The city market is a great place for me. I thrive around people that have time to talk. Funny thing about areas with dense populations is that most people don’t have time to talk. At a city market though, on a Sunday, you’ve got time to talk. Know what I mean? Place is my sanctuary.
Convinced some baristas at City Market Coffee that I’m related to Eminem and a secret millionaire who got his money while crypto was hot. Got some lady at the Bloom Baking Company to believe I was my high school quarterback and that I went to school with Patrick Mahomes, but got hurt my senior year so I couldn’t play college ball. Phill over at Carollo’s Grocery and Deli actually believes I’m a veteran of the Iraq war, that I was in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. Guy thanks me for my service everytime I come in and gives me a discount even though all I’ve ever done is watch The Hurt Locker. Over at Cristina’s Produce there’s a teenager that works there, Christopher, that thinks I lost my virginity to his favorite porn star Lacy Lennon. I wish. The owner of Habashi House is always asking me about my inoperable brain tumor. I forget who, but some people also think I’m homeless, gay, and/or transgender. Those stories always blend together well, sometimes I throw in that I’m a veteran to mix things up. Only to the people who would be sympathetic to that thing of course. Tell the wrong person that and you’re getting your ass kicked, or worse.
So I’m hanging with this scientologist on the corner of 5th and Walnut. She’s trying to convince me to join the men in black and I’m trying to convince her that not only am I already in, but I’m a high ranking game master in the organization. We’re having our back and forth, I’m on a roll, I mean my words are like magic spells designed to convince this woman that I was something I barely knew anything about. Then all of a sudden. Boom! Shattering of glass is heard in the distance.
Immediately the limelight was off of me. I no longer had anyone’s attention, and it hurt.
Variations of the question “What in the hell was that?” is now anything anyone can focus on.
Before I knew it I was sprinting towards the sound that captured everyone’s attention. Lungs on fire, arms swingin’, feet slappin’, and belly crampin’ I, by some miracle, make it in time to insert myself into the situation.
The front window of a closed antique shop is broken. Apparently they close early on Sundays, which makes me, much to my surprise, the first on the scene. Before I can piece together what happened, someone else arrives. A cop.
“Sir, did you see what happened?” the cop asks me. He sounds suspicious.
So I tell him. “Um…I… I saw… I saw some…uh…” I was buying myself time to come up with something, was what I was trying to do, but what happens is the cop starts to think that I was scared. I was more pumped with adrenaline.
“It’s okay, take deep breaths. What’s your name?”
I comply and breathe deep. “My name is Chip Douglas.”
“What did you see Chip?”
“I… Yeah, I saw everything.” I say. I look at his badge to read his name. “It was a smash and grab, Officer Smith.”
“Someone smashed the window and then stole merchandise?” Smith asks like he just may believe me.
“Yeah one guy smashed and then Guy grabbed.”
“There were two guys?” he asks. Not what I meant. I misspoke, going along with it felt like the right thing to do though.
“Yeah there were two of them. They probably would have both tried to grab some stuff, but I tried to intervene.”
“You tried to intervene?” he asks as if I wouldn’t have it in me, so I amp it up to a threat even he would be scared of.
“Yeah, but there wasn’t much I could do. They had guns.”
Officer Smith gets serious, puts one hand on his radio and the other on his holstered pistol. He asks “What did they look like? Were they Black? Hispanic? Asian? White?”
“A black and hispanic guy. They were wearing all black clothes and ski masks.”
“Which way did they go?” Smith asks sternly.
“That way.” I point in the opposite direction of where Smith came from. “But they got in a car and started taking off their clothes, and it looked like they had different clothes underneath.”
“They had a driver in a car? So there were three? What kind of car?”
“Three in all, yeah, and the car was a black four door. Sorry I’m not a car guy.”
Officer Smith notices what looked like a plastic and metal device, before it was burnt to a crisp, laying next to the store’s front destroyed window. Officer Smith points to it and asks me “What the hell’s that?”
Shit! I don’t know. “They threw that at the window and it blew up.”
Officer Smith radios into headquarters to tell them what I told him. To watch out for armed and dangerous suspects that were black or hispanic in whatever direction it was I pointed them in.
While this was happening a crowd of civilians started to gather, and I couldn’t help myself. I told the crowd that the robbers pulled machine guns on me after I knocked one to the ground. That, because of me, only one dude was able to get some stuff in hand and a little cash hanging out of his pocket. I joked that I should be a security guard. Then, I told them I was a security guard. A personal guard for Kanye West and Post Malone.
That’s when a local news crew shows up, Channel Four. I told a local reporter, live on the air, that there were four robbers who had assault rifles, a bomb, and were speaking another language I didn’t recognize. That “I’m also fluent in French, so it definitely wasn’t that.” That I was able to knock out one of them with a well-placed haymaker to his jaw. It’s not all about power, I told them, it’s mostly about where you hit them. That because of me, they got away with a lot less. That this is why I was a personal guard for other celebrities that I couldn’t identify because of the non-disclosure agreements I signed. I was having fun.
Too much fun to notice that the owner of the store lived in an apartment above the store, that the owner had security cameras, and that they were letting Officer Smith review the footage. It didn’t take long for Officer Smith to find out what really happened. Officer Smith arrested me almost as fast as the cops that arrested three innocent people based on my false report.
I know what you’re thinking. What actually happened? Well, it turns out some kid’s cell phone fell out of their backpack while walking by the store. The store’s front windows started at the ground. That day was particularly hot and the phone was sitting in direct sunlight next to the window causing the phone to combust, explode, and the store’s front window to shatter. It was a freak accident.
Anyways, I was in holding only for a day before my people got me out. Within that day though, I was able to convince everyone in there that I was in for counting cards at a local casino and that I had a photographic memory. What a bunch of freaking idiots.
“How much of that really happened?” asks Dr. Velazquez.
“I fluffed it up a bit.” Donny admits.
“So you over exaggerated?”
“Yeah, I did.” Donny says it like he’s sorry.
“That’s alright. That’s why we’re here. What parts were hyperbole and what parts were real life?”
Donny tells the truth as if it’s painful “Alright. So uh… there wasn’t a crowd that gathered…”
“There was no news crew… and I wasn’t arrested… or charged with anything.”
“What about the false arrests?”
“Oh no, those actually did happen. Yeah there’s a couple of ongoing lawsuits against the city because of this guy.”
“How were you not fired?” Dr. Velazquez asks, perplexed.
“My dad’s a cop so I got a break, legal system wise. Not dad wise though, he’s still… he’s still pretty pissed off. Hence why I’m here.” Donny motions to the room around them.
“I see. This is why you gave me permission to talk to your father about you.”
“Yeah. He needs to see that I’m improving or I’m cut off. Big time.”
“But it’s not all your father though. You seem to genuinely want to change. Or have you been exaggerating about that too?”
“No, I really do want to change. It’s just hard.”
“Lying can be addictive, the more you do it the harder it is to stop. It’s hard for people in general to break pattern, but easy to make them”
“That is my experience.”
“So why do you want to change then? If not for your dad.”
“I do want to change for my dad. I need to change for me. There’s a reason only my dad will talk to me anymore. Everyone else is gone.”
“Then why do you think that you still do it?”
Donny thinks about this for a few seconds before bursting into tears, “Because it’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at! I can’t do anything else right! I fuck everything else up! I fucked up school! I fucked up sports!
I’m not just good at lying either, I’m great. I’m a fucking pro! Imagine that! Imagine the only thing you’re good at is also the thing that drives everyone away! I’ve lost jobs, money, friends, relationships, and family. So much effort and loss to be a truly great liar. And for what!? The thrills? Those didn’t last long! I’ve got nothing to show for it! Just the lies! The lies I tell everyone, including myself.” Donny realizes he’s getting emotional and stops himself.
Donny composes himself. Dr. Velazquez hands Donny a tissue. He uses it. “Thanks. I’m sorry.” he tells the doctor.
“It’s quite alright. Please continue.”
Donny lets go and truly sobs. For the damage he’s done, for himself, and for the immense loneliness it has caused him.