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A Not Quite Exact Analogy, but Close Enough

April 24, 2011

by Anne Alexander

What was the name of this novel? Because it’s shameful not to credit the author. If whoever wrote it reads this, get in touch! Everybody else, just stay with me, because the scene is important. It’s archetypal, and obviously it’s memorable, which is why I’m going on about it here.

There’s a DEA agent down in Mexico who contemplates going over to the dark side. If I remember right, he’s disillusioned with the perfidy of his own government. He figures, as a token good faith, he will bring the drug cartel some very important information. But before he can act on this, he is kidnapped by the drug cartel, taken to a barn loft, stripped down, injected with a spinal anesthetic, and tied to a table. A doctor slits him open from collarbone to groin.

The agent doesn’t feel anything, but gets to see the whole process. The doctor asks for the very important information, with the implication that it’s not too late to sew him back up. The agent tells the information. The doctor talks about how it’s going to feel when the anesthetic wears off. The agent understands that he won’t be sewn back up. Lying there watching the dust and pieces of hay and spiders drift through a beam of sunlight and land in his body cavity, he says, “You didn’t have to do this.”

That’s what I felt like saying to a certain man. He cultivated my affections, not in conventional ways, but in ways that particularly meant a lot to me. Which is so much more meaningful. Except when it isn’t. He will tell you all day long that he’s innocent, but you know what? It’s just not possible to get somebody as hooked as he got me, without encouraging it. And especially, it’s not something a man can do unaware.

To say it the old-fashioned way, he led me on. For a long time. And then I found out something that he should have told me. It wouldn’t have made any difference. I would have still wanted to be as close as he would let me be, and would have still done the things I did for him, and so on. But learning about the false pretenses, that was rough. So that’s what I want to say to the person who hit me up with painkiller and then gutted me. “You didn’t have to do this.” I would have given anything you wanted anyway.

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