By Paulo Coelho

For The Bali Times

Although the word is a bit on the strong side, the truth is that all of us have known a creep in our lives (the dictionary defines the term as “an individual without any character, dignity or spirit”). He is the kind of person who tries to stand out more when we are adolescents, when we are fighting to affirm our identities, our dreams, our place in the world. We are filled with doubts about what to do, and all of a sudden here comes the creep: always the leader, the one who thinks he is the best-looking, the most intelligent, the most able to face the challenges that lie ahead.

To remain in this position, he attacks our self-esteem: he wants us to think we are ugly, dull, without any future, and that we should imitate him and his way of leading the guys on the block (or in the building, or the condominium). In the case of boys, normally he imposes himself by brute force or by his “smart” attitudes, as if he knew more than everybody else. In the case of girls, the creep is always the one who seems to attract the looks of all the guys, get invited to all the parties, always be the most elegant.

Creeps (both male and female) look at us with a certain air of superiority and try to dictate the rules of the group. We naturally feel intimidated at such conduct, unsure of what to do, and end up letting the creep guide us for some time. Although we do not know it, we are giving the creep the power that he neither has nor deserves, and this will be the only moment in his life that his ephemeral light will manage to shine. But that is all part of our apprenticeship, since that is the way we develop our defenses in the future.

And so we grow up. Little by little each of us makes his choices, the group of adolescents splits up and the creep disappears, although we still preserve his image of beauty, wisdom, leadership, elegance, strength and superiority.

During this important rite of passage called adolescence, all of us have our fundamental values tested – except the creep. While we suffer from feeling neglected, insecure and fragile, he sails smoothly by: after all, he is our leader! He does not have to endure all those endless difficult hours the rest of us spend on rainy afternoons and lying awake at nights.

One fine day, when we are already adults, we think about getting together with our friends from adolescence. We organize a party, usually in a restaurant – where everyone shows up with their husbands and wives. Nothing better than to sit down at a good meal, with good wine, and remember a little the years that made us all that we are today.

The creep shows up – generally married like the rest of us. We are all interested in what has become of his/her life; there is still a certain fascination and awe about an attitude so full of self-confidence. Where did that person go whom we secretly envied and admired?

The first surprise is that the creep went nowhere. Or rather, he may have taken a couple of successful steps, but soon life proved implacable towards his arrogance – the adult world is quite different from the one we live in when we are young.

But the creep still has one refuge: his adolescent gang. And since he thinks that the world has not moved forward, he wants to relive his moments of glory. When dinner starts, it seems that we have all been transported back, but soon we realize that he was just an instrument to enable us to grow. After a couple of drinks, we see the creep at bay, trying to prove a strength that no longer exists, feeling that we still believe that he is the leader of us all.

We smile, exchange kind words with everyone, pay the bill and leave with the impression that the creep has made the wrong choice. We think: “Everything in that person should have worked out right, and it didn’t.”

All of us have known a creep or two in our lives. And that’s just as well.

© Translated by James Mulholland

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