I’ve been told a couple of secrets lately. Really good secrets. One of which I have no business knowing. The eyes of both people whose secrets I hold bugged out, and they said, “You can’t tell anybody.” And then said: “I’m not kidding. This is just between us.” And then said, “Promise you won’t tell.”
I pinkie-swore that I wouldn’t whisper a word. And I won’t. Not ever. I told one of the people a secret of my own as a collateral of sorts. I would never tell, if only for selfish reasons. I love knowing things other folks don’t. I love smiling to myself when I think of a juicy tidbit.
Mama would point at me and enunciate, “Don’t you tell a soul” when I overheard her talking to grown-ups. I was always kinda stunned to get fingered. I don’t remember being a teller of the secret. I enjoy too much being a knower of the secret. Those who tell secrets don’t get told secrets very often. I think that’s in Proverbs.
While in Louisiana a couple of years ago, I made a new friend.
“Tell me a deep family secret,” she demanded once we were alone.
I burst out laughing. I don’t know anything earth-shattering, but with Mississippi as a barrier, I revealed a couple of nuggets that hadn’t died yet.
I’m afraid the art of secret keeping is dying. Everybody knows everything about everybody these days, and nobody seems to care. On “Ellen,” celebrities play a game called “Never Have I Ever.” And they usually have. And giggle about it. On the playground, I wonder if children still singsong, “I know something you don’t know.” What fun is taunting it if everybody already knows it?
I remember that I wrote a letter as a child to an out-of-town friend and told her that someone failed third grade. It was the worst thing I knew about anybody up to that point. I was genuinely sad for him. And also stunned. And feeling gossipy. I didn’t talk about him to any local friends at the pool over the summer, but he appeared in fourth grade, so don’t fret. According to Facebook, he turned out fine. He never personally told me that he failed. I heard it at recess.
“You wanna know what I heard?”
Not really. I don’t want my idiom through the grapevine. I want it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Clairee in “Steel Magnolias” quips, “If you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me.”
While, regretfully, I have warmed the seat by Clairee many, many times, that’s not where 54-year-old Celeste wants to sit. She wants to sit by the person who queries, “You want me to tell you something that I’ve never told anybody before?”
Why, yes. Yes, I do.
I wish I knew something long-kept to take to the grave with me. Or to whisper on my deathbed to my children. “Lean in close,” I’ll rattle. Maybe I’ll make something up and tell all three a different, sneaky delicacy. Something relatively harmless that they can shake their heads over when they think about their mother in the past tense.
Perhaps my secret is that I don’t have a good secret. Maybe I don’t. But maybe I do. I’m not telling. Unless you’ve got a hush-hush goody to swap.