The truth about me. Okay.
“As hard as a I try, I cannot seem to like olives.”
“No. We were looking for a deeper truth. One that will tell us who you really are.”
“Sorry. I guess I’m not getting this. ‘A deeper truth.’ Okay.
“I can eat bananas as fast as I possibly can, and still, before I’m finished the bunch, at least one of them will have gone bad.”
“Sir. We need you to concentrate. The truth we are after is not about olives or bananas.”
“It’s the same thing with pears. No matter how few I buy, one of them will be mushy before I get to it. I can’t help it. It’s true.”
“We need to know about you.”
“That is about me. It sure isn’t my wife. She’s unbelievable with fruit.”
“Listen to me. Beneath all the layers, what is the most hidden secret about you?”
“Wow. This is like therapy. Not that I’ve ever been to therapy – and that’s the truth – but, you know, from shows I’ve seen, this seems exactly what it feels like. I mean, you’re really peeling the onion, here. ‘The most hidden secret about me?’ All right.
“I believe I could have gone further if my mother had been more supportive of my career.”
“We don’t need to hear that.”
“You think I need to hear that? My mother was always worried about me, afraid I lacked the toughness to make it in this dog-eat-dog world. Her worrying made me worry, which, believe me, is not helpful when you’re up there on the high wire. Come down from there. You’re going to break your neck!’ You think the Wallendas say that to their children? That’s why they never fall. I didn’t fall either, but it was way harder staying up there, lemme tell ya.”
“It’s the truth! I swear! She was never behind me!”
“You are a visitor in our country. We know you are hiding something. This is your last chance. Tell us the truth!”
(A HEAVY SIGH. FINALLY…)
“This is hard. It could get me in trouble. But I have always been a truth teller, and I am not stopping now. Okay.
“I find you deeply attractive as a man. From the moment you walked in here, I felt a spark. And I am neither apologetic nor ashamed.
“Maybe it’s your air of total confidence, and the way that, even in the bowels of this dank and desolate prison, you remain impeccable in your grooming and your attire. Maybe it’s the suppressed twinkle in your eye that says, under other circumstances, you’d be fun to have a drink with. Maybe it’s the heat generated by the inevitable consequence of the captor-interrogator relationship. I don’t know. I am seriously confused. And that’s the truth.”
THE INTERROGATOR HAS TURNED CRIMSON RED.
“You are making me angry!”
“You asked for it.”
“I asked for the truth! You tell me. Yes, or no. Are you a spy?”
“A spy? I make shell casings for the iPhone. You know, this ‘interrogation’ is pissing me off. We’re turning the tables here. You tell me the truth.”
(GENTLY) “When this unpleasantness is over, would you have any interest in seeing me socially?”
THE INTERROGATOR SPUTTERS. THEN, FINALLY,