I was just sitting on a bench, staring at my kindle. For the first time in years I was reading fiction and I was not bored. Champagne.

Then this old Chinese guy sat next to me. I ignored him. I was focusing on the third person Eddie meets in Heaven, and I couldn’t let it go. But the old man started talking to me with a perfect American accent.

- “Hey son”, he said.
- “Hey, how’s life going?”, I answered politely.
- “What you reading?”, he added.
- “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”
- “Is it any good?”, he asked.
- “Pretty good, yeah. I’m stuck to it”, I told him with a smile.
- “What do you think about lying?”. He was changing direction abruptly, I thought.
- “I value honesty”, I carefully told him, looking into his eyes. “Except for a few special cases, I don’t think lying brings anything good.”
- “So you’re one of those selfish bastards”, he said.
- “...”

Then he added, “You know what’s wrong with you son? You think telling the truth is good, but you end up hurting people. Including yourself. What’s the good in this? If you care about people, you don’t want to hurt them. You want them to be happy. And because you want to be happy yourself too, then you do your own things on the side. This is how it works son. When you know that what you’re doing is gonna hurt the people you love, you hide it. It’s easy. Else you’re just being selfish. You’re just thinking about your own righteousness, instead of caring about others’ feelings.”

I told him, “I don’t mind hurting, myself or others. Hurting is never my intention, but if it is a side effect of doing something more important, more right, then I’m OK with it. You know, people tend to forget, but their own emotions are their responsibility, no one else’s. It is up to them to make a choice, to choose what they’re ready to suffer for. My own responsibility is to show them who I am, as truthfully as possible, so that they can make their own decision about me. When you build a relationship with someone, both part have to take the responsibility to be in that relationship. If you present a fake version of yourself, then you’re cheating the other part, and it becomes your whole responsibility. You are to blame. You’re wasting their time, you’re wasting their life. All you do is filling your own deep dark holes with their matter, by manipulating them. Is this OK with you? Because it is not with me. But if you present them the real you, then they can make their own choice, and they become responsible too. The relationship is then about two responsible people, making decisions based on truths. And as each part takes responsibility, there can be no anger but just acceptance, communication, understanding. So I tell you, show them the real you, and let them decide. I know it’s hard. You have to be OK with being rejected. You have to be OK with the possibility of them leaving you one day. You have to be OK with hurting them badly, and being hurt yourself too. But lying is just fear in disguise. Lying is a bad way to project yourself. Lying is actually the real face of selfishness.”

He said, “Well, that’s what I thought... And was afraid of. Goodnight son”.

Then he left.

Sunset was coming.

I’m going back to my kindle. But I don’t have time to read one paragraph that I hear a click behind my head, and something cold is touching my neck.

The last things I catch are “Son, you’ve been wrong all this time” and big loud “BANG” for a fraction of a second.