The difference between truth and honesty is the long way home. Sometimes it leads through Canada and a girl who loves me through the tears. Yes, she loves me despite all the sins I have committed and it is an old love that stretches over the aging of skin, books by great authors , the breakdown of smiles, and redemption at dawn. The difference between truth and honesty: like how we might be dreaming the LA skyline from the Hollywood Hills, riding the crosstown bus beside some guy breathing hard who just committed a crime, pushing the gash closed while the Italian applies the sutures, hiding the refugee in the church, or maybe stealing frozen meat from Safeway: cells in the heart and mind that divide truth from honesty.
But like I said yesterday, we have better things to do. We will be dismissive and cynical. We will look directly into the sun and blind ourselves. We will hide inside cracks upon the sidewalk and ignore the hopeless ones who bleach and part just beyond the horizon.
That is our day and it spreads outward from our body like the shadow of a prison.
Those sentiments are more honest than true. Do you see?
Here is the truth: She and I were sitting in the drab office when the Commander opened the door. He was a large man and like everyone else he carried a Kalashnikov as an advertisement for future plans. I had several staff who had worked on engineering projects during the Soviet occupation and the regime of Najib. You probably don’t remember him. When the Taliban took the city they castrated him in the UN office and then dragged him behind a truck until he died. It didn’t take too long. They hanged the body downtown so everyone could see the new kind of government skills that would soon be available. Later, I met a guy who had one of the rings worn by Najib that day. It had a blue stone and was sized for the little finger.
Anyway, as we were drinking our tea the Commander offered to kill anybody that I wanted killed. I thanked him and told him I would think about it. I added one needed to be careful these days since the difference between a real communist and a professional engineer working on a bridge was difficult to ascertain. He agreed, but then began to discuss the difference between truth and honesty. He said that although it might be true that some of my staff were not really communists, they nonetheless deserved to die. Why? I asked. Well, he said, they were dishonest. He then produced a small notebook and began to talk about the history of some of my men. They had, he said, lied about their home provinces, the government departments they had working for, and how they had allowed their wives to walk unveiled in public. I responded those were important pieces of information and I would certainly consider everything he was saying. After a few more cups of tea and a discussion of how a man could insure the birth of a son, he left.
She turned to me and with great concern said, “What are you going to do?” I told her nothing. Maybe get the opinion of a Commander that I knew, but really not much more.
A few months passed quietly and then I got a death threat and a week or so later the Taliban kidnapped two engineers and tortured them in a little hut. After a while, and under a crescent moon, they took them into a ravine and shot them. That’s what my Commander pal told me anyway.
She was gone before all of that happened and when I saw her a couple years later in Africa, I didn’t bother to tell her the story. I didn’t see any point to it.