How Did You Meet?

I like writing these.  Some are true, some are fiction.  Some are me, some are other people.  Which are which?  Who’s to say?  The previous batch can be found here.

You two are so cute together!  How did you guys meet?

“Probably about the most exotic place possible – we met in Israel!”

“Yeah, he was in another Birthright group, visiting the same places as us at the same time, so we kept on seeing each other at the hotels at night.”

“I invited her to a party in one of our rooms the second night, and since she was the only person from her group who wanted to come, I talked with her all night so she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place.  After that, well, I just really wanted to keep talking to her!”

“At each of the hotels, we would meet up in the evenings and talk for the whole night.”

“I really wanted to make a move on her, but I was totally afraid of being shot down.”

“I was kind of hoping that he would make a move . . .”

“And I did!  She wasn’t sure at first, but I’m so glad I didn’t let the moment slip away!”

So, how did you two find each other?

“It’s kind of a funny story!  First off, it turns out that I lived just down the street from her grandparents, and so we were good friends while we were growing up.”

“Yeah, and early on I actually dated one of his buddies, who turned out to be his distant cousin!  So, small world.”

“But the two of us didn’t really connect until after college, when we were both on this week-long mission trip down to do charity stuff in New Orleans.”

“Yeah, and she was kind of going crazy!  I mean, we both were.  We were all staying in this church, and couldn’t really get up to much trouble there.”

“Once we got back home, though, I pounced on him!”

I never would have pegged you two as a couple!  How did that happen?

“First, thanks for the vote of confidence, I guess?  We actually met online, though.”

“Yeah, I had made a profile on this site because a friend wanted me to join her, but I wasn’t expecting much. The internet’s full of creeps, you know, and I definitely got some weird messages.  But that made his stand out all the more, because it was so nice and normal!”

“We actually chatted back and forth for nearly a month before we met in person, in part because I was on vacation.  But then I got back into the same city, and we started hanging out in person!”

“The first few times were pretty cautious, because, you know, I’ve seen Catfish, and still wasn’t 100 percent confident he wasn’t lying about himself.  But no, he’s one of those rare people on the Internet who tells the truth!”

“And I haven’t murdered her yet!”

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The Lizard King, Act III

Act I and Act II.

The curtain opens on the apartment, where “Pitch Perfect” is playing on the TV.  FRANCO and SUZETTE are cuddling on the couch, nestled close.  The apartment is dark.

CORKSCREW bursts in through the door, making both FRANCO and SUZETTE jump up in surprise.

CORKSCREW: I think I’ve figured it out!

FRANCO stands up angrily; SUZETTE is still hiding on the couch in the darkened room.

FRANCO: Dude, you’re interrupting here!

CORKSCREW: No, I figured it out!  I know about the lizard king!

SUZETTE sits bolt upright and screams.  FRANCO and CORKSCREW both jump and stare at her.

SUZETTE hysterically: Oh my god, it’s coming!

CORKSCREW: Yeah, on Friday!  It actually looks pretty scary!

FRANCO: Wait, what?

CORKSCREW: It’s this new movie that’s opening up!  In theaters this Friday.  Apparently they’re big on the whole ‘guerrilla marketing’ thing.

FRANCO: Oh, that actually makes sense.  Kind of.  To SUZETTE: So you’re a promoter for this movie?

SUZETTE: No!  The real lizard king!  I saw it!

FRANCO: What?

CORKSCREW: Like an early showing?

SUZETTE: No!  On the subway!  I was riding the subway back, and all of a sudden, there was this giant lizard . . . thing!  Stumbling towards me!

CORKSCREW: So why did you call me the lizard king?

SUZETTE: I didn’t!  I was warning everyone!

FRANCO soothingly: Look, I’m sure it was just another marketing ploy.  Let’s just calm down.  There’s no such thing as the lizard king.

Behind CORKSCREW, a figure appears in the doorway of the still-darkened apartment.  The others turn to see a giant lizard standing there, staring at them.  SUZETTE screams and runs out of the apartment, past the giant lizard.  FRANCO lets out a high-pitched wail and hides behind the couch.  CORKSCREW flails his arms in confusion.

The giant lizard reaches up to remove his mask, revealing JACK.

JACK: Hah, I totally got you guys!  By the way, Franco, thanks for the tip about the costume shop!  That place was amazing!

KENDRICK enters the doorway from behind JACK.

KENDRICK: Jack, I think that’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a date!  That was such a good idea!

JACK: Oh, the date’s not over!  He pulls on the mask.  Eh, misssssssy?

KENDRICK giggles and allows JACK to lead her into the apartment and offstage.  FRANCO and CORKSCREW are left standing in the apartment.  They are silent for several seconds, awkwardly avoiding eye contact.

FRANCO: I think I’ll pass on that Lizard King movie.

CORKSCREW: Yeah, sounds good.  Hey, is that Pitch Perfect?  I love this movie!

Curtain.

The Lizard King, Act II

Act I.

Curtain rises on a restaurant table for four.  JACK and KENDRICK, tall, blonde, pretty, are seated. They look bored and uncomfortable.  

KENDRICK: Jack, I just never feel like you do anything romantic for me any more.  It’s hard to know whether you care or not.

JACK: Look, let’s talk about this some other time.  Franco and his date are finally here.

FRANCO and SUZETTE enter.  SUZETTE is short, busty, straight dark hair in a bun, as CORKSCREW described.

FRANCO: Hey, sorry we’re late.

JACK: That’s kind of your thing – we know.

FRANCO and SUZETTE sit down.  A waiter brings them their menus.

KENDRICK: So, how did the two of you meet?

SUZETTE: Oh, it was so romantic!  Franco got up and gave me his seat on the subway – he was so gallant!

KENDRICK: That does sound romantic.  She shoots a pointed look at JACK, who rolls his eyes.

SUZETTE: And then he asked me to dinner, and a movie back at his place afterwards!

JACK: Oh?  A movie at our place?

SUZETTE: Your place?  No, Franco’s place.

FRANCO embarrassed: Jack, I’m going to the bathroom.  Maybe you could join me?

JACK: What?  No!

FRANCO kicks JACK under the table, audibly.  JACK muffles a curse.

JACK: Sure, I’ll go to the bathroom with you.  He stands up and limps after FRANCO to the side of the stage.

FRANCO: Yeah, I meant to talk to you about this before, but we got here late.  Do you think you and Kendrick could go someplace else after dinner, maybe give us a few hours at the apartment?

JACK: I hate when you don’t ask me about stuff like this!  You’re totally imposing-

FRANCO interrupting: Look, the two of you were going to go back, sit on the couch and watch TV for a while, and then go to bed.  It’s all you ever do.  Kendrick’s right – you do need to get out of the rut!

JACK: So what am I supposed to do?

FRANCO: Actually, why don’t you take her to that new costume shop, that opened up on 29th?  It’s supposed to be really fun.  Maybe you can find a cop costume, or some handcuffs, something to spice up your activities later tonight?

He winks and elbows JACK.

JACK: Fine.  We’ll try it.  But we’re coming back by eleven sharp, so you better have cleared out of the living room by then.

JACK and FRANCO return to the dinner table.

KENDRICK: So, what’s the plan for tonight?

JACK: Well, I was thinking we could go check out this new place I’ve heard about after dinner.  Do something different, instead of just going back and watching TV.

KENDRICK nods approvingly, reserved but approving.

FRANCO to SUZETTE: And the two of us can go back and watch a movie!  If it’s scary, you can totally cling to me for support.

JACK: Maybe the two of you should watch “Lizard Boy”, or “Godzilla”!

SUZETTE squirms at the titles.  

SUZETTE: I’m actually not a big fan of reptiles . . . she drags off into silence, staring blankly.

FRANCO: I was thinking of “Pitch Perfect.”

SUZETTE snapping out of her trance: That sounds good!

Curtain closes, END ACT II.

Act III.

The Lizard King, Act I

Setting: a college apartment, couch, large TV, Xbox.  TV is currently displaying start screen of Call of Duty.  JACK, brown hair, is sitting on the couch, controller in lap, looking bored.

FRANCO, dark-haired, handsome, enters.

JACK (annoyed): Hey, you’re late!  I’ve been waiting for, like, twenty minutes!

FRANCO: Oh, sorry.  I got a girl’s number on the subway, though.  Thinking I’ll bring her on the double date with you and Kendrick tonight.

JACK: She hot?

FRANCO: Hot enough to make it to date three!

JACK: What about smarts?

FRANCO: Eh, smarts are evaluated after date three.

JACK: So she’s destined to join the long line of girls you date, bed, and then never call again.

FRANCO winking: That remains to be seen!

JACK and FRANCO begin playing Call of Duty.  As they play, CORKSCREW, tall, gangly, shock of strawberry blonde hair, bursts into the door, frantic.

CORKSCREW: Hey, do either of you know about the lizard king?

JACK not looking up from the game: What?

CORKSCREW: The lizard king!  Some girl yelled it at me on the subway as I was coming home!  Is this some new slang I don’t know about?  Is it a gang symbol?

FRANCO: What girl?  What did she look like?

JACK nudges FRANCO.

JACK: Hey, maybe you’re dating the lizard king.

CORKSCREW: She yelled, “Watch out for the lizard king!” at me.  Maybe he’s like an escaped alligator that lives in the tunnels.

JACK: Wouldn’t that be in the sewers, not the subway?

FRANCO: Seriously, what did she look like?

CORKSCREW: I’m assuming it looks like a giant lizard.  And I think it’s male.

FRANCO reaches over the back of the couch, without looking, and slugs CORKSCREW.

FRANCO: No, the girl.  What did she look like.

CORKSCREW shrugging: Dunno.  Cute, chesty, black hair in a bun thing, yelling about a lizard.

FRANCO: Crap, that sounds like her.

JACK smirking: Sounds like you picked a winner, Franco.  Can’t wait to meet her tonight.

FRANCO: Look, doesn’t disrupt my plans.  I’ll be her lizard king tonight, if you know what I mean.

CORKSCREW is pacing back and forth around the couch.  Every time he circles in front of the TV, JACK and FRANCO throw up their hands at him, but he doesn’t notice.

CORKSCREW: Look, I gotta find out more about this lizard king deal.  I’ll see you guys later.

CORKSCREW exits.

JACK: Should we get involved in all that?

FRANCO: Nah.  One more game, then I gotta go make myself look nice for tonight.  He glances sidelong at JACK.  You should probably freshen up too.

JACK: Kendrick and I have been dating for three years, she knows what she’s got.

FRANCO: I thought you two were in a rut.

JACK: Not a bad one.

FRANCO shrugs.  Whatever.  Headshot!

Curtain closes.  END ACT 1

Act II

How Did You Meet?

So, how did you meet?

“It actually started off really poorly!  I turned around after getting my coffee in a Starbucks, and she was right there.  We totally collided and my coffee went all over her dress.”

“Of course, he was in total panic mode.  He’s grabbing for napkins and basically rubbing my crotch, while a constant stream of ‘sorry’ is coming out of his mouth.”

“It took me a good minute to realize that I was basically sexually assaulting her.  Man, was I red!  It wasn’t until I looked up at her that I realized how pretty she was, somewhere through the panic.  So I gave her my number and promised to pay for her dry cleaning.  I still can’t believe she called!”

“Sometimes, I don’t know why I did.  But he was so cute when he was flustered like that!”

How did you meet?

“Normally I don’t talk to people in the dining hall; that’s why I bring my book.  But this girl sat down right across from me, and she was really cute!  It also helped that she was wearing a very low-cut shirt…”

“Hush, you.  He seemed really kind of lost, just immersed in his book, so I figured that he wouldn’t bother me at all.  And then I was curious about his book, so we started talking.”

“Anyway, there was this weird promotion going on in the dining hall, where you could take free individual bags of Doritos.  They were advertising some new flavor or something.  So I asked her to help me carry some up to my room.”

“Getting asked to help steal food is a new one, I’ll admit that!  So I helped him.  And along the way, we ended up agreeing to get together for a movie night.”

“So Doritos helped bring us together!”

Tell me, how did the two of you meet?

“I’ll admit it, I was super inexperienced.  I basically kept on trying to talk to her the whole first week of orientation, and her friend kept on pulling her away.”

“I thought he liked me, but I had always been taught to never make the first move!  Plus, you know, new school and everything.  I was really shy.”

“We were hanging out together, but I never made that move.  Finally, one day, we were sitting in my room, and I actually asked permission!  I turned to her, next to me, and asked, ‘Can I kiss you?’, just like that!”

“I said yes, but in my head I was screaming, finally!!”

“I believe my first words, after the kiss, were, ‘So there!’, like I had proved something!  I’m still a little embarrassed by that.”

Church

The wild man turned up his black trenchcoat, grimacing at the wind.  Thunder boomed, echoing against the dark buildings towering far above him.  A storm was brewing.

The man stepped forward, leaving behind the safety of his dark limousine.  He strode forward towards the grand double doors of the tower.  They slid open for him, silently beckoning him inside.  Still clutching his coat around him, he passed through the doorway.

The elevator ticked smoothly as it carried him towards the heavens.  Slouching against the back, the wild man uneasily picked at his nails.  He was enclosed, penned in, bright artificial light pouring down on him and with no shadows in which to hide.  He watched the digital numbers advance as he waited for the doors to once again open and grant him freedom.

Finally, the doors opened, and the wild man thankfully exited the elevator.  Unfortunately, there was no comforting darkness into which he could escape.  The man walked forward slowly, raising one hand to shield his eyes against the blinding brightness.

A full bank of floor-to-ceiling windows offered a panoramic view of the outside of the tower.  The building’s top level broke through the storm clouds that covered the city, and golden sunlight suffused every inch of the white marble interior.  The room was bare, without decoration; nothing interrupted the glow of light reflected gently from every polished surface.  A single man stood in front of the windows, gazing contemplatively down at the world below, outlined by the light.

The wild man found a pair of sunglasses in a pocket of his trenchcoat and thankfully slid them on.  He walked forward across the marble, his boots ringing against the stone.  Small clods of dirt dislodged themselves from his boots and were left, scattered, across his trail.  He stopped a few feet from the other man.  “Preach,” he acknowledged in a raspy voice.

The man at the window turned, smiling, to behold the newcomer.  He wore long robes of white, gold embroidery touching the cuffs, and a high collar reminiscent of a Catholic priest.  “How good of you to come,” the man said, his voice melodious.  “I was merely contemplating humanity, far below us.”  He gestured to the window.

The wild man shuffled a couple steps closer and ventured a gaze at the thick clouds below.  “Not much to see,” he offered.

The priest threw back his head in laughter, the rich sound reverberating in the empty room.  “No, there certainly isn’t,” he said once his gaiety had subsided.  “Ah, but what is humanity to a god?  Even their kings, those they raise most high, are far below the clouds.”

“Out of touch,” the wild man responded, adjusting his coat.

The priest shot him a sidelong glance, steeliness breaking through his mantle of mirth.  “Out of touch?” he repeated.  “They do not need to be in touch.  Our hands are on the tiller; they merely row.  They have no need to know which direction the boat is traveling, nor would it mean anything to them if they knew.”  His face remained an iron mask for an instant more, but then once again relaxed into a pleasant smile.

“Oh, you do have a way of pushing my buttons,” he laughed.  “But come, you look so uncomfortable.  Can I offer you a drink?”

The wild man shook his head.  “No,” he said.  He gazed around the room, at the white marble blazing with sunlight.  “Not natural,” he said in his rough voice.

The comment elicited a chuckle.  “Of course it’s not natural,” the priest said, smirking.  “Natural stuff is all your domain.  Not that you have much domain left, of course.  That’s why I’m in the tower, and you’re,” he gestured dismissively at the clouds outside, “down there.”

Perhaps these words were meant to sting, but they elicited no reaction from the wild man.  “You called for me,” he rasped, still standing and waiting.

The priest sighed, finally turning to fully face him.  “Yes, I did,” he said.  “The offer still stands; you can still join me.”  He waved his hand at the miles of marble.  “You can come to the side of order, of logic, of sense, and be a part of all of this.”  He lowered his hand to point at the floor.  “You can leave that vehicle of yours behind.”

The wild man was silent for a long time, his face expressionless and his eyes hidden behind the sunglasses.  The priest waited, gazing at him, a slight smile playing about his lips as the sunlight made his robes glow from within.

Finally, the wild man shook his head.  “There’s still wilds,” he said slowly.  “Even now, there’s jungle.  Different jungle, different places, different animals, but the same rules.  And I’ll be there.”  His speech complete, the man slowly trudged back to the elevator.

The priest watched him go.  For a moment, his features twisted in an ugly scowl.  That look quickly vanished though, as he turned back to the windows, once again observing the sun.  “How high we have risen!” he said, speaking to the empty room as if orating before a great crowd.  “We are civilized!  We have domesticated the beasts of Nature, tamed the wild!  Through us, we have brought order!  A new world!  A better world!”

Down on the street, miles below, the wild man slid into the back seat of his limousine.  He removed his sunglasses, revealing yellow slitted eyes, as the car pulled away from the curb.  “There’s always wild,” he muttered.  “Even in you, Preach.”

Hope.

It’s funny how hope works.  It always seems to arise in the least likely times.

Hope comes when I glance at my email, and see that someone has replied to me, someone I recognize.  I don’t have time to read the entire message; I’m dashing out the door, late to work or a meeting.  But I know that there’s a little message, a sign of caring, waiting for me when I return.  The promise of a wonderful message gives me hope.

Hope comes when my eyes are following a pretty girl who’s walked into the room, and she looks back at me with a smile.  Sometimes, that smile is a playful grin, as if she can read my thoughts and is enticing me on.  Sometimes, it’s a shy acknowledgement of my interest, yet still mixed with surprise that someone finds her beautiful.  Sometimes it’s a beaming flash of teeth, simple joy from experiencing the world.  But that smile says that there is hope.

Hope comes from a single, lingering kiss good night.  That kiss will be followed by a parting, by a pulling away.  That magical night of late night talking, kissing, coupling?  That won’t happen tonight.  But that last kiss says that it could come, that it isn’t off the table, that it might be just around the corner.  That kiss says that there is the potential for more, that this relationship is worth continuing, has a deeper, innate value.  That kiss, hauntingly bittersweet, gives me hope.

Hope can appear at the brightest of times or the darkest of times.  Hope can strike while on vacation, loving every minute of life and already riding high and happy.  But hope can also help salvage a horrible day, when the rain falls on a silenced alarm clock, on lost keys, on angry retorts and foul moods.  Hope is unpredictable, but always welcomed and wonderful.

No one can seek out hope.  Instead, we must wait for hope to find us.

Planes suck

No story today, just a rant.

Plane travel is amazing.  It allows us to travel thousands of miles, as far as halfway around the globe, in a matter of hours.  Our ancestors wouldn’t even be able to fathom such accomplishments.  Not only can we travel at over five hundred miles per hour, for a sustained period, but we are able to do so as the crow flies, surmounting all obstacles in our way.

And yet, despite this, it really, really, sucks.

How does flight lose its magic?  For centuries, man has dreamed of flight, of being able to shed his earthly shackles and take to the sky.  From Icarus to Superman, flight is one of the most common wishes.  We all dream of flight.

Despite this, I dread heading to the airport.  Why?  Let’s look at how we humans undertake the majesty of flight; let’s outline the steps of this incredible journey.

First, we’ll head to a large building in the middle of nowhere, where the air conditioning is always on high and there are never any comfortable seats.  After being segregated and sorted by monkeys dressed in uniforms, we must stand in lines.  After shuffling through these agonizingly slow lines, dragging along our belongings in canvas sacks, we are submitted to a humiliating series of poking and prodding and scanning examinations.  Our belongings are also thoroughly searched.  We must be stripped, x-rayed, and felt down by very unattractive people.

But once we’ve made it through this ordeal, the skies are ours, right?  Yes, sort of.

We are crowded and herded into a very cramped metal tube, filled with other disagreeable members of our species.  We must squeeze through too-small aisles into too-small seats, where we are basically locked into a single bent position for the duration of our flight.  Crammed shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow with our neighbors, whom we often have never met before, we must stare out of tiny portholes as the ground lifts away, while a tin voice blares over speakers about “attaching your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

Faced with such a dreary voyage, we are tempted to slip off into the peaceful oblivion of sleep.  Yet the wailing baby, the small child who kicks the seat, and the obese man who insists on fully reclining all band together to deny us even that simple pleasure.

Instead, we are forced to remain awake, breathing stale air and attempting to entertain ourselves with in-flight magazines of ridiculous purchasable items until we are finally set blessedly free from the confinement.

When did flying become such a chore?  Build us glass planes with oversized windows, with benches and leg room instead of cramped individual seats, with bean-bag chairs, multi-person scanners hooked to supercomputers for ultra-rapid analysis, courteous personnel, and tasty, delicious, freshly cooked snacks for a very minimal fee!  Do this, and maybe flying will once again capture our dreams and imaginations.

Dead blogger day #1: no post

Author’s note: Today, I have returned from a 10-day expedition to Israel.  After a very long flight, I simply need to crash, and have no energy to write a story.  So, with much sadness, I’m afraid I must take this day for myself.

Instead of enjoying a story . . . 

Gaze at this screen.  Squint your eyes slightly, possibly turning on a light in the room or tilting the screen back or to one side, until you can see your own reflection.

Your head should be floating in the middle of the screen, eyes open but focused as you strain to view both your own reflection and this text.  Your familiar face greets you, the face that you have seen every day when you look in the mirror.

Can you see it?

This face, this image that you see, is yours alone to behold.  No one else has viewed this face.  When you venture out into the world, each day, whether it’s to a job, to buy groceries, or to simply be immersed in the great sea of humanity, the face that you present to the world is not this face.  It is similar, yes, but it is not this face.

Do you know why?

This face is different.  This face is ever so slightly off.  If you showed this face to your friends, your family, your loved ones, they would recognize it.  They would know it is you.  But in the back of their minds, a naggling suspicion would tell them that it is not quite right.

But why is this, you wonder?

It’s in the details.

You see, this face you see is reversed.  This is not your face.  The image that greets you in the bathroom, in the mirror, in this screen, is the reversed reflection of your face.  What is on the left is on the right.  What is on the right is on the left.  (The top and bottom are still the same, yes, but then it would just be way too obvious.)  

So smile, as you look at yourself.  This is a private face, a personal face, a view that is meant for you and only you to enjoy.  The strangers of the world will never have a chance to see this aspect.  So go ahead.  Make a silly face.   Smear your makeup.  It’s okay.  This is meant just for you.

Internal Dialogue 1: Talent

Author’s note: I have heard that internal monologues can be quite boring.  So, to spice this one up, it is being presented as a dialogue between me and Abraham Lincoln over a plate of nachos at a Mexican sports bar.  Hopefully this makes it a little less dull.

After taking our order, the waitress gave us both a pert smile.  “Your drinks and nachos will be out in just a moment,” she said before scurrying away.

As she hurried off, I caught our 16th president’s eyes wandering.  “Hey, Abe,” I called.  “A little focus, please?”

The tall, crane-like man shrugged at me.  “Sorry, but my wife’s been dead for over a hundred and thirty years,” he replied.  “Nothing wrong with looking.  But back to you.  What’s bothering you?”

I sighed.  “Look, I know that I’m a smart person,” I began.  “Let me cite some evidence: I aced the ACT, back in high school-“

“Hold on a second,” Lincoln interrupted.  “Aced?  As in a perfect 36 on it?”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “When I got the scores back, I thought they were out of 40, so I assumed it was a decent score.  It wasn’t until I got to school that I realized it was the top score.”

“Dayum!” our esteemed leader bellowed, as the waitress brought over our margaritas.  “That is impressive, and that’s coming from the POTUS!”

“That’s not all,” I continued, indulging Mr. Lincoln.  “I also scored in the 90th percentile or higher on both sections of the general GRE, the 97th percentile on the biology GRE, and the 95th percentile at the MCAT.  So, on paper, I’m pretty smart.”

“I’ll say.”

“But that’s the rub,” I continued.  “While that’s good and all, I still have issues day to day, just like everyone else.  I forget shopping lists, I mess up math calculations at work, and do a hundred other stupid things.”

Abe shrugged as he sipped his margarita.  “Everyone does that, though.  I bet Stephen Hawking messes up stuff like that.”

“Yes, but that’s just the thing!” I insisted.  “What if this means that I’m not smarter than everyone else?  What if I just happen to have a small and narrow talent for acing standardized exams?”  Lincoln opened his mouth, but I held up a finger.

“Look, I use this as my coping mechanism,” I said.  “When I see some pampered idiot zip by in his sports car, I can tell myself that at least I’m smarter than him.  When a girl shoots me down, or some guy is just way more attractive than I’ll ever be, I can always use this as my consolation.  It’s my defense, it makes me feel better about myself.  But what if it isn’t true?”

Abe was about to speak, but we were interrupted by the arrival of our nachos.  For a minute or two, there was only silence, as we scooped up corn chips covered in cheese and beans.  At length, Lincoln finally sat up straight, fixing me with a truly presidential stare.

“First off, let me point out that I’m just a figment of your subconscious,” he began, his voice deep and reassuring.  I could see how he had been elected.  “But I think you’re missing the issue here.

“The question isn’t whether or not you’re smart.  It’s clear that you are definitely very smart, and you should be proud of that.  It is completely acceptable as a defense mechanism, and preserving your self-esteem is worth it.  However, the true test doesn’t come from what gifts you have; it comes from what you do with those gifts.”

I nodded, considering this, as Abe finished off his margarita.  “I think I see what you mean,” I said.  “So I should be happy with the gifts I’ve been given, the way I validate myself to the world is what should be the lasting judge of my success.”

“Exactly!” crowed our president.  “Now, I seem to have left my wallet in a previous century.”  He gestured at the table.  “You’re picking up the tab, right?”