“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” -- Oscar Wilde
My default alignment refracts light at an eighty-five percent honesty rate, plus or minus ten depending on the situation. And more margin of error probably outward leaks via biased, blinded, or prejudiced perceptions and expectations. But that applies to all human incarnations.
Regardless and besides! This means that about a seventh of the time, I'm a liar.
Which probably equates to at least one recited or on-the-spot-devised, blank denial of shared reality per day (on average). An equivocated fib for every seven interactions. Some blind, stammering stab like, "I don't think so, sir. We aren't supposed to smoke in these, in here. Not even cigarettes. Can't say for anyone else, since it's a shared... I mean, a company vehicle, but... I doubt it..."
Sergeant Campbell's rebuttal stopped me short. "Because I can smell it," he said.
A surge of panic flooded my bloodstream, but the energy transferred to bullet-time with an instant intake of breath, pausing the game. Drew in through the nose and blinked my gaze away. Three trees at the intersection still shone with red and blue decoration and snow. Two SUVs flashed in the rearview mirror, which read east and three below. One gram or less of girl scout cookie in my backpack, passenger seat, though. Exhaled and made better eye contact than before, and the officer continued, "And all your windows are down..."
Awkward silences signify time segments scarred with so many re-lived lost in translation permutations. Often a missed opportunity at levity. Successful movement beyond these moments, however, progress collective reality.
"I don't know what to say," I finally confided. And it happened to be true, too. Anyway, the only incongruency besides my speeding belonged to the law because justice isn't inherent to invented rules. Rolled the dice and allowed the officer walk without further balk. Checked my fingernails. Faith in karma, the grace of the universe, and my lifelong privilege emboldened me.
Nothing to do but await my fate in such a case, anyway. Mismanagement of fear won't prevent the already happening.
Sgt. C made no additional comment as he left with license and insurance card, but adrenaline again engulfed my ears when the passenger side mirror reflected another officer approaching. Thus the two vehicles, probably. Hopefully.
A much younger officer helloed at the open window, commented on the cold.
"It's waking me up, though," I confided.
"Oh, I love this weather!" he consoled. Took a huge gulp through big nostrils. "The air is so crisp."
"Smells new, right?" I joked.
"'Fresh to death,'" he nodded as he read a circular pin on my backpack, his eyes suddenly small and moving. "What's this other one?" He gestured at a shield-shaped piece of flare just to the right and underneath the black and pink one. His hand hovered inches from paraphernalia.
"It's a die," I said. "Like for Dungeons and Dragons, I think."
"Oh, yeah. Twenty-sided," Nod and smile. "Have you ever been to the Pawn and Pint?"
"Westport?" I asked him.
"I think it's downtown..."
"Right." I shrugged. "I haven't, but I've heard of it."
"Oh. But you're from around here?"
Gotcha. "Yeah, mostly."
"I heard him say California license is all." He made a two-fingered point toward the other officer, who sat warm in his tinted vehicle writing a ticket. "Riverside" emblazoned both doors of the dark tank in blue and white. The younger officer hunkered close to my truck as he scanned the horizon a moment, then turned toward the window again almost inside. "Just move back?"
Took a pause to consciously relax my limbs and spine, "No." Turned my sweaty palms up and toward each other to interlace my fingers, and sat forward. "I've been back since the summer."
"Live around here?"
"I technically live and work in Kansas City," Decoupled my hands to make a two-fingered point at either horizon with the right, before and behind. "But on opposite edges of Riverside."
"You know the Misty Woods subdivision?"
"And I work up here, otherside of Northmoor."
"Yeah. Most of the year I'm riding a bike through here, actually."
"Hmm," He decided with a sniffle. Sagged on his arm at the window and gave a couple concluding coughs.
"Probably why I've never gone to The Pawn and Pint." I continued, closing my hands and resuming mindful posture. "Actually never even played D&D. Have you?"
"Oh, no." He lifted himself off the truck and hunched to look across at me. "Just thought because of that pin."
"Nah," I shrugged. "Got it kinda by chance. Random."
Sgt. C reappeared just as my new companion became bored of the truth.
"Here," he said as he shoved a paper-clipped stack through the window at me. "Your license, insurance, and citation." I took them and blinked, but asked no questions. He may have said other things, how to take care of payment, but certainly punctuated the interaction with a stern, "Drive safe."
Then, poof. They both vanished to their vehicles. Double and triple checked the mirrors for confirmation. Naturally, I had to leave first. So, jittering hands lifted into view, shifted, and turned the wheel while some lower extension pushed the gas. Transmission caught gears and truck transitioned into traffic. Red light. Sat waiting at the intersection until fully prepared to continue, then the light turned green. Neither SUV followed me.
Focused only on breathing and a steady speed, radio blaring.
Didn't bother rehearsing a story or even looking at the ticket since Hot 103 JAMZ never went to commercial. Instead, drove past the job site as my supervisor and boss watched. Parked around the logical corner and tossed my pipe and bag in a bush. Hurriedly came down the road but found no spots out front anyway, which padded my possibly unraveling credibility.
Took deep intakes of oxygen and slowed my approach.
The best lies are partially true. Helps a proponent believe. Mostly my lies are by omission or the use of alternate facts. Laden with jest. Been a piss-taking, bullshitter since as far back as childhood. Ever since my first secret garden, the need to be underhanded became automatic.
A social loner relies on lying because, brevity. 'Cause please see, "Privacy."
Zero accountability and unsupervised so in plain sight I can hide, no disguise necessary. Let me be. Rules do not apply says my shy silence. Trust I'm up to no evil besides breaching outdated boundaries and ignoring unjust, invented systems. Subversion does not work from within the socially accepted.
Nobody owes anybody else a thing, ultimately. And to put something into words sometimes spoils it somehow. Like calling out that you're turned on while it's happening. We risk tripping on the rhythm when acknowledging it. Some honesty is redundant, or even reductive. So much mouth flapping getting in the way of action.
Burst into the space with chapped lips and freezer-burnt face, seemingly seething. Told my story pacing, but left out the part where I smoked the plant in question, just before leaving and already late for work.
As well as other unimportant items like the fact that I awoke slightly hungover, took too time-consuming a bowel movement, had the rare Excedrin, and didn't refill the truck's gas tank. Or that I cursed zero times when pulled over, said silent prayers of thanksgiving instead of intervention during my interrogation, and blasted happy hip hop down the block blissfully afterward. Or that it was my birthday. The subtraction of this corroborating evidence actually quickened a valuable verdict, because once the required information had been transmitted successfully, we got to work.
Which's the whole reason I show up to a job at all. Not to shoot the shit. Being paid to do the things my employer wants done, not be a perfect person. Had I told the truth to either the cop or my boss, fully -- much precious time would've gone to waste in the balancing act.
Once we actually got started, however, I immediately told Cable, my supervisor, the whole story. For the laughter and support, but also for the loyalty and admission of guilt. May confession roadblock future forays into this already learned territory. Compounded, too, by Cable's own stories of escape and capture through and at traffic stops.
No need to continually read information gleaned during past lives and repeated days once it's written. We both blurted out our perspectives onto the parchment of shared time to give shape the collective lessons.
But it can only go this way with the trusted. All outside the circle receive shades.
Because my rationalization and hope is that although extreme lies draw eyes directly away from the truth -- one hundred and eighty degrees, let's say -- each increasingly slight angle to revealed to either side of what is real allows the already heavily hoodwinked an easier transition back around, toward the light. Can't see it at all when it's behind you, but spin round too fast it'll blind you. Eyes used to darkness need time for adjustment.
And we're all born into a dark maze built with left-behind ideas of what life must be. Which plants are safe and what lifestyles, careers, and hobbies agree within the established parameters. Those who recognize this are not beyond reproach, of course, but divergence from normalization mimics evolutionary mutation. Novel permeations may lead, sometimes unexpectedly, to advancement of the whole. Whereas sticking to tradition will certainly keep the invented wheels moving -- even on a treadmill. Which doesn't move.
Maybe running metaphors don't scan for everyone.
A clock comes to mind. Circular like the lines we walk over the earth's surface. Sidle-shaped hands continuously clicking forward to keep momentum behind the man-made concept it represents and tracks. A revolving door with no exits, especially at forty hours a week. Too slow moving to push past, but fast enough to keep us on our feet.
No cages, just endless fields of hamster wheels.
"What's that smell?" I asked Cable in an elevator, somewhere on the property.
"The rat lab," he said and pointed to the floor. "They're in the basement, remember? Must've gotten a shipment over the weekend."
"It's wretched," I told him and shook my head. Then added to the lies I'd have to average out later, "But it reminds me that I have an appointment this afternoon."
Cable raised his brow.
"I keep forgetting to say," I started. "Probably just need Fridays off anymore, to deal with everything I've been putting off. But, yeah, I forgot it's in Liberty is what. I'll have to leave early."
"Three," I tried.
"I was hoping to get out of here a bit early as well," he revealed.
And later, when ceiling tile dust had gotten into my eyes enough to elicit a scream, I instead bit my tongue, dismounted the ladder, and located escape keys. Wished my supervisor godspeed on his own journey that evening and headed out on yet another pretend errand before leaving.
Boss stopped me in the parking lot, so I spewed out another rendition. Probably he was leaving soon, too, so gave a wave of the hand. "You're fine."
Cable came out, too, to again say goodbye and rehash with the boss who dismissed me with a, "Happy Birthday."
"Oh!" my super exclaimed. "Happy Birthday! Can't believe I forgot."
"No worries!" Really.
Laughed and skrt'd off toward horizon, finally. I've run many an errand in desperation for solitude but that day I'd only a nap in mind. Overdue and extra but less effective make-up sleep.
Messages on my phone and online profile read of celebration and invitation. Ignored them all. Because most days I'm tired, but my birthday resides at an especially exhausting time of tradition. A long string of excuses to spend hard-earned tradeable paper and to consume alongside one another seems to stack exponentially near the end of each year. Resulting in an exacerbated call to hermitage for the introvert.
Sometimes the only way a guy gets away is by lying to friends and family.
To avoid the coddling, concern, and cloying follow-up questions. Don't need to explain to you that I'm fine, would rather in fact, walk alone in the cold from one place to the next. To have some space to think. Not because I do so much of it, but because it's actually quite difficult.
One room full of people to the next means no act breaks for my own decisions. No moments to view the direction of my life or make sure I'm even the one at the helm. It's much easier being swept along mindlessly, to set sails according to a chart, the stars, or even a GPS. Ride as passenger or crew on someone else's ship. Not knocking these ways of traveling through space, but they're not automatically for any astronaut without proper discernment.
There aren't one-size fits all space suits. Literally, look it up.
After a nap and executing the backup plan, met her at a gas station. She had an unwrapped gift and a Spiderman card, which displayed quite blatantly her familiarity. Not because of the nouns so much, but the adjectives. Opened the Tupperware to find chocolate frosted yellow cupcakes, and made an elated exclamation. Again -- for the meaning and not the things themselves (Although I did eat one immediately).
"I know it's not much," she gave anticipated reasoning, blushing a bit. Conditioned by past relationships she mounted defense of her vulnerability as I read the card. "What'd you get me, anyway? A vacuum for my car?"
"The replacement still hasn't come," I admitted.
"Sorry," she added. "That's okay. 'It's the thought that counts!'"
"No," I turned and told her. "I know."
The thought that counts sentiment doesn't excuse something so automatic as saying a socially imposed phrase, like "Bless you" after a sneeze. A thought is measurable beyond the number of physical representations.
What she truly thought had been carefully worded inside the card and baked into the cakes, actually and metaphorically. The separate forms of communication complimented and compounded the message. Honesty in action and word, but not spoken. So, reciprocated as best I could with my own verbal praise and a bodily embrace.
Then, for reasons outside the context and theme of this story, we had some stiff drinks and stayed in all evening at a suburban air bnb. Told her the story of my day automatically, and she relayed hers. But ultimately the lives we'd constructed outside our little haven conspired against us. She couldn't sleep because medication and nicotine. But I'd not slept a full night all week and had opted to drink although nobody pressured me, which meant staying awake groggily only a while. Plus, the power popped off at some point. Handled that, took a shower, and lost track. It was cold. All blankets on the couch to keep her and I passed out by myself in the bedroom feeling old.
Like cue balls on a billiards table. Two distant and unlikely lovers had run at each other from such opposite places that sometimes close contact resulted in collision. Smash and bounce back.
Off the walls of dreamland and met up again, slower. Dim dawn drawing near.
She came into the bedroom so late it was early. Had been summoned apparently by my sleeptalk and murmuring. Importantly whispered to her that I shouldn't drink liqueur anymore, because I'd blacked out from the time we were laying on the couch to now. A more recurring and forgotten problem in mine and so many other live's as to dwarf the day's earlier transgression severely. Though status quo won't admit.
"How long have I been out?"
"Since ten thirty."
"Geez, which one of us had a worse birthday?" (context necessary)
We both chuckled and continued into unrecorded pillow talk, where I told her what my nightmares had been and what the mumblings may have meant. She gave an account of my actions and whereabouts during the forgotten segment.
This is the importance of unabashed connection. Wires stripped of rubber casing and wound together to bridge electricity. Share data and energy.
I've had more imagined conversations with those I love than I've had with them in real life, making me more full of shit than ever intended. Lies meant to shield certain sides of me have conspired to hide all from view. My inner truth in a cat box, somewhere between is and isn't until I either apply honesty to all (not possible) or at least radically to some.
So, that morning so much how-I-felt fled my mouth that when she left I feared she'd gone for good. No messages on my phone all day although I'd sent some, had me sweating until that evening -- and it isn't really interesting. Got an email about a missed payment. And found online IMs of inquiry from the girl. She'd experienced a similar panic to mine, separately, because neither of us knew that my phone service had been terminated. Wrong card info.
This simple, everyday example of an unintended miscommunication is laced countlessly into the chaos of life. Lies told by no one that cause blind spots. Fibs only increase the fog of an existence already rife with perceptual confusion and aberrant coincidence. Not to mention all the other liars out there.
This calamity of infinite sentient vectors crisscrossing throughout concurrent spacetime for all eternity creates a tremendously difficult landscape to navigate honestly (and remain safe), but authenticity breathes reality into each moment. And to live out our respective truth in proper time -- like, when everything is happening not before, after, or never -- breeds multipliers on experience like a pinball machine with automatic bumpers. Everything paid intimate attention tends to flourishes, while the rest vanishes entirely from the equation.
Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. En Fuego! At a pinball machine, in the zone. Lights flashing.
That's the feel of being real and really right now. And it doesn't always require honesty, indeed not verbally -- it's about being actively true to the imagined, transubstantial self in a constantly expanding and evolving universe.
Anyone can say a thing. The truth is what you do.