had caused a scene when I tried to kill myself, but I had hoped it was buried. I just wanted to forget the matter and return to my quiet life in academia. Now my name was on everyone’s tongue. The article described my suicide attempt and my rescue by a stranger whose name no one knew.
Dimas and Bartholomew saw one out-of-control intellectual reading that paper. They were accustomed to being insulted. I wasn’t. My social image was carefully protected. “I’ll be a laughingstock, especially to my enemies at the university,” I thought.
What a fool I’d been. I wanted to die without attracting attention, but I went about it all wrong. Instead, I had become infamous. I wanted to grab all the papers and burn them. I wanted to protest the unauthorized use of my photograph. I wanted to sue the journalist for that slanderous reporting. The article called me an attention-seeking mental case. And it alsosaid that the psychiatrist who’d been at the top of the building diagnosed the dreamseller as a dangerous psychopath who could be a public hazard. The way the article read, I hadn’t been rescued by a hero; rather, we had been the villains in a Hollywood film.
The dreamseller sat on a nearby bench along with his other followers. Respecting my pain, he merely observed me. He was waiting for my temper to subside before he intervened. But it didn’t diminish. My mind raced out of control. I imagined all my colleagues and students reading the story. I was the chairman of a sociology department and had never bowed to any professor or student. I appeared unbeatable, detested stupid minds, but never saw my own stupidity. I had always been skilled at cultivating enemies and rotten at making friends.
“And what will they think of me now?” I thought. “What will they think of a jumper saved by a crazy man? And what’s worse, what will they think of that jumper who, after being rescued, danced merrily in a crowd of strangers? Obviously, they’ll say I’ve gone stark raving mad. They’ll say I have an advanced degree in insanity.”
It was everything that Mario Vargas, Antonio Freitas and other malcontents dreamed of, sullying my image. Without realizing it, I sold the dream they most desired, the dream of stomping on my image. Defeated, I concluded that I was through in the academic world, done at the university. Never again would I face the same silence when I wove social criticism, or respect when I debated ideas or corrected someone.
I began to feel angry toward the journalist who had written the article. I fumed, “Why don’t journalists, as part of their training, take a workshop simulating the public destruction of their reputation? Maybe then they’d learn to investigate all the facts and put themselves in other people’s shoes before trashing someone else’s name.”
To the journalist I was just another story. But to me it was my personal struggle: everything that I have and am, even if it is a twisted, troubling tale. A few minutes can change a life story. How could I go back to my old life? If I returned, I’d never be the same to the others. All I had left was to follow a man who proposes a revolutionary plan without the slightest intellectual, social or financial basis. And, moreover, he calls as his followers people who I normally would never associate with.
I had been protected inside the university for many years. And now, the first time I had left the protection of my notable degrees and become a simple mortal, I had been tossed about. I was outraged.
But just as my anger had reached a fever pitch, my mind suddenly shifted and I saw things from a different point of view.
I glanced at the dreamseller and realized that the “comma” he had sold me allowed me to feel all of this, even though it was unpleasant. Whatever negative effects that article might have brought, it also came with something positive: The living
frustration. The dead feel nothing. And I was alive.
I had almost died that