While walking down the street in Bucharest recently, I got into an argument about politics with a man I had seen on TV. He began to poke me in the chest as he got more and more angry.
“Please stop that,” I said.
“Stop what?” he replied.
“You’re poking me in the chest,” I said.
“No, I’m not,” he answered, his finger striking me hard with each syllable he spoke.
“Yes, you are. And it’s beginning to hurt.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“You’re poking me.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Why are you lying?”
At that point, I forgot all about the original disagreement.
“It really does hurt,” I said, as the spot his finger had chosen was now getting sore.
“What hurts?” he asked, his finger still poking.
Just then a friend of his walked by.
“Hello,” he said. “What’s happening here?”
“Could you please ask your friend to stop poking me in the chest?” I pleaded.
He looked at his friend, who continued to poke.
“You must have done something to deserve this,” the friend said to me.
“You see?” I said. “He is poking me!”
“What did you do to make my friend angry?”
“We were just arguing. I don’t remember why. But what bothers me now is that he won’t stop poking me.”
“You must deserve it. That’s why he’s poking you.
“You see,” I said, turning back to the first man. “You are poking me. Your friend just agreed.”
“It’s not me,” he said flatly.
“What?” I said, looking at the friend again. “You see that he is. But he keeps saying he’s not.”
“Well, if he says that he’s not, then he’s not. My friend wouldn’t lie. And if you call him a liar, then you deserve to be poked. And I suppose, that’s why he’s poking you.”
While sitting in a park recently, the man with the finger happened to stop by.
“You like this park?” he asked.
“Yes, I come here quite often.”
The next day I came back and there were workmen cutting down all the trees.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“We’re not doing anything.”
“Yes, you are cutting down the trees.”
“So what?” they all said.
“Why are you doing that?”
“Doing what?” they asked.
“Cutting down the trees.”
“They are your trees and you planted them illegally.”
“They are not my trees. And I didn’t plant any of them.”
“But you like them, right?
“Yes,” I said.
“And you also like to come here?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then you must have planted these trees so they would be here where you like to come to sit.”
“But I’m not the only one to come here. Thousands of people come with their families. If you cut down the trees, they won’t have a park.”
“That’s not our concern. They are yours and they are illegal.”
“But they are not mine.”
Then the other people came running.
“Why are you cutting down the trees?” they all asked. “Our children play here. If you cut down the trees, we won’t have a park and they’ll have no place to play.”
“Yes, help me stop them,” I said.
“It’s not our fault,” said the workmen. “We’re doing it because of him.”
The people looked at me. “It’s all your fault,” they sang out. “You must have done something wrong. And because of that, we’re not going to help you.”
Earlier today I was walking through the old part of the city.
The man with the finger who had the friends with the saws was doing a dance.
“Watch me, watch me,” he was calling out to everyone. “This is how they dance in all the other countries. This is how they dance in all those other places.”
Just then, a group of tourists walked by.
“What are you doing?” they asked the man.
“I’m dancing the way they dance in other countries.”
“Really? Which other countries?” the group asked him.
And the man listed many other countries where, he said, they danced just like this. “Yes,” he said, “I’m just like the top dancers in all those other places. Soon I’ll go to meet them and we’ll all dance together.”
“But we’re from those other countries,” the group of tourists responded. “And that’s not how we dance. That’s a ridiculous dance.” And they all walked away, laughing.
“Yes, it is how they dance!” the dancing man yelled out. “And besides,” he shouted, “I’m not really dancing!”
And in this statement, there was finally some truth. It was not really a dance – just some tired old steps he learned from his parents.