COUNSELOR Could I come to Florida?
JEFE The Florida is closed.
COUNSELOR I would do anything you suggest.
JEFE But I have nothing to suggest, Counselor. I am sorry.
COUNSELOR We could meet someplace.
JEFE We are meeting now.
COUNSELOR There must be someone I could see.
JEFE I am afraid that there is no longer such a person. That is a thing of the past. I am afraid that there is no one to see.
COUNSELOR Please don’t hang up.
JEFE I have some time. It is all right. I am just having my lunch.
COUNSELOR There are people here.
JEFE There is no one here. The waiter. I enjoy to have my lunch alone. It is more peaceful.
COUNSELOR I’m not sure that you understand my position.
JEFE But I do, Counselor. I lost a son. Two years ago. I thought that someone would call. To demand money. But there was no call. I never saw my son again. He was sixteen.
COUNSELOR I’m sorry.
JEFE Where the bodies are buried in the desert is a certain world, Counselor. Where they are simply left in the street is another. This is a country heretofore unknown to us. But it must have always been here, must it not?
COUNSELOR I don’t know.
JEFE Si, Si. Con hielo, por favor. I’m sorry. You were saying.
The counselor is clutching the phone and leaning with the heel of his hand against his forehead, his eyes closed. He opens his eyes.
COUNSELOR I don’t know what I was saying.
JEFE People are waiting. For what? At some point you must acknowledge that this new world is at last the world. There is not some other world. It is not merely a he ate us.
JEFE I’m sorry.
COUNSELOR Hiatus. I believe the word is hiatus.
JEFE Hiatus. Thank you, Counselor.
COUNSELOR Will you help me?
JEFE I would urge you to see the truth in your situation, Counselor. That is my advice. It is not for me to say what you should have done. Or not done. I only know that the world in which they are are made. You are at a cross in the road and here you think to choose. But there is no choosing. There is only accepting. The choosing was done long ago.
JEFE Are you there, Counselor?
JEFE I don’t mean to upset you, but reflective men often find themselves at a certain remove from realities of life. In any case, to prepare a place in our lives for the tragedies to come is an economy few wish to practice. Do you know the works of Machado?
COUNSELOR No. I know his name.
JEFE A lovely poet. I think his work does not translate well. But the Spanish is very beautiful. He was a schoolteacher and he married a very beautiful young girl whom he loved very much. And she died. And so he became a great poet.
COUNSELOR I’m not going to become a great poet.
JEFE Perhaps not. But even were you to do so, it would be of little help to you. Machado would have given every line he wrote for one more hour with his beloved. There is no rule of exchange here, you see. Grief transcends every value. A man would give whole nations to lift it from his heart. And yet with it you can buy nothing.
Silence. The counselor holds his wrist to his forehead, his eyes closed.
JEFE When my son was lost I would not pray for that which I should most fervently have desired. I could not.
COUNSELOR A speedy death.
JEFE I’m sorry.
COUNSELOR Why are you telling me this?
JEFE Because you stand at the crossing of which we spoke. You may dedicate your life to grief or not. The choice is yours. The assassin would claim you as well, but he will require your compliance. And of course he puts nothing of himself at hazard. He seeks to know what the warrior knows, but he has no stomach for the warrior’s way. He is a usurper and a pimp. And as he is without courage he is greatly to be feared. He would explore that realm to which we are all consigned, but his way is to send an emissary. To bring his victim to the edge of the precipice with the greatest care and then learn to inquire if there be any news. Some word amid the sobbing. Amid the bleeding and the cries. Not even in the act of love will one be the object of such solicitation and such care.
COUNSELOR Why are you telling me this?
JEFE Because you cannot accept the reality of your life.
COUNSELOR Why do you care?
JEFE Do you love your wife so completely that you would take her place upon the wheel? Not die for her. That is easy. But that your nerve would not fail you as they bend to buckle the straps?
COUNSELOR Yes. Yes, damn you.
JEFE That is good to hear, Counselor.
COUNSELOR What are you saying? Are you saying that this is possible?
JEFE No. It is not possible. Si. Un cafecito. Por favor. Negro. Negro, si. Gracias. I’m sorry, Counselor.
COUNSELOR You said I was that man. At the crossing.
JEFE Yes. At the understanding that life will not take you back. I have no wish to paint the world in colors more somber than those it wears but as the world gives way to darkness it becomes more and more difficult to dismiss the understanding that the world is in fact oneself. It is a thing which you have created, no more, no less. And when you cease to be so will the world. There will be other world. Of course. But they are the worlds of other men and your understanding of them was never more than an illusion anyway. Your world – the only one that matters – will be gone. And it will never come again. And now I must go. I have calls to make, and then, if there is time, I will take a little nap.
The phone rings off.
Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor