Decades later and Chael could still remember the first secret he put into his pocket, a cat’s eye marble, blue glass around a green ribbon. Help me find it, his friend had said after losing the marble in the weeds. The two of them had walked the boy’s backyard from end to end, stoop-shouldered and slow-stepping like egrets wading the shallows. It wasn’t long before Chael found the cat’s eye. He picked it up and began to call out but then didn’t, instead slipping the marble into the pocket of his shorts, shivering as a strange thrill jagged his guts. For an hour Chael continued on with the search, every so often pointing at a pebble and shouting, Is that it? so that the other boy would come running, hopeful then not, each disappointment an exhilaration and a balm.
Afterwards, Chael sought out other secrets to carry in his pocket-- a diary, a fountain pen, a sliver of black coral—singular objects made exquisite not by their value but by the simple fact of his possession, his pleasure deriving from the transgression of the thing rather than the thing itself. With time and repetition, carrying each secret became for Chael a kind of sacrament to himself, the ambit of his life marked and measured by them.
In college, Chael began to carry a razor blade in his pocket, convinced by the philosophers he studied that the recognition of the Absurd rendered suicide an act of will rather than an act of desperation, the razor a reaffirmation of his ability to end his life at any time of his choosing, a secret that, even if not exercised, made his self authentically his own.
Chael replaced this razor with a small pistol after being assaulted by three men in a parking lot, reasoning that it would serve the razor’s original function while also offering some means of defense. To his surprise, Chael found that having a gun in his pocket was perhaps the finest secret he had ever carried-- its lethal potentiality spiced every encounter with the possibility of violence-- and for the next two decades he had it with him at all times.
Yet the allure of the gun gradually faded, its transgressive nature degraded by an endless stream of movies and television until finally Chael knew that his time with it was over. Until the end of his life, Chael experimented with carrying different secrets for different occasions-- an SS Totenkopf badge while he toured the Holocaust Memorial, a flashdrive loaded with child pornography as he strolled through a park crowded with young families-- yet never again was he able to recapture that initial frisson, that electrified jolt that first struck him as a boy, a cat’s eye marble that was not his secured in a pocket that had once held nothing at all.