“If I have a taste for the secret, it clearly has to do with not-belonging; I have an impulse of fear or terror in the face of a political space, for example, a public space that makes no room for the secret.”
– Jacques Derrida, A Taste for the Secret (59)
We stumble in, half-drunk already, half-dead already, ready for night and ready for day. Don’t you see there, the Stranger in the back, always in the back? Is he unlike us, more like Derrida when he uncovered the reason, the fear and terror of the public space? Not (mostly) shame and guilt, the secret is undoubtedly more intimate. His secrets are personal – “coextensive with the experience of singularity” – the singularity of self. And these are the secrets: how he crosses his legs, folds his arms, squints his eyes, touches his hair, taps his fingers while reading. Who can tell, who can know? Ritual discontent, on display. Hell is other people, says Sartre, for their unrelenting gaze. The Stranger reading, only aware of self and book, the play of words and words of play. Isn’t this where the fear is introduced, the moment he feels the gaze of the other, our violent on-looking, his self-conscious realization of himself as Stranger alone in the back, yes alone, reading alone? Self as seen by other, either disdained or patronized by other, by us? What other reaction, in the face of the gaze in public, is there but existential terror? Indulge him, despise him, this is not Everyman, his name is Difference. His demand is too great: close your eyes.