“You dirty liar!” my mom exclaimed yesterday.
Mom doesn’t always believe me.…..because I have a history as a dirty liar.
It started early, and innocently enough. At first I lied just to see if I could get away with it. I lied about a lot of things, spontaneously. Half of my lies were never discovered because they were about mundane things that didn’t matter. I said I was at Sam’s when I was really at Danielle’s. They both lived down our street, a few houses from each other, and my mom wouldn’t have cared which friend’s home I was at as long as she knew where I was, so there was really no point in the lie other than to usurp her power over me. But then I got hooked, addicted to making up things that never happened.
My early lies were sensational stories of subterfuge at summer camp, about power struggles on the kick ball field. I lied about skating on dish detergent across kitchen floors. My lies raised questions about appropriate levels of adult supervision. I lied about jumping from rooftops onto trampolines. I lied about riding in the trunk of my friend’s parent’s car. I casually explained the access route to the elementary school roof, where I claimed I’d been several times. My mother appeared a lunatic, as she confronted camp counselors, neighbors, other parents and school officials.
But then Lindsay ruined it.
At the showing of a movie we’d made, I explained that Gabrielle’s acting skills had been greatly improved by using bleach instead of water in the glass of pretend poison her captors forced upon her.
“Lindsay, is that really what happened? Did you really try to make Gabrielle drink bleach?” Mom asked.
Lindsay squirmed and her eyes darted about, careening out of control. She didn’t even have to answer. After that day, when we were 11, my mom looked at Lindsay every time I said something even the slightest bit off. She gauged the probability of truth by the speed of Lindsay’s eye movements, by whether she crossed or uncrossed her legs, by whether she cleared her throat or sucked in her bottom lip. If Lindsay wasn’t around Mom automatically accepted what was most probable – that I was a dirty liar and that whatever I’d just said was not true.
When Lindsay became my “dead give-away” it was the catalyst that took me from fiction to truth. One morning, after mom had made me breakfast and I’d left to walk down to Lindsay’s house, Mom noticed the screen of my bedroom window set on the patio, leaning up against the house. She thought I’d crossed the threshold into teenaged delinquency and that I’d snuck out the prior night via my window. When she looked into my room she found my gorilla suit on my bedroom floor. Every liar needs a gorilla suit.
Mom felt uneasy: had her daughter progressed to some ultimate form of deception, one that involved not actually telling a lie but rather planting evidence suggestive of a lie she might tell? Or had her daughter donned a gorilla suit and snuck out through her window in the night. She wasn’t sure which was more troubling.
The truth, and it was the truth, emerged later that day when Dad, who is the computer guy at the school, perused the security footage as usual and found something very unusual: a gorilla waving to him at 1 a.m.
On the day the film from the underwater camera I’d gotten for my birthday came back, the truth exposed itself again. The images of Lindsay and I jumping off her roof into her pool were awesome.
Later that same summer we finished filming and editing of our epic movie, “John and John.” It was a morality-based tale about good and evil, duplicity and sincerity, friendship and ultimate betrayal, played out through multiple costume changes and unidentifiable accents. Of course it was a work of fiction. But the truth is that the setting for the final scene was the school roof, and all the characters that were still alive jumped from the roof in the final action.
With the unwitting “help” of my “I cannot tell a lie” friend Lindsay, and some teenaged nerve, I went from telling tales about fantastical things that had happened to making fantastical things happen. I am not a dirty liar (any more)!