I was tied to a tree and fully expected to be burned as a witch. But the female in the party, I will call her Jane to protect her from retribution, appeared in front of me, brick in hand. She slammed it and slammed it into my head, above my eyes.
One of the men yelled, “Not yet!”
“Fuck that.” And she picked up the brick and slammed me in the head again. A little more toward the temple.
“Stop!” The man yelled again. As did another man.
“Jane! Don't-“ I heard it, but my vision was gone. I could hear them running towards us. Then a blurry object raced at my head and…
I knew too much. Worse. I knew the truth.
You see, there are three truths out there: That which we know. That which we believe we know, but are wrong. And that which we will never know.
I’ll give you an example. You lose your wallet and never find it. But, here's the truth: it still exists somewhere. You know you no longer can find the wallet. That's a truth you know. You know you lost it. Thought it might have been stolen. And, if it were stolen, that person knows the truth.
Or, say you did lose it, but you have no idea where it is. Is it behind the dresser or was it picked up at a Starbucks and sits in their lost and found box? In either case, all you would need to do is collect it. Either from behind the dresser or from the box at Starbucks. Unless it was stolen. Unless it was stolen by a friend, a friend who helped you look for it, knowing you would never find it. Knowing the truth. A truth you will never know unless that friend tells you.
Which he never will.
But I know. And I tell. That is, until Jane cracked my skull with a brick, three times.
And I could tell no more.
The problem now is that my magic, the magic of knowing, is floating, floating, floating for many days and many miles and finally lodges into … well … let's not get ahead of ourselves.
When I was eight, I found a gold necklace by the side of the river while we were hiking in Starved Rock State park in Illinois. I picked it up and let it run thought my hands. It was caked with mud, except a small section, which is what caught my eye. As soon as I touched it, I knew. I knew everything. I knew who lost it. I knew when. I knew her efforts trying to find it. I knew it was important to her when it was lost, a gift from a boyfriend, but she was no longer with him and no longer looked for the necklace. She thought she had lost it at the hotel, but it had slipped off as her friend pretended to push her into the river. Holding her shoulders as she pushed lightly.
“Saved your life,” the friend said.
“You scared the shit out of me,” the necklace wearer said. As she stood up, the necklace slipped from her neck and into the water. I found it three years later. My Mom asked what I had found and I told her. She took it from me and handed it in at the Visitors Center. The man thanked her, but never put it into the box. He took it home and gave it to his own daughter. I knew this, since I knew everything.
“He took it home and gave it to his daughter,” I told my Mom that night.
She laughed, but then said seriously, “You should always think the best of people until you know otherwise.”
“But I do know otherwise,” I said. And I did.
Before the brick to the head, I was living in a small town in the New England. I was twenty-nine and a handyman. OK, let's call a spade a spade. I was a odd-jobber living in a trailer park.
Yes, I could have anything. Anything except a relationship. Anything except curiosity or hope. Anything except anything that mattered. So I ended up in trailer park avoiding people as best as I could, but people cannot be avoided. And I knew that the more I interacted with people, the more dangerous it was. I learned this the hard way as I aged from eight to twenty-eight. While you would think I could sail through school, truth is not the same as knowledge. Worse, I struggled listening to people say things that weren’t true, and were easily proven wrong simply by showing them. And, of course, answering questions they knew not to ask.
Even when I said, flatly, “Don't ask questions you don't really want to know the answer to.” This resulted in many knocks to the head, for the people who asked, the people around them, and yours truly. Simply put, much truth is hidden from us for a reason. And often that reason is the people around us, the ones we think we can trust. They lie, cheat and steal from us.
Jane and the three men kidnapped me in their van and dragged me into the woods. They believed there was a fortune in gold hidden in one of the cabins out here. They were almost right. It was cash and gems. And of course I knew where it was. And of course I showed them. And of course …
The item was a standard metal canteen. Nothing special. But it was located on the ground near an Adena gravesite in Ohio. Lucy picked it up to quench her very common thirst and she suddenly knew. She knew everything there was to know. All about the misnamed Indian cultures in the Americas, as well as the answers to all the unknown archeological and cultural questions. All the mysteries her teachers and the organizers were trying to solve.
They were searching for truth pottery shard by pottery shard, icon by icon, clue by clue. Slowly and painstakingly. Lucy knew it all, in a sudden knowing, simply by touching the canteen where the magic, my former magic, settled.
Lucy shook her head, trying to snap free from the dream. It was no dream, or the dream had not yet revealed itself as such. She decided to test her knowledge, grabbing a shovel and asking her professor to follow her for a moment.
“I have a hunch.” As we know, it was not a hunch. He laughed, but decided to follow anyway. Something in her expression, deep and old, made him humor her hunch. She pointed to an oak tree, which almost made the professor head back. This tree could not have been more than 300 years old and the site was approaching ten times older than that.
Next to the tree, a rock jutted from the ground. It looked like the tip of a small rock, but it was actually giant stele.
“It's a …” But then she stopped. She knew something abut the professor that soured her desire to give him the credit that would come from this find. She shook it off. This was a dream. It could not be real. She could not possibly know what she believed was the absolute truth. That in 729 BC, an Adena nobleman carved the history of their village on a rock slab, which was now two feet from the tip of her shovel and easily excavated. And she did not need to read it to know what it said.
“We need to dig up that stele” she said matter-of-factly, adding as emotionlessly,
“And you need to come clean to your wife.”
The professor stared at her blankly, confused. She repeated the two-part comment and he returned the same dumb stare. She finally realized she was not speaking in English, but in the language in the stele. She repeated the words in English.
When I was twelve, I hated my parents for what I knew. By the time I was fifteen, no longer living at home, I knew they were simply human and that most people, especially those that appear otherwise, were far worse. By nineteen, I no longer tried to stop my tongue from revealing what I knew. The truth.
By twenty nine, I watched as a woman who was not named Jane smashed a brick into my head because she could not wait for the others to collect enough sticks to burn me.