Friday, May 3, 2013

The truth cannot be buried. It claws, tooth and nail, to the surface, and punches its outstretched hand skyward, like in an old zombie movie. The truth wants air, and it wants light, and it will move ever-forward to get it. It cannot be stopped. And, like those noir zombies, it is immortal. 

If we ever feel we have buried the truth completely, then it is a lie we tell ourselves, as we only bury it skin-deep, in our hearts. Other hearts demand their piece of it, and so they will claw their way in, into your heart. And if some truths are taken to the grave, then when God Himself meets you there on The Other Side, it's the first thing He demands you hand over.

Some truths are not buried entirely, but locked away, placed in ambiguously numbered crates and stored in a warehouse of a thousand other secrets, like the Ark of the Covenant in that first Indiana Jones movie. These truths are too dangerous to be fully known, too powerful to be shared, too horrifying to admit, too embarrassing to be set free. But we keep the keys to the warehouse, just in case. These may be truths we can use some day, we lie to ourselves, piling on.

Here is a story I have never told anyone:

I lied to my father, years ago, and I was an adult -or so I thought. I had borrowed some of his nice 35mm camera gear for a trip to Great Britain. It was the last day of the trip, and we were driving back to London. We had just departed Stonehenge, a hundred kilometers back, and I noticed I was missing a lens. It was a good Zuiko lens; expensive, heavy, made of black metal and perfectly hewn glass. I remember it very well: 50mm, f1.4. A nice lens, if you know anything about lenses. With such a low f-stop, it could see through the dark without the aid of any artificial illumination.

Anyway, I must have set the lens on the roof of the car when I switched to my telephoto, and when we drove off, I suspect it rolled into the tall grass. My friend asked me if I wanted to go back for it, and I said, no. too far. And we kept driving. Driving down the wrong side of the road, in England.

Well, my dad asked me about it several times over the years, and I always claimed that I had it, somewhere, but I never admitted that it was in safekeeping on the other side of the planet, hidden amongst the age-old Celtic reeds of Stonehenge. And I never told him the truth because I was afraid of him. It was the nature of our relationship, where the truth never felt safe between us.

Ten-long years later my dad and I got into an argument. My parents were getting older, old, and we had to move he and my mom to a smaller apartment -which is a difficult thing- and I was trying to help, but he yelled at me, apropos of nothing, "and you lost my camera lens when you went to Europe!" And I stopped. He had always known it. And then, because I was a fool, and not yet a mature adult, I re-stated the lie: No, I didn't lose it! I still have it in my closet somewhere! And then the argument moved on to other, more forgettable things. But we continued to burn. No, we smoldered.

Then, a year or so after that, I was chatting with my brother, who was living with my dad at the time, and I asked him how dad was doing, because my dad was getting infirm and distracted, and I was worried about him. My brother said, "He wants some camera lens back. He says you have it." So, after more than ten years, in the name of a twenty-year old, pre-digital, old-school camera that was nearly obsolete, I piled on. I went to a used-photography equipment store and bought an old Zuiko 50mm f1.4 lens sitting on a glass shelf. I remember the dealer was trying to sell me the f1.2, the best lens of all, for a great price, but I wouldn't have it. I plopped down a few hundred dollars and walked out with the lens. I gave it to my brother and told him to give it to dad. He did. And then, later, I asked him what my dad's response was, and my brother said, "It's funny. He looked down at it. He rolled it over in his hands. And he seemed kind of sad." Less than a year later, my father died.

That was nearly a decade ago, and today I am the caretaker of that lens, and the lies I told about it. I had eventually inherited the camera gear, and with it I inherited a store-hall of insufferable truth that I am doomed to keep with me to the end of my own days. The truth about the 50mm, f1.4 lens is a small one, but through that lens goes a dim, focused light, and through that lens everything is properly exposed.