The Betrayer

Every writer is bound to experience at least a little fear, and many will experience a lot. There is so much that cannot be known, from whether you will finish a book, to whether it will be bought, to how many copies it will sell, that a writer need only turn his attention prematurely toward those things beyond his knowing and be sucked into the tidal vortex of fear. For a time I accepted these bouts as an experienced captain accepts the waves of the sea. Such is the life of a writer. And isn’t there even a little romance to it, this inevitable suffering? Doesn’t it make the journey strangely worth it? Aren’t the scars of battle proof you braved the field in the first place?

So went the story until recently. Fear arrives like a wave on the beach, the water sucking out between your legs as the ocean draws itself up for a heaving crash. I’d feel the ocean gathering its weight and think, “Courage, Bill. Courage.” Until, that is, I heard a different word as I turned toward the oncoming wave: Betrayal.

It made no sense to me, this cruel word, and still it came again and again. It came with every wave. I did not hear it as I was tossed in the wave’s surge, nor as I was delivered to shore with my tales of woe. I heard it only once with each wave, in the brief deciding moment before I chose to join its fury.

That is the betrayer’s crime – not the action, but the choice preceding the action. That is the moment separating the true from the false. I summoned every wave, summoned all its strength and madness, yet still retained the freedom to let it pass if I so chose. The wave itself held no despair, it held only me, who had left his truest self behind, waiting with immovable patience for my return.

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