May 022010

Timothy Smith

My sense of urgency mounting, I asked Simone if she knew where I could find some relief.  She waived a hand casually in the right direction.

I walked a dusty hall for a time, turned the corner, opened a door, and stepped outside.  My urgency now mixed with a feeling of frustration, I found a man sitting in a chair outside an enormous hedge.  His legs were crossed at the feet and a cigarette dangled in the last two fingers of his left hand.  As I approached he watched me carefully without turning his head in my direction.   When I stood before him, he took a long, slow draw from his cigarette and considered me some more, still not bothering to change his posture but moving only his eyes.

“Excuse me,” I said.  “I’m looking for…”

He held up his free hand to stop me, took another draw and blew the smoke at my feet.

“Behind me is a door and what you seek,” he answered.  “If you go through this door and take two immediate rights you will be hopelessly lost.  If, however, you take two rights and then a left you will arrive at a small alcove.  In this alcove is a box without a lid.  If you open the box you will find a piece of paper.  On the paper is a message written in a language that has never been spoken or read.   The message says this: ‘You do not believe this sentence.’  If this statement is true then pick up the message, close the box with no lid, and bring it back to me.  If it is false then leave it where it is.”

He took another quick drag and added, “When you leave you must walk just opposite of the way you came in; you must take two lefts, then a right.”

“But…” I started.

He shook his head.  “This is all I have to say.”

I walked along the giant hedge wall to the door he had indicated.

“Wait,” he called over his shoulder.  “You didn’t listen to everything.”

I turned around.  “Yes.”

When he didn’t speak I walked over in front of him again.

“Yes,” I repeated, beginning to lose my patience.

He looked at me curiously. 

“You said you had something more to say,” I reminded him.

He raised his eyebrows in mild indignation, remaining mute.

I sighed and went back to the door.   The door was merely a smooth piece of wood, with no edges or cracks to gain a purchase.  I pushed on it but it refused to open.

“You have to pull that door,” said the man behind me. 

I didn’t bother to turn around this time.

It took me more time than I care to admit, and it was close, but I finally found a way in and did as the man directed.  In this way, I also found what I was looking for.


Later, when I found Simone, I pulled her aside.

“That was not very helpful,” I told her.

She blushed.  “You know, just after you left I realized it was the other way.”

  One Response to ““Standing on the Doorstep with Borges””

  1. After reading, I am left right where I often end up.