“We were flying just past the island of Upolu with efforts to land in Pago Pago when our turbine engine suddenly burst into flames. We had one chute—there were three of us. We glanced at each other. As the pilot, they all knew what I’d do. I threw the chute at T, put two fingers to my heart—our code—and jumped out the copter at 15,000 feet.
I knew how to summersault in the air and maneuver in a way that would allow me to slow the velocity. I landed just past midway between Upolu and Tutuila, far from land.
Having jumped out before we could argue about chutes, I realized I had sliced my calf in a 6-inch slit on the tent gear sticking out of W’s bag. I was about to be in the middle of blacktip reef shark infested waters. I’d fought off a hammerhead before but not a…”
“Okay, okay, Solomon, I’m going to stop you right there. If we’re going to get anywhere, you are going to have to stop all this nonsense.”
“What do you mean?” Solomon looked up at Dr. Basse, puzzled. He technically shouldn’t have shared these details, but he was getting bored of this.
Dr. Basse put her reading glasses atop her head, closed her eyes, and sighed. She felt she was chipping away at marble with a toothpick. “I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. How’d you really break your arm, Sol?”
“Ah, come on Dr. Basse, I’m really not sure what the issue is.”
“First of all, hammerhead sharks don’t typically attack people. And secondly, your stories are always at least 10 shades beneath the truth. Your mother is right, you have a problem.” She looked at him with extreme concern.
She got up and placed her iPad on her desk and moved towards the door to signal it was time to show him out.
“I’ll give you one more chance Sol. Tomorrow. Same time. If you don’t take it, I’ll refer you to someone else. I’m just seeing you as a favor to your mother.”
Solomon walked home through the park that day instead of taking the bus. He could only humor his mother’s request to see a therapist for so long—just till he figured out how to make sense of his new life.
On the way home he was walking along the curb when he froze. Up ahead there was a pale-yellow cougar, staring at him as if to warn him of the cost of all this. Solomon felt his own eyesight mocking him—the lies he did and didn’t tell. He stood there barely breathing, the cougar staring coldly back at him. And then just like that it took its gaze away, looked ahead and took off in another direction. At that moment Solomon’s phone started ringing.
“Hey. Your mom still making you go to those sessions?”
“Yeah, I have to. I was too messy. Still figuring this all out.”
“I don’t understand why you're going. Comes with the territory, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Well, my mother has this intuition thing and doesn’t rest till it’s assured.”
“Sounds rough. You coming back anytime soon? You must be dying for sun in those cold northern winds of death.”
“Yeah, totally. Planning to take the red eye tomorrow night.”
“K, well we’ll be waiting for you, we owe you one.”
“It was nothing. Thanks for checking in.”
When Solomon got home, he walked up to his apartment, the door slightly ajar which could only mean one thing. He pushed open the door slowly, as if to prevent a swarm of fear from escaping. Inside it was as he expected. Furniture was overturned, food scattered about trailing out of the refrigerator, the couch cushions upended.
Wasn’t the first time. He’ll have to switch addresses again.
Solomon quickly glanced around, the room in full disarray: the drawers turned over, the bed ripped to shreds. He stood there, staring for longer than anyone should have, suddenly came to his senses, reached up to see if his hat was still on his head and closed the door.
After surveying that no one else was there, he went and sat down on the couch. He had only been in town one month, and he had already messed up. His parents told him they would no longer speak to him if he didn’t figure out a way to fix his problem. It was all just a transition. He wasn’t used to his new life. He didn’t have the energy to deal with his mother’s constant concern about him being a pathological liar. He gave into sleep as he gave up trying to figure it all out.
“Someone broke into your apartment?” Dr. Basse asked dryly.
“Did you call the police?”
“Nah, nothing they could do about it. Nothing was taken.”
“I bet it was the ‘cougar’ you saw.” She was mocking him.
Solomon reached into his pocket for a stick of gum.
“So are we done here, Solomon?” Dr. Basse peered at him over her reading glasses.
“I didn’t say that. What is it you want me to do? What does one do to complete their assessment.”
“I need to see a certain lucidity, that you are aware of your issue.”
“What issue?” Solomon looked at Dr. Basse blankly forgetting for a moment he was merely trying to appease his mother through this woman.
“Did your apartment really get broken into? How would I know the truth? How would anyone know the truth?”
Solomon stared at the ground, exasperated with this charade.
“Okay, Okay, I’ll tell you how I broke my arm.” Solomon got up, stretched, then sat back down this time on the edge of his seat.
I tripped over a pallet in front of the mini mart, I didn’t see it, twisted back, and fell landing on my arm.”
“And your leg? How did that happen?”
“Just snagged it in on the corner of the chipped doorframe on my closet.”
“Okay then. Was it that hard?”
“What?” Solomon had given up trying to give the right answer, the false answer, the unembellished answer.
“To tell the truth.”
Solomon sighed. “Yeah, I mean no, it wasn’t hard.” Solomon was trying to understand why it was easier for people to hear a lie than accept the truth.
“Okay then. How about we have a check-in next month.”
“Sure doc, whatever is needed.”
Dr. Basse smiled. Seemingly satisfied with herself. Solomon had been a tough one to crack.
Solomon left the office, hoping this would appease his mother. He’d be more careful next time. Lost in thought, he didn’t realize the phone ringing was his.
“Oh hey ma, how are you?”
“Good honey! Did you complete your session?”
“Yeah, it went well I think. All good.”
“That’s great honey. Would you like to come over for dinner tonight? We can talk about it then.”
“Sorry ma, I have to leave town for work. But I’ll let you know when I’m back.”
“Oh, where are you going this time?” She said, as if it was a test.
Solomon thought for a minute how to best answer. “St. Louis, ma.”
“Oh good, not too far. I hear they have some good Italian food down there.”
There was a strange pause.
“Thanks for checking in mom.”
That night Solomon phoned Trevor on his way to the airport. I’m just boarding the flight for Saint Lucia now. You guys going to meet me at the terminal down there?”
“Yeah, we’ll get you straight away, and then they are flying us straight to Caracas for our next mission. You get all that stuff sorted with your mom? Chief thought it was messed up you were playing along.”
“There was no other option. She’s too intuitive. What else am I going to do Trevor? Spies and lies go hand in hand.”