I am lying.
I am always lying.
I am always lying.
The truth is fear.
The truth is danger.
The truth is a broken nose.
The truth is a tooth impaled on my tongue.
Unlike literature that lies to tell a great Truth (with a capital “T”).
Unlike novels and poems that lie in order to reach down into the heart, into the soul, into the very core of human existence, I lie so what I have is not stolen from me.
In the spring of the fifth grade, Mom gave me a green Schwinn 3-speed Stingray Muscle Bike with a banana seat and sissy bar. I hated the bike. It was too good for me. I couldn't have a bike that was better than my friends. I didn’t want the 3-speed. The first day, I rode it to school. The high-rise handlebars were something completely new. They were impossible to manage, the way they made the front wheel swing violently left and right with the slightest tweak. I had to ride slow. I was embarrassed. My friends Scott and John had to wait for me, especially down the long hill home. As I picked up speed, I lost control again and flew over my handlebars, face planting on the pavement.
I bounced up. My left arm had a hitch in it. John and Scott thought it was pretty cool. It hurt, but I was used to pain. I can live with pain. The year before I broke my hand while sledding. I told no one. I don’t know why, but I didn’t. A week later the family went skiing on Bear Mountain. The ski slope Silvermine was small and only had a rope tow. When it came my turn to grab the rope that would pull me to the top of the hill, I couldn’t hold on. My grip was no good. Dad had gone ahead. He always went ahead. Mom was in the lodge. She didn't like to ski. She preferred to read the latest selection from Book-of-the-Month Club. Susan was behind me. She saw that something was wrong and went and got Mom. That night we went to the emergency room. I had broken my hand.
Ski is like that. It reveals vulnerabilities that you had kept hidden. The year before I broke my leg. We were on winter vacation in Kitzbuhel, Austria. Dad had gone to Europe before us. He was the Cosmetics and Wine buyer for Macy’s and traveled regularly to France. He joined us in Kitzbuhel. Our first day there Susan and I were enrolled in all-day ski school. Dad went off the master the black diamonds. On the first run, I fell. The pain in my leg shot through my body. The ski school instructor told me to stop lollygagging. I was falling behind. I told her my leg hurt. She said it was just a sprain and not to worry. I skied the rest of the day, and when we met up with Mom. I was limping. When she asked what was wrong, I said, “Nothing.” I walked to mile or so carrying my skis in my ski boots to the hotel. By then I couldn’t walk anymore. I had broken my leg on the first day of a skiing vacation. I ruined it for everyone. Mom had to reschedule the vacation. Dad stayed to ski. We went to London to see the Tower of London where the “Princes in the Tower” disappeared. Prince Richard was my age. Neither was ever seen again.
After falling on my bike, Scott, John and I played around the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church the rest of the afternoon. At night sometimes John and I would sneak out of homes and we would scale the downspouts to the slate roof and run along the wide copper gutters. Now, we just fool around in the parking lot on our bikes. I was reluctant to go home. I was afraid Mom would take my bike away. The broken hand and broken leg had stressed the family financially. I know another hospital visit would be hard on the family.
I hid the arm for 24 hours, but when my Mom helped me changed to go out to dinner the next night, she saw that my arm wasn’t straight. It was black and blue.
I hated this bike, and if I wanted to get rid of it, I should have told my Mom the truth. Instead, I lied. My story: I fell in a neighbor’s yard when I was taking a shortcut home. I took this route several times a day. The neighbors welcomed my trespass. Even this times, they were happy to pay doctor’s bills. I never told anyone. Only John and Scott knew. They never said a word.
I lie about sneaking handfuls of Trix cereal when Mom is not in the kitchen. I lie about walking out sixth grade class in the middle of school and walking the four miles home because the cool kids made fun of me. I lie about my desk being placed in the hall because my teacher cannot proceed with me in the room. I lie about breaking into school on the weekend and finding the janitor’s nude Playboy bunny pictures in his locker. I lie about finding the business cards of prostitutes with pictures of bare breasts in my father’s wallet.
My vocabulary consists of one word. “Nothing.” What are you doing? Nothing. What did you do today? Nothing. What happened? Nothing. To tell the truth means not just danger. But shame. Humiliation. Violence.
I cannot tell that I caught a squirrel in a Have-A-Heart trap and forgot until it starved to death. I cannot tell that I wet my bed. It will dry by the next bedtime. I cannot tell that I have a wart so I carve it out with a pocketknife. I cannot tell that I don’t understand the words on the page. They swim in different directions like a school of fish once a rock is dropped in the center. That I cannot remember my left from my right. That the only books I can read are the ones I have memorized. I cannot tell that I killed a mallard with my slingshot. I cannot tell that I soaked my G.I. Joe in gasoline and sent it down a zip-line over a coffee can filled with gasoline. G.I. Joe flew down the line, bursting into flames halfway down and landing in a bucket of water. Do it again. And again. Fire replenishes, just like anger.
I lie. Instead.