That was the problem, wasn’t it? The way the words spilled out of her mouth before she could pull the tight-lipped face. She’d pretend not to register what she said, that it was simply a truth she was mourning, but the boy's eyes twitched and the right corner of her lip downturned just slightly.
There it was again, that weird sense of betrayal that etched its way into the formation of downturned eyebrows that shot back up before the boy could even say anything. It was all one giant problem, and every time she got on the bus, it was noticeable to any lurking person. She always spoke, she never seemed to think before she did so. And she was, yet again, stuck in an awkward position where a lightweight world fell onto her shoulders.
Frequent events occurred in those seats, where the girl and the boy now sat. The girl was always the third one down from the pole with the bloodstain, and whoever she was with seemed to sit down next to her, closer to that very pole. Every time she brought someone new, it seemed as if they fell into two categories.
There was the first, that frankly didn’t even seem to notice the pole. They just pressed their hand to it, even though it seemed kind of bold, the way everybody else avoided it, or at least that stain. This person would sit down and pay no attention to the pole, would not think anything of the three empty seats between them and the next person, they would just talk and smile. Eventually, they would stand up and they would see the pole and they would notice the bloodstain. They would frown, and they would walk off.
There was the second, and it seemed polite, the way they pretended to ignore it. A liar, in the way they played stupid. A liar, very different from the lies that made up the girl. But they’d pretend it ignore it, and they’d almost shield the pole from her vision. Curious, right? How the girl leaned into the role of naive, and the friend would fall into the hands of a protector of sorts, even though the girl was a frequent on this bus, the same way a bee flew back to its hive.
Today, the boy leaned forward, obscuring her from vision, and she smiled at the sensation, droning on about her three brothers, only one of which truly existed.
Liar, liar, liar.
Every day, she carried a different story, but from what was gathered, she never really understood the weight behind each and every word that fell off her tongue. A few dozen friends walked off this train and the weight of every pathetic sentence, and she still found herself back here, with that bloodstained pole, those dirty seats, and another soul.
“This boy was kind,” she’d say later when she sat down next to me. I’d merely raise an eyebrow when she ran a hand through her hair.
It doesn’t do well to remind her that people want honest words that don’t bend beneath their weight, but it never seemed to click in the right way. She’d exclaim it was a curse, some words with no control and a mind that liked to see how far it could stretch. When it snapped back at her, she’d simply stare it down until she truly had no care.
And she’d try, she’d try over and over and over again because the truth seemed to be so much worse than a few simple words. The weight felt heavy some days, and if she pushed herself far enough into this life of three brothers, two cats, and healthy parents, it would morph its way into being true.
Isn’t that the nauseating part? She never properly confronted any of it, any of her lies or the truths that somehow managed to bleed their way through the conversation. Perhaps in the way she only had a photo of one boy or the contact who she claimed to be labeled her mom. Which was actually me, sitting across from them on the bus, just in case something goes wrong.
“He deserved better,” she’d say when she leaned on my shoulder, a worn one that had stuck through years of abuse from a thousand different secrets.
These short phrases would be the rare truths that poked out in between each moment.
I nodded and looked to her. “Perhaps you might enjoy speaking honestly, one day.”
She squinted at me, not quite understanding my words, or pretending not to. Liar, liar, liar: the people she picked up and vowed devotion to. Liars, each and every one of ‘em, but that’s what made this entire thing so much worse.
“What’re you talking about?”
They pick up on all her mistruths the way you pick up a rock hiding in the grass. I smiled at her while she pulled back and looked at me. There were no other words I could speak. When I remained silent, she simply fell back forward onto my shoulder, seemingly unaware.
“I miss her,” she said instead of anything else.
I sighed. “I know.”
It must be truthful to admit that I don’t honestly know who ‘her’ is, who this wistful ghost that has a flapping skirt and wild hair is. No one really does. The girl always talked about ‘her’ like a saint that she never got to meet, and she latched onto me that day on the bus.
When she had said, “You look like someone I know.”
When I had responded, “Curious.”
And she had smiled, something soft and sweet and innocent, but both of us had underlying lies told between that.
A liar knows a liar, I’d say.
So when she had said, “You look like someone I know” with an accent that was born and raised in west side New York, she was saying delicately, “You are who I’ve been looking for.”
What she didn’t pick up on, was the “Curious” in words tainted with northern England which was another way of saying, “I know.”
Because she buried herself so far into this mistruth, she could not find herself holding onto where her life started and her lies began, and the plague others held with the deterioration of this curse was one she didn’t quite understand.
When she stood up she pursed her lips and looked at the ground beneath her feet. “I’ll see you around,” she said as the doors opened, a cold breeze drifting inside.
Her backpack was heavier than usual, so I smiled.
Lie, lie, lie.
Liar, liar, liar.
“And I’ll see you.”
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Very thought-provoking and immersive piece, Regulus! I liked so many lines and turns of phrase in this, but I think my favorite had to have been "...very different from the lies that made up the girl." Nice. Did you have a particular favorite phrase or segment, when writing this? I really enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing it, and welcome to Reedsy!