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The Lies We Tell MAG
“I don't like to wear socks to bed. I feel like my toes are suffocating.”
“I've been wearing the same flowered shirt every Wednesday for the past three months and no one has said anything about it yet.”
“My mom collects miniature lighthouse figurines, and I purposely break them because I think they're ugly.”
“I once lied about having a peanut allergy.”
“I never told my brother that his girlfriend called the house looking for him. They broke up a few days later because of it.”
“I took a bunch of Adderall right before my SATs.”
“I puked in church one Sunday because I had a hangover, but I told my family that I had food poisoning.”
“I once said I wasn't a virgin during a game of Never Have I Ever.”
“When I was a kid, I carved my little brother's name into the wooden coffee table so he'd be the one getting hit for once.”
“I think about death more than any normal person should.”
“I've never said ‘I love you' to any of my previous girlfriends.”
“I've never actually loved any of my previous boyfriends, even though I told them all that I did.”
You love to end our conversations that way. With some kind of bookend, that's hard for me to respond to. It's like you don't want to hear any more or say any more, even though this is your stupid little game. You usually end it with a kiss and I swear I can taste the truth pass between us.
I really don't get you sometimes, you know? This game we play makes no sense. It's like you make light of the lies we tell and the secrets we keep. We flaunt them like battle wounds; I'll show you mine, you show me yours. You want to know everything about me, like it's your job to collect these pieces of information. You make me admit to all of the lies I've ever told and secrets I've ever kept. You make it your duty to coax them out of me. To dig them out and string up my insides like photographs covered in Photo-Flo and hanging up to dry in the darkroom.
We are speaking another language together. I feel like you and I are our own indigenous tribe, sitting around, sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups and stretching the holes in our earlobes. We speak together in tongue clicks and indescribable combinations of sounds to make what we say our own. In a way, it makes it easier to confess my sins; someone else would get lost in translation. No one else understands us. I trace the veins in your forearms and relish the fact that someone of equal caliber has come along.
“I would live forever if I could, but not like this.” You say the things I could only dream of thinking one day. It's a gift and a curse, because you always sound like you're trying to quote The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
“How do you mean?”
You sigh. “I want to start over. I'm too messed up already. I want to go on without all of my past mistakes. I don't want to go to college. I want to go to Big Sur and throw myself off a cliff and start new.”
Maybe we're not of equal caliber. Maybe you just keep me around so I can tell you my secrets and you can turn them into poetry for your creative writing class. The teacher gave you an A-plus on the poem you wrote about my grandpa dying. You would never have known that I stole his dog tags out of the casket if I hadn't told you during a round of your little game. You got offended when I got angry and said, “Maybe I could write like you if I smoked the amount of pot that you do.” But I apologized when you began to cry about your dad hitting you as a little kid, and said you're unable to express that part of your life through your poetry. I hate it when boys cry. Especially you.
“Once I got drunk on wine that I found in the crawl space and I tried to write like Hemingway, but it didn't work.” Oh, crap.
Now why'd I tell you that? Now you're going to go turn it into some kind of coming-of-age story, and Mr. Petto will give you a big, fat, red check mark in his grade book.
You are always on the brink of destruction. About to be caught, or caged, or kicked out. It's like you to want to be homeless. Like you want an excuse to not shower for days and bum around from one friend's couch to another's. You do that already, but sometimes people at school ask me why you'd rather sleep on a park bench than go home to your warm house with the red mailbox and the skylight in the living room.
You take things for granted, like your trust fund. You call it hush money, a way to keep you from calling child services, even though you turned 18 in April. You want to burn your Social Security card and hop a boxcar. You pretend to be poor by wearing ripped flannel shirts and using cheap, disposable razors that leave little bumps under your chin. Too bad you aren't underprivileged, or anything of the sort. You took acting classes at the rec center. Your mom was a den mother for your Boy Scout troop. Your persona is so clearly a sham that your friends call you “faux-hemian” and laugh at your worn-out copy of Into the Wild.
Everything with you is a game. I don't know who you really are and I don't think you do either. I love you but you're making yourself into something that I don't recognize. I can't tell if it's a clever mask or an act that you can drop like the magician's assistant. I'm afraid it's what you've become.
It is six minutes past my curfew but I don't really care. We could drive away in this drifting Chevy and never look back. We could go missing together. We could run away. That would be terrific. As unrealistic as your fantasies of vanishing from society may sound, they would be worth the trouble if it meant living free with you. Hitchhiking on barren roadsides and scrounging through Dumpsters and panhandling money would all be worth it if I shared the experience with the only boy I've ever loved.
Sometimes I worry you'll run away without me. Like you'll pack up this car with your black skinny jeans and dog-eared Henry Miller books and disappear without a trace. Even though we are only kids and spending the rest of our lives together seems like an infinite impossibility, I guess I would be heartbroken if you left without me. I would never forgive you. Even if you came back to my doorstep a week later, weary from your travels and begging for my love, I would kick and scream like a toddler going red-faced in the cookie aisle of the grocery store. I would never look you in the eyes again. I would erase the synapse that connects the memory of love to the memory of you that lies deep in my brain.
“Don't ever leave me, okay?”
I put my head on your chest. I have a headache. Your concave chest lies under layers of thermal weave.
“Your heartbeat sounds irregular.”
“I won't leave without you. I like you too much to do that.”
“Does that make you feel better?”
“Yes. A little bit.”
You sigh. “Are you afraid I'm going to leave soon?”
You pause. You've probably planned out your whole escape in that ratty composition notebook you carry in your tattered JanSport backpack. You probably printed out maps from MapQuest and used your colored pencils to mark the stops you feel that Christopher McCandless or Jack Kerouac would have made. You've probably scribbled out a few drafts of the poem that details your undying love and regret to me. You'll send it when you reach a truck stop in Iowa or a diner outside of Kansas City.
I know the lies you tell. I know the secrets you keep. I know what makes you tick, what spells you know how to cast. You have weaknesses that I figured out after only a month. You described yourself as a “tapestry of woven complexities” in one of your poems for Mr. Petto. You got a B-minus on that one, you jerk. You are just smoke and mirrors. You're made up of miracles and bull and a set of pearly white teeth.
“Drive me home?”
“If you want.”
Silence. You turn the keys. You start the engine.
“Wait. Never mind.”
If you said all the right things, would it make a difference? If you stopped acting like the world owed you something, would I love you anymore? If you ran away and never showed your face in this town again, would it make me regret telling you things? Possibly. But to think of you changing or leaving or disappearing from my life, to think of you belonging to anyone else or being anywhere but here makes my heart feel like Swiss cheese.
So I guess this game is what we have. All we have. I guess the lies we tell and the secrets we keep mean everything.
“For thinking you're phony sometimes.”
“You think that?”
“Well, you're forgiven.”
You shut off the engine.
I want to attach myself to you like a dust particle settling in a room full of sunlight. I don't have to be that significant; I have reasonable expectations. I know you have dreams bigger than me. But I promise I will tell you more secrets. You can turn them into mediocre poems. I'll tell you the truth, even. Just let me stay close for a while.