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Paper People
Oct 1, 2007

First came to realize my power to distinguish paper people in a formal talk at the university. The speaker was going to great lengths to present his seminal contribution to an age old question, and a number of people in the audience were utterly impressed by his findings while the rest were still trying to grasp the idea. However, for reasons unclear, I was growing restless and increasingly losing my trust in the speaker. Suddenly I stood up. Many times before, in the same situation, I simply have left the room, but this time, feeling the confused looks of my colleagues behind my neck, I walked and stopped right in front of the speaker. He still had the confidence he always carried and turned to me putting on airs, though his eyes gave away a glimmer when they met with the determination in my eyes. Trembling and desperately hoping, he watched my hand go and grasp his shoulder. His shoulder caved in. He was empty inside. He tried to hide his face from the audience while I tore up the paper that was him. Feeling a joy bordering ecstasy and with a smile that carried a hint of malice, I watched him flounder with his fake and unsubstantiated arguments that still did instill belief in others, but not in me. My fame in discerning paper people from real people quickly grew. Whenever there was an aspiring intellectual that seemed to offer insights to challenging and complicated problems, I was there to tear him up, and more often than not, they were made of paper. I never made a mistake; never have I touched the shoulder of a challenger and felt the flesh of a real person. Nor have I exalted anybody who tried to see if I was made of paper.

It was interesting to understand in time that animals, plants and children were never made of paper and adults started wearing costumes and masks of papier-mâché only when they wanted to be something they were incapable of, and when they knowingly tried to convince others of their worth or unknowingly believed in their genuine worth. Tearing up this last group of people was the most amusing part of my task, since till the very last second they would think that they were, in fact, real. That day, as I entered the conference room a man in his fifties was talking about a subject that had been attacked by many others before. He talked in a soft voice that had a sort of compassionate timbre and an overwhelming modesty to it. When asked a question, he would turn to the questioner with his whole body and answer all points one by one, without faltering. He saw me enter the room, but he didn’t avoid my eyes and welcomed me with a smile, contrary to all previous speakers –real or paper- since I became famous. I listened patiently to the very end and observed his movements.

Finally I stood up. Feeling the pride of my colleagues’ looks, I walked and stopped right in front of the speaker. He was surprised. As I lifted my arm to touch his shoulder he took a step back, and he waved his head as if saying no and smiled at me with the most kindhearted eyes I have ever seen. I returned his smile with malicious disdain and I pressed on to grab his shoulder. As I touched his arm, I felt that it was harder than most paper people, which gave me more joy knowing that I caught a very good impostor. Then, I felt a cold in my palm and saw that my fingers were falling to the floor. The speaker, as if expecting this, held my arm and made me crouch with him, being very careful to hide all this from the audience, picked the broken clay pieces off the floor and put them in my hand. He once again looked at me with the most kindhearted eyes.