Growing up, I was always told by my parents that the worst thing to do, out of all the bad things a kid could do, the worst thing by far was to lie. If you did something wrong, it was one thing, but if you then lied about it, then you were officially a Bad Person who was undeserving of love.
Of course, there were obviously worse things than lying, such as murder, treason, and rape, but with me at the age of 8, lying was a bigger concern for my parents. After all, I must have lied 50 times for every one time I committed treason.
I was a compulsive liar. I’d lie about doing my homework, obviously, or whether or not I had done my chores. Those were pretty straightforward lies. But it didn’t stop there. I was also that kid in your class who just made stuff up all the time. As far as my classmates knew, I was a soccer goalie, distant cousins with Sporty Spice, had diabetes, and had killed a man. Come to think of it, I’m surprised I wasn’t the most popular kid in school.
I like to think I’m an honest enough person, that my days of compulsive lying are behind me. And for the most part, I think that’s true. But I don’t think it’s necessarily because I’ve stopped lying. It’s just, lying becomes a lot more socially acceptable when you grow up. I mean, we lie all the time now, only we don’t call it lying. We call it “pretending” or “acting like.” If someone wants to get out of work, they “pretend” they’re sick. If a guy cheats on his girlfriend, he “acts” like nothing happened. No one “lies” anymore.
And what about me? Am I guilty of “pretending” or “acting like?” Well, here’s a fun story that happened to me a few months ago. I’ll let you be the judge…
Early last year, I was at Shopper’s Drug Mart, waiting in line at the checkout. I had been waiting in line for quite some time, which was only a problem because I was pretty sure my meter had run out. I think it was the cashier’s first day. Either that or he was mentally handicapped, and I decided that either way, it wasn’t really his fault, so I shouldn’t let it bother me. I was minding my own business, reading the covers of the latest Betty and Veronica Digests from the magazine rack, when I heard a voice from behind me.
It was a female voice. As soon as I heard it, everything else in the room became blurry. I no longer cared about the long line-up. I no longer cared what Jughead thought of Betty’s latest casserole. I no longer cared about who I was, what I was doing with my life, or whether I had gotten a parking ticket (I found out later that I had). All I cared about was that voice. A voice like Audrey Hepburn’s, if she had smoked a bit more and wasn’t European. And then there was the voice’s owner.
She had been responsible for the best 10 months of my life, followed by the worst 2 years of my life. I can pretty much divide my time on earth into two eras. Before-Chelsea, in which I believed there was good in the world and that a man might find happiness through his virtues. I trusted things like the media, my friends, the wisdom of my elders, and mathematical equations. And then there was the After-Chelsea era, in which the world had been peeled back like the flesh of a corpse in an autopsy room. I realized that not only was life a joke, it was a racist joke told in a room full of black people. My diet in this era consisted solely of alcohol and peach yogurt; my weekends consisted of lying face-up in the deep end of an empty pool (this is not a metaphor). And now here I was, the year 2 AC, standing in front of her. I slowly turned around.
“Oh hey,” I said. “Almost didn’t recognize you there.” Chelsea. My Chelsea.
She looked me up and down. “How have you been?”
“Good. Really great.” I am Post Traumatic Stress Disorder incarnate. How are you? “Yourself?”
“Ups and downs, right?”
“Man, how long has it been?”
“Huh, I have no idea. A year maybe?” 2 years, a month, 7 days, and 2 hours.
“Really? Feels like forever,” she said. She glanced down at my inventory. “What’re you getting?”
“Oh, this and that.”
“Let’s see… some yogurt and… an issue of Cosmo?” She looked back up at me, amused. “What are you reading Cosmo for?”
“Oh, you know, it’s for my girlfriend.” Masturbation.
“Girlfriend, huh?” She smiled. “What’s her name?”
“How long have you been dating?”
“Um, about 6 months I think. Almost six months.” 2 years, a month, 7 days, and 2 hours.
“Half a year. Nice.”
“I do what I can. The trick is we listen to one another.” The thought of touching another woman after you makes me sob uncontrollably. There was a pause in the conversation as the cashier mercifully started ringing me through. Chelsea’s face became serious.
“Hey, I know this might sound random, but do you remember that time we went to Niagra Falls? In the House of Dracula?”
“Was that with you? Yeah, but it’s a bit blurry.” I dream of that weekend all the time. Those are the only nights when I don’t wake up screaming.
“Oh, okay. How about… what about the time we went to Mark's party? That was the first time we…”
“Vaguely.” Those are the nights when I do wake up screaming. “Why do you ask?”
“I just…” She shrugged as I grabbed the bag full of my purchases. “It wasn’t all bad, was it?”
“Honestly?” I said as I headed towards the sliding doors. “I don’t really think about it.” I managed to make it halfway to my house before I had to pull over. I fiercely hit the steering wheel with my fists as tears and mucous flowed down my face. I continued doing this for a few minutes, until I finally passed out.
So there you have it. In retrospect, I did kind of fib a bit. Guess I’m still that same kid I always was!
I’m so cold…