When dark rumbles threaten rain and I seek refuge in the open air trolley, bell clanging, the strain of wheels click clacking side to side in a fanciful black and white world of suspended reverie, and I chance upon a seat next to an ancient man intent on a scroll curled in the decorative mark of Plato’s classic Greek, does it really have to ring true when the man introduces himself as Socrates and proceeds to speak as a pettifogger trying to make sense of Plato’s dialogue with the comic poet Aristophanes, whose carefree comedy The Clouds ridiculed Socrates who, while observing the course of the moon, was crapped upon by a lizard?
Is it not plausible that someone asleep might pursue perceptions dissimilar to those of someone awake and that those perceptions may not be true or false but different?
As stormy snapshots flash in the windows of my mind, is it absurd that I should ask how long he’s been in town and that Socrates should find the philosophic need to ask, how long is long?
Or when I suggest we do lunch and he wonders with a pause if it is suitable since we are but strangers on a strange rig in a strange parody, is it not likely that I might say, yes, of course, because lunch is an affable way to get acquainted and allow me the opportunity to help him make right the flaws in the manuscript, I a chosen member of some import of a college Greek fraternity and a closet student of Plato himself, or that when I inquire again about lunch the retort is yet another question from the sage whose irresolution I am now determined to assuage?
Would it not be a good time to mention a rustic seafood inn on the waterfront side of reason where the specialty is Chincoteague oysters on the half shell with steamed crabs and white corn and Corona Beer with a lime in it?
Might not it appear unmannerly should Socrates grimace and turn a sour shade of green around his scowl and ask where he could obtain a cup of hemlock, and that I would whisper, Why hemlock, and he might howl how does one know what one does not know?
Would it not be likely that I would duck the query and attempt to help him edit the scroll by tactfully subtracting a few commas and hyphens and a few abstractions to enhance the flow and that this would so endear me to Socrates that he would rest his gray head on my shoulder, which I would find disconcerting until he attests it is an old Athenian gesture of bonding?
And might I not smile at the crowd across the aisle and return my attention to the lunch date, proffering a nice Greek spot in the cloudy corner of my right cerebral hemisphere where the Dolmathakia Me Rizi and Bakalraros Tighanitos are delightfully authentic, served with an exquisite Metaxa Private Reserve?
Is it improbable that the venerable one salivate and ask to be told precisely how much longer we have to travel to reach the Greek taverna and that I should indicate the next stop and that he should ask if reservations were required and I might say, No, but I think we will have to check your toga at the door?
Would it surprise you to hear Socrates ask who will spring for the meal, concerned that he is down to his last two drachmas, and if such be the case, would I not sing with a flourish that lunch is my treat, and that he might reply, Oh, my sweet new friend, can we not write it off as a business expense and dispense the bill to Plato, and might I not nod and remove his head from my shoulder?
Over lunch would it not be understandable that Socrates pose many profound questions about virtue, justice, friendship, values, wisdom, love, and death, and wonder if the gods would not agree that a thing can be and also not be, and that I might shrug, and he might illustrate the point with a half brother who becomes his brother because both share the same mother, noting also that the brother is not a brother because the father of the half brother is not the father of Socrates?
And would I not suggest as did Protagoras that the measure of all things is man, and that a chill wind to one man or woman might be warm to another, that the wind is neither chill nor warm but merely wind, and that if things are not as they appear, is not knowledge then opinion?
And might not bold Socrates scold and remind me that opinion is the midpoint between knowledge and ignorance, and then plop his soft hand above my knee, look deep into my soul, and ask how I knew he adored dried cod and grape leaves when topped with a rare and costly spirit?
Is it not logical too that I would discern later that Plato would not reimburse the lunch expense and would reject my edits to his Aristophanes dialogue or that I might learn that Socrates was wrongly incarcerated as a tempter of Athenian youth and that surrounded by friends in his cell he would sip his hemlock, make amends to the gods, and pose a riddle I’m still working on?