The Old Man and the Ghosts: Humbug

There is always something more to lose.


So now I wake with the light of a tired winter sun through my torn curtains, and my lips curve into a smile of infinite relief. I laugh, and while my voice is rusty from ill-use, the sound gets louder. My old feet move lightly on the threadbare carpet, and if my knees groan and my back screams, none of their complaints can be heard over my dancing and my laughter (increasingly loud, increasingly mad).

I have found my victory hollow, but it is victory just the same.

The signs and gestures are the most important thing — the outer man must seem absolutely real, so that the inner man can be left alone. The illusion must be perfect, or it will be effort wasted on nothing. The lie must be so convincing that even the liar believes it wholeheartedly. No other lie will do. This is a matter of will, a matter of commitment.

My enemy no longer wears Marley’s face. It no longer wounds me with his voice.

The bells that ring today are brighter than the sickly sunshine. The voices that sing are warmer than the cold air from which they draw their strength. It is a part of all of them, just as it always was, and it is nauseatingly happy, because it thinks it has won. It celebrates in carols and feasts and cheer, and only a small, silent part of me can smell the rot and hear the grinding of bone. Only a small, silent part of me knows what has been sacrificed.

My voice laughs, and my lips smile and my feet dance.

I am not the one laughing or smiling.

I am not the one who dances.

My victory is hollow.


About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. For now, I labor at a fairly interesting administrative job in order to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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