“I miss you.”
I lie through my teeth, knowing that when she gets my message, Jane will be sobbing and begging for me to come back. I lie about it all, telling her I find the way she can’t ravish a meal if two different foods are touching each other endearing, as if she weren’t a twenty-six-year-old woman who behaved like she was ten. That I miss the way she’d wake me up by jumping on our bed, as if I found it comical and adorable and not incredibly aggravating. I tell her everything I know she wants to hear, because I need her to come back. You see, Jane might not be the woman I love or envision spending the entirety of my life with, but she is the woman that has made my life comfortable to a degree I’ve grown accustomed to. She keeps my house neat; she isn’t as deplorable a cook as one would imagine, and the sex is regular and more than adequate. Until I can find the energy to pursue someone more up to my calibre, Jane will have to do. I take account of all these things when I leave the voicemail, expecting her to return to me in a period of twenty-four hours or less after she has heard it.
There is something cathartic about lying. Watching the other person believe the nonsense that spills out your mouth, taking it as fact and trusting you to tell them the truth. The best part? You only get better every time you do it, and I have been doing it ever since I gained the ability to communicate verbally.
It started when I saw what telling the truth did to people around me. My father was a no-nonsense man who had lost most of his youth to working in a factory that manufactured building materials. They laid him off after seventeen years with no severance pay when he suffered a head injury that rendered him unable to work. When he wasn’t drinking, my dear old father took it upon himself to discipline us into becoming fine young men. This involved, of course, not only the bodily harm he inflicted upon us in the form of beatings and beltings, but also psychological trauma, such as drowning our cat in a lake when my brother returned home one night ten minutes past curfew.
Yet, my brother was never one to lie. He would show my father his report cards without altering the lacklustre scores that would get him sent to his room without dinner. He got the belt when he came clean about breaking one of the many ugly vases my mother had used to decorate our home. He wouldn’t throw his friends under the bus when my father found the empty beer cans they had discarded in his pick-up after a night out. I could only watch as my brother’s idiocy got him into the troubles it did, before one night he finally left home, running away to somewhere no one would ever hear of him again. I just hope for his sake he learnt that in this world, to survive, you must learn to invent. That’s what I did when I told the cops that my dad had simply gotten too drunk one night and fallen down the stairs, an occurrence that wouldn’t be an abnormality for him. My mother and I had been fast asleep in our rooms and didn’t discover him until the next morning. I didn’t tell them I was actually up studying for an Algebra final, that I had heard him fall and found him flailing at the bottom of the stairs, lying in a pool of crimson. Maybe I could have woken up my mother to take care of it. Maybe I could've called an ambulance. Maybe he could’ve survived even if I had taken him to the hospital myself, but that was just the thing about me: I didn’t waste my time dwelling on the maybes.
Jane shows up to my door that night, tears streaming down her face. She sniffles like a petulant child. She tells me that she’s sorry, that she never wants to leave me again. I smile and hug her before telling her that I love her. I do not feel any guilt as I do this, even when she cries and tells me she loves me back, her eyes testament to the sincerity of her statement. Is it cruel that I lie, when the illusion of me loving her makes her happier than knowing the truth would?
I’m almost doing her a favour, I’d argue.
There is not a person in my life I haven’t lied to. That’s why they’re in my life; whether they’re my colleagues at the law firm I got a job at by falsifying my qualifications, Jane, or even my landlord who I tell every week that she’s lost a little weight, so she knocks a couple of dollars off the rent. I do not feel any remorse when I lie, not when I know everyone around me does so as well. Maybe theirs aren’t as large scale as mine seem to be, but does a quantifiable measure really justify some lies and not others?
I plan to move in a few months, and I’ve decided on somewhere more tropical – I’ve grown weary of the winter wonderland of this city I’ve lived in for about three years now. One day, Jane will walk into my home, and everything will be cleared out. I don’t plan on leaving a note, it’s too much of a bother. I haven’t decided on my new name yet, but maybe I’ll go with Leon, or Ivan. Something European, that way I won’t have to invent much of a story about my childhood or my parents. Not that inventing one would be a problem – I’m good at innovating, after all. The trick is to sprinkle in minor truthful details with your lies, it makes them more believable without giving away anything important. Go on, try it next time whenever you should need to. You have my permission.