The “what if” game goes like this: One person dreams up wild scenarios and the other person imagines how he’d respond to those scenarios. Difficult choices are involved.
“What if,” I might say, “you had to choose between blinding yourself and setting your dog on fire?” You might ask whether I meant legally blind or totally blind and whether the dog would be set entirely on fire, or if just its tail could be ignited. Nailing down details like these is essential to the game.
Total blindness and burned to a crisp, I might say. Several rounds later, you might have to choose between being struck deaf, dumb and blind and eating the dog immediately after roasting it alive. Nobody wins the “what if” game. It’s self-analysis.
A close friend had been slogging through a terrible afternoon at the end of a terrible week when she was ambushed. Two random acts of violence, one right after the other, a letter and a phone call. Asylum stuff. The letter in particular was written by a man who, while literate, seems just a few skipped lithium doses away from urinating in public.
My friend broke down, too weakened to feel pity for the weaknesses of others.
I saw red.
“What if,” I asked myself, “a stroke were to come of this?” What would I do? What if it were only a minor stroke, the kind a person recovers from completely? Or what if it caused permanent paralysis? What if, instead of a stroke, it triggered a heart attack? What if the heart attack were fatal? What would I do?
At some point, I realized, I’d buy a gun. I’d load the gun and pull the trigger. I’d kill.
What if somebody damaged a person you love? Damaged them maliciously and beyond repair? What would you sacrifice? Your life? Your liberty? Would you even deliberate?