By Dick Bentley

On a summer evening some friends are seated at my house having dinner. Next to me sits Harry Pratt, a lawyer. He is the executor of many estates and a trustee of many others. Reading wills has become his vision, his private view into the human heart. Most of his files are in locked metal cabinets.

I sit next to Pratt. I wish, at the time, that I were still young man in my thirties. I wish I hadn’t gotten bald yet. I wish I still had long strands of blonde hair draped down over my ears. I wish I were not employed by a computer company that is looking into mainframe analytics. Nevertheless, I propose a toast to the new world of information sharing and to the broader and more open society that will be brought about by electronics.

“Computer technology,” I say, raising my wineglass, “has brought us all out of our caves and created a new world of human brotherhood.”

“And sisterhood,” declares my wife.

Barbara Dwyer, another guest, is pouring some wine for herself. Her napkin covers a small splotch on the tablecloth where she has dribbled a previous glass of wine.

Barb Dwyer asks, “But doesn’t coming out of our caves imply a lack of privacy? Will a lack of privacy bring us happiness?” She says that her husband left her after she hacked into his computer and found out about his love affair with their daughter’s field hockey coach.

“My invasion of my husband’s privacy ruined my life,” she exclaims. She hiccups softly.

“Excuse me,” I say, “but that sort of thing happens every day. Computers have nothing to do with it. You lived in deceit throughout your marriage. Then you hacked into his computer. If you had hacked earlier, or possibly later, you would now be happier.”

There comes an outcry from the rest of the guests at the table. They feel like the warbling chorus of a Greek tragedy. Barb Dwyer hisses at me, “Hacking doesn’t bring happiness.”

“The loss of privacy,” I insist, “brings us all to a new vision of truth. And the truth shall make us free.”

“I don’t want truth,” Barb Dwyer declares, “I want my husband back.”

I put a napkin to my mouth while pushing my glasses upward with an index finger.

“What is truth?” I ask. And than I begin to answer my own question….

“Insight!” someone cries. “You have good insight.” I am flattered. “What is truth? Yes. That’s it.

I smile and nod…These people are starting to get the picture.

After dinner, the guests wander outside into the garden. Barb Dwyer excuses herself and retires upstairs. She enters a large bathroom that overlooks the garden.

Her heart almost stops — she catches sight of someone in a mirror. It takes a few seconds before she realizes that the person in the mirror is herself. As she looks herself more closely, she realizes it is not a wholly recognizable version of herself. She looks illicit in the soft, grainy light — like an intruder. Then she understands suddenly that she is lost. Recently she had hoped to be found somewhere by somebody, but for now she is lost. She continues to look at herself. This is not a normal dinner party, she thinks. She has wandered into my bathroom, a bathroom for demons. Then, without thinking, Barb Dwyer begins to remove her clothes. She is puzzled by what she is doing. Soon, there in the silence, she stands naked.

Looking out the window, she sees Pratt in the garden below. He is talking to a group of people, as if giving them advice. He is good at this, she knows. Pratt has led a life of serving others, and serving others to each other. He arranges contracts, dissolves marriages, defends people against each other. In his locked files are letters, contracts, memorandums containing peoples’ dark secrets.

Barb is now dazzled by what she is doing. Here, in the silence of the bathroom she stands slender and naked while the party continues down in the garden. She feels like a missing image of herself, of all women. She sits down and gazes at herself for a long time.

Laughter from the garden brings her abruptly to her senses. She listens as the laughter surges. The party is nothing, she decides, but then she catches sight of someone in the mirror and turns toward the reflection.

It is Harry Pratt. He is staring intently downward. He is not looking at her. He is looking into an into an electronic device he holds in his hand.

“I knew I would find you here,” he tells her. “Only naked people can convey a vision of the truth.”

Barb Dwyer suddenly realizes that she has been hacked. Will she become public? She contemplates the possibilities while Pratt continues to stare into his device.

Harry tells me the story later. He leaves me to guess the outcome.


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