I had a very strange dream, some nights ago. It was very lucid. As a difference with what happens with most of my dreams, I remember it perfectly.
Me and a group of people were working together. Apparently, I was about to start working on a piece, an article about the Kennedys; everybody was waiting for my brief, and I was focused, with the combination of pleasure and panic I always feel when I have people’s attention.
I had no idea what the story was going to be about, but that people in the dream were waiting. I know very little about President Kennedy—I’m young, and I’m not even American—so I had to think for a while. The Cuban missiles, the first man on the moon. A woman wearing a pink Channel, stained with his husband’s blood.
The crazy part about that dream is that I suddenly knew why that figure was interesting to me: what my story was about. And it was still there, when I woke up.
Perhaps that dream felt strangely real because it’s been a while since I’ve felt fully awake. It’s like a dense substance was staining everything around me, something that was not there before. I can’t tell if that substance reveals the true essence of reality or if it just makes me confused, but in any case, I can’t ignore its presence—as I cannot forget that dream, and how unconfortable it made me.
What my story was about, I told my imaginary colleagues in the dream, is a special kind of lies.
Consumend by the dream, I typed “President Kennedy private life” on Google. The interesting part of it all is that everything is public: his struggles, his affairs. Still, the image of him that prevailed is the one he projected for the public, an image carefully and consciously crafted. And now that he is long gone, is his persona who remains. Because we, as the public, are apparently not that interested in knowing things —or people—in their whole. We want icons; people we can easily comprehend, describe, reproduce. Accordingly, we selectively simplify our stories, what we project. And what we remove from the main narrative remains somehow unnimportant.
I typed “Jackie Kennedy” too. Did she know about her husband’s infidelities? I clearly found out that she apparently did. “It was a marriage of its time”, a friend of the family told to People. The same article said that Jackie’s father “as a result of his affairs during his relationship to Jackie’s mother, set the tone for what the young woman would expect from her own marriage”.
A woman of her time. We can take this as the most official version of her story: a beautiful, well-educated, charming woman. A loving wife. A woman defined by her taste for fashion; by the man she married; by the secrets she kept. A woman defined by what she tolerated.
But what about the things that don’t fit? Because actually, Jackie’s mother did something certainly brave taking into account her time and social possition: she got divorced. So why was the father, and not the mother, who supposedly set the tone for his future daughter’s marriage? Why have we chosen that story?
The truth is that Jackie waited long enough to get married. When she met John Kennedy he was already a celebrity, candidate to the US Senate, and he was already known for his taste for women. To succeed in politics, he needed a wife. Jackie was a fit, and I believe he was a fit for Jackie, too. I believe that from both parts, this was a union based on ambition. John Kennedy knew how to achieve his ambitions; the men in his family taught him how. When he was working towards achieving his goals, he needed to be a certain version of himself. That was the face destined to the public; eventually, to history. That was the truth.
That is the lie: the art of post-truth; a model that consumes the life of our times. It seems to be an art that can be teached and learned, no longer reserved to public leaders: everybody is learning quickly, how to compartmentalize their own selves. People around me. People I loved. And so, we live like this: in a world made artificially, among artificial people.
At some point, we created a space where it is acceptable to evaluate the question of truth, to reshape it, to change it by omitting certain parts. Of course, the things omitted are selected for our convenience. And we don’t care. It is not lying, but the distinction is diffuse; the effect is the same: to artificially create an image, a concept, a version of the facts, and to make sure it is the one that prevails in the mind of others.
It is that fog, that heavy substance. The dishonesty that has consumed my life. I can’t help but see it all connected. I see it in my inability to not feel lonely. I see it in how we relate to each other. In how we relate to ourselves. These constant lies. And I’m told to keep smiling, despite what I see. To talk positively. To behave properly.
We don’t show anybody who we really are. But the problem is that we can play the roles we created for ourselves only for a limited amount of time. Eventually, the acting starts getting bad; we forget who we are exactly playing. We become something undefined. It is difficult to love something that has no identity. We can tell our fake stories over and over again to ourselves, but to live in real-time it’s the difficult thing.
I was walking down the city, thinking about it all. Something happened, though. Something small. That is enough: a ray of hope. The beautiful little details, reminding us that perhaps it’s still worth it.
That afternoon, I jumped into the bus. It was my usual route. When I entered, the bus was mostly empty; it always becomes busier and busier after my stop, getting packed after a while. I was observing the people, distracted, thinking. Someone caught my attention.
She was a young girl, shrunken in her seat close to the back door. She looked small, among all the people standing. Her hair partly covered her face.
I realized she was crying. She was doing it quietly, looking at her knees. I could see the tears rolling down her face; thick tears, visible even from where I was. She was surrounded by people. Nobody seemed to notice, or care.
I wanted to reach her. Being the bus so packed, however, that would have put some undesired attention on her. When I finally woke up to leave the bus, she was still there. For a second, we crossed sights. I tried to tell her with my eyes what I had wanted to tell her with my words: I see you; thank you. Thank you for being all of you here, in front of all of us. Thank you for letting me see it.
She did not have the opportunity to answer me. But from the slight smile she gave me, I believe she understood.