The other day, I was immersed in my thoughts and the whirlwind of all the little things I had to do, like everyone on a weekday morning. I rushed out of a store, sat down at the wheel of my car and started backing up, which quickly came to a halt.
It was a shock strong enough to immediately make my heart pound in my ears, but not strong enough to hurt anyone. It took me a few seconds to come to my senses and I looked up at my rearview mirror. The back of a black car occupied my entire field of vision, with the red light of its headlights on and its appearance of a reproving monster. A few onlookers watched the scene from afar, slightly mockingly.
I left confused, understanding the banal sequence of events in this parking lot: I had backed up, the driver of the black car had backed up, we had bumped into each other. At that moment, a powerful voice inside me was screaming at me to apologize relentlessly and to accept whatever the potentially angry driver would demand of me. This one – a man in his forties – calmly got out of his car and immediately inspected the back while addressing me in an authoritative tone:
“Didn’t you see that I was backing off?”
No, I replied, stammering and apologizing. At that time, if he had demanded that I sign him a check for €1,000, I believe I would have. The man hesitated for a moment but, noting that his car had nothing on it, not even a chip of paint, he sighed and then left, muttering “forget it”. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, back behind the wheel, that I realized I could have asked him the same question: hadn’t he seen that I was backing up?
In times like these, when life violently surprises you, your true self emerges, as if emerging from the box where it hides the rest of the time. In my case, this unexpected shock was enough for me to become again the little girl that I still believe I have ceased to be. It’s not a pleasant feeling, a reminder that I’m never really myself. However, it allows me to reflect, and to tell myself that if I were myself, I would probably do things that are reprehensible by law. I would throw away any kind of sense of responsibility for living a life full of emotions probably too intense to bear. The great writer Clarice Lispector once asked this question in the newspaper where she wrote her columns: “If you were you, what would happen and what would you do? I believe that only dreams give us an idea of the incessant storm that our life would then be like.
This little girl in me probably explains why I feel sad for a whole day when I hear in the morning, on the radio, a media figure whom I usually only have to quietly utter lies to justify his selfishness and his contempt for those who fight for a little justice in this world. I don’t want to give a name; there are far too many at the moment, the miniature tyrants, to spread their cynical word by saying anything. At that moment, on the radio, isn’t it as if the little girl in me heard her father humiliating her and reducing her to nothing? I then rebuff myself thinking of all the great resistance fighters in this world, who really fought for more justice and equality despite the deadly attacks against them. And here I am again mired in guilt, this time for not being up to all these heroes. The little girl, I tell you.
Curiously, my friends and my children describe me rather with the opposite words: according to them, I would not easily show my emotions; I would be strong, almost cold. That’s what I try at all costs to believe. My sixteen-year-old daughter asked me the other day if I hadn’t been a little intimidated the first time I met her boyfriend, also sixteen. Of course I had been. But I strongly denied. It’s a waste of time, because who sees you better than your own children? The people who really like you don’t be fooled by your image. If I were really me, I would bother them asking them ten times a day if they love me, which is why they carefully stand on the edge of my self.
Well, dear doctor, it is clear that we never end with self-knowledge, even on our deathbed. Might as well think of something else. For example, I thank the Ardennes lover of snowdrops for the nice letter he sent me on this subject; may he long continue to write a note each year in the local newspaper to celebrate with his neighbors the arrival of these precious invaders.