Cave of Secrets

David and I watched Rashomon to get us started. I got that dream feeling from the first minute, from the rain all around the falling temple, like it was the ark on the flood at the end of the world.

Is that what movies are? Someone makes a dream that strangers can dream together, side-by-side on a couch or in a hall of deep chairs, half awake in the half light, where sharing so much makes strangers close, like distant family that has lived through years and wars and birth and big days together?

Different bed, same dream. That's one of the four-word Chinese proverbs my father and I wrote in our blank book, on thick pages with a special pen. We liked the old-style letters, the Kanji, not the new ones, the old ones were more like pictures. Bed has a slanted ceiling over it, dream has a moon under a cover.

I kept our book of characters on his book shelves in the basement. The shelves went sixty feet along three walls, I counted. I picked a spot for my nine books near the light of his desk and half way up the six foot shelves. Later it went into the mud with the rest, I'm guessing, forty years of books, from long before me.

I remember this falling temple, Rashomon, from upstairs in that house, with the rough wood walls and high wood ceiling, and me and my father in that long front window, watching side by side on the couch the way we watched The Land Before Time. This time the long front window is streaming with rain, the windows in the loft are drumming, and in each flash of lightning I see our trees shivering and ticking like metronomes in the wind.

That can't be right.

ME
Sorry, I told you wrong. I didn't see this before. I thought I had. My father only told me about it.

DAVID
Yeah?

ME
How each person's story undid the story before, because each person made himself better than he was.

DAVID
Hiding something he was ashamed of.

ME
Yeah, his cowardice or whatever.

DAVID
But not guilt! Never guilt.

ME
Yeah, like the bandit, the Mifune guy.

DAVID
He's shouting out his guilt, over and over, laughing. He'd rather get himself hung than say he was a coward.

ME
Yeah.

I looked away.

ME
So I didn't tell you right. I had that wrong.

DAVID
Yeah. Whatever.

I didn't move.

DAVID
Guilty. You miss your turn. I get your next Jolly Rancher.

We laughed.

ME
No, wait, I'm remembering something.

His lifted his chin and his eyebrows went up.

ME
Just a second.

He waited.

ME
Want to hear something really weird?

DAVID
Always.

ME
I don't know if I can say it right.

DAVID
You get three tries.

We laughed.

DAVID
You already have one strike.

We laughed.

ME
When you remember wrong, or you lie...

DAVID
Yeah...

ME
You're never closer to the truth.

His eyebrows went up again.

I laughed, still looking away, thinking how to say this.

ME
You have your outside story and your inside story. They go together. Like evil twins.

We laughed.

ME
Not evil. Your bumbler twin, always embarrassing you. You wish he was more of a coward, so he wouldn't be so loud about it.

He laughed.

ME
You push your outside story on everyone to hide some inside story.

DAVID
OK.

ME
Ready?

DAVID
It gets weirder?

We laughed.

ME
OK. Say the lie is the dragon....

DAVID nodded slowly, his eyebrows up.

ME
That guards your cave of secrets.

I looked at him. He nodded, watching me closely.

ME
If you see the dragon you're close to his cave of secrets. Too close.

DAVID
OK. OK. Tell me if I'm getting it.

I nodded.

DAVID
Rashomon. Why make a movie about lie after lie? Because every lie is circling some truth, like a mother goose trying to lure a fox away from her nest.

ME
Yeah. Right! But you're the fox and also the goose.

DAVID
OK...

ME
The dragon is your dragon, the secrets are your secrets.

DAVID
OK...

ME
Till you think you're ready for them.

DAVID
OK...

ME
Which the dragon can tell, when you face him.

DAVID
OK...

ME
You remember things when you need them. When you're ready for them.

He waited and watched.

ME
Then you remember them the way you need them to be.

He narrowed his eyes and nodded in a very small slow way.

ME
Like did I see Rashomon with my father. No.

DAVID
OK...

I laughed at the look on his face, and he laughed.

ME
That's where remembering crosses into dreaming.

He frowned.

ME
Into the cave of secrets.

DAVID
This is the weird part?

ME
Right.

We laughed.

ME
The cave of wishes and fears.

He started to nod again, just a little.

ME
Where all your stories come from anyhow. False, more false, and most false.

We laughed.

ME
There's nothing more true.

We laughed.

DAVID
OK. True wishes. True fears.

ME
Yeah. There's something true behind every story. Has to be.

DAVID
OK...

ME
The dragon disguises your secret from you, like with riddles or in dreams. You disguise it from him, to sneak it out again.

He was lost now.

DAVID
Yep, you were right. That's weird.

We laughed.

ME
I know.

He waited.

ME
OK. Example. I thought I should see Rashomon with you because I saw it with him. See?

His eyebrows went up again.

ME
Even if I didn't.

He nodded.

ME
So I did even though I didn't.

We laughed.

ME
You remind me of him. The way we talked.

We smiled nervously, both of us.

ME
I never talked that way again, you know? Seven years, eight? I didn't know if I ever would.

He nodded.

ME
This way I mean.

He stared and nodded.

ME
Like this.

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