He lies even though truth claws up his throat, grips his lips, and dangles there like a rat clinging to the edge of a sewer pipe. It’s a funny thing, The Lie, because it’s so damn easy for him to believe given the circumstances. By the confused and hurt look on her face, she apparently does not agree.
Unlike the truth, The Lie rolls easily off his tongue. It feels natural despite his insincerity, but sincerity isn’t the problem. Truth and lies are equally sincere and interchangeable, so it must be his learned reaction to one or the other that needs controlling. He associates truth with trust and truth cannot be wasted on untrusted ears. The Lie isn’t meant to be a bad thing, necessarily, just a measure of protection. Distance. She deserves truth, regardless of his past or convoluted reasoning.
But The Lie hangs between them like thick morning fog and is something she cannot grasp. Her eyes, brimming with emotion, indicate disbelief. He repeats The Lie with more conviction, hooks his thumbs in his back pockets and shrugs. He takes a deep, barely perceptible breath through his nose and exhales slowly. His heart beat slows immediately. Had he told the truth it would have been tunnel vision and barrel rolling guts. It would have been clammy palms and flushed cheeks and sweat rolling down his spine. Sounds would have lost conventional interpretation, instead echoing distantly hollow. That kind of loss of control is something he does not need. Not now. Not ever.
She asks a third time, more confused than angry, but he remains silent. His legs flex beneath his jeans but the movement is unperceived. Outside, the wind howls. It’s cold, he thinks and he’s vaguely aware he’s not entirely there anymore, as if he’s watching himself through clouded, fun-house glass.
For a split second, their eyes meet. She sees fear of abandonment and ridicule as a child. Of surrender and rejection as a man. Not of her. Not from her. But others. The Lie was built on this fear, and it’s changed him, made him harder. She empathizes, knowing who he used to be, wondering where he went. But his demons run too deep. The battle is his own, on his own terms, in his own time. She can’t expect to change him.
In a weathered, perforated notebook containing a dozen or so pages of hand written text from a different mindset, I found this story among a handful of others I had penned a few years ago. I understand now it is incomplete, but its conclusion I do not know. I hesitate to even consider finishing it. In a decade of professional conquests, this story is a frightening reminder how failure in one aspect of my life has affected success in another.
Addendum: 21 August 2007
Let me clarify a few things: This is not a story about cheating. This is a story about caring. The Lie is that I didn’t care, thereby eliminating the uncertainty that is the future of all young relationships. By telling The Lie, there was no rejection, no what-ifs, nothing out of my control. It was easier pretending not to care at all, and letting her walk away believing that. Yes, it sucked, and yes, I regretted it, but I’ve never subscribed to the “better to have loved and lost” theory. I’ve never entered a relationship with delusions of eternal happiness, because any time you’re dealing with another human being, there isn’t a damn thing you can do about their state of mind. Hanging myself out on an emotional limb for one person to poke at me with a stick until they’re ready to knock me out isn’t my idea of fun.