Sometimes I feel a little frustrated with blogging, mostly because of you, my dear reader. While I enjoy our interaction, try as I might, I still don’t feel I really know you. Mathematically speaking, am I being too generous in saying that you only get to see about 15% of a person by reading their blog?
People are complicated in general. It’s hard enough knowing yourself, so knowing someone else is especially difficult. For all my time with Sophia, I suspect I only know 25% of her. She’s always doing things that are surprising to me. Last night, we played Texas Hold ’em poker with some friends, and she bluffed with a two of diamonds and three of spades. That just wasn’t her! It was shocking.
I love my mother, but having never seen her in her wild single days in Coney Island, I suspect I’ve only seen 35% of her true self.
I don’t understand myself at all, especially with all my self-deception, so I gather I only know 60% of myself.
As a "writer," I’m supposed to understand characterization, but in truth, people are way too mysterious. My interest in the human psyche started at an early age.
When I was a kid, I remember my parents being involved in a Jewish social group that met at our apartment every month. There were about twenty members of this group. On this night, my parents would let me stay up late. Sometimes, I would come out in my pajamas and play a song on my clarinet, or do a magic trick (I was a budding magician who did shows at childrens’ parties). After doing a trick, Abe, a hefty optomotrist, would give me a quarter "tip."
I bring up this monthly event because something odd happened in my apartment every single month — something that became legendary in my household. After all the guests left, we would find that one of the toothbrushes in the bathroom was missing, and we would then find it sitting in the bathroom hamper with the laundry.
The first time it happened, we assumed it was some weird accident. But every month it would be the same — a toothbrush in the hamper after all the guests left.
My mother suggested that we hide all the toothbrushes, but my father, being an overly nice guy, didn’t want the culprit to know we were onto him — and make him feel bad. My father worked in a hospital and was very understanding of all sorts of neurotic people.
One night, a year and 12 discarded toothbrushes later, my mother had had enough. She gave me a secret assignment, something I wasn’t supposed to tell my father. I would watch TV in my parents’ bedroom during the evening. With the bedroom door slightly ajar, one could get a perfect view of the bathroom. Each time someone went into the bathroom, I should make a note of the person, then run in to check the status of the toothbrushes as soon as they left.
I was on toothbrush patrol all night, and I must have run into the bathroom at least 10 times for an examination, each time with my father’s handkerchief covering my face, protecting me from any smell and making me feel like a real sleuth.
Then came the big moment.
Abe had just left the bathroom. As he passed from view, I ran inside — and there was the proof — my father’s toothbrush was gone! I opened the hamper and laundry scattered all over the floor. On top of one of my t-shirts, was the toothbrush!
I rushed into the kitchen and told my mother. It was Abe! She said we should talk about it with my father later.
After everyone left, I told my father about my investigative reporting. He was not surprised, but insisted that we never bring it up and embarrass Abe. The next day, my father and I went to our local dime store and bought a 12-pack of toothbrushes, enough to keep Abe happy for a year of throwing toothbrushes into the hamper.
My parents were friends with Abe for many years. His weird toothbrush fetish was never brought up. Why did Abe do this? Did he have a bad experience with a dentist when he was a child? Did he want us to launder the toothbrush? And why only one? Would he have remained friends with my parents if they confronted him?
Did they ever really know more than 2% of the real Abe?
People are complicated and mysterious.