"Of course he loves you."

Submitted into Contest #107 in response to: Write a story about a white lie which spirals out of control.... view prompt

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Contemporary Speculative Sad

Some lies are easier to say than others. Some of them you have to swallow like shards of glass that cut your throat. Iron fills your nose and lays upon your tongue. Some of them taste like rotten meat, but it’s the texture that really does you in. Thick like tar, so thick you choke and gag. Lies like that make it hard to breathe and are even harder to say. And some lies, some lies are sweet. The taste of chocolate, of packaged cookies and candy bars. Irresistible and addicting, ones you can’t just say once, you have to go back to again and again and again. Some, a hard candy, which you suck and let sit in your mouth, unaware of the way it can lodge in your throat.

I think those kinds of lies are the ones we want to believe.

And it’s one of those, peachy sweet with the aftertaste well hidden, that I tell my mom in the car that day. We’re alone and I can tell she’s reached a point in her life where she’s had enough. Stretched thin and bone tired. Regrets like ashes on her tongue. I can still remember how she turned to me, the sour taste of defeat shaping her lips; “I think, I want a divorce”.

There is a silence then, some type of tension which charged the air, the kind that made you feel like lightning could be trapped and contained just waiting to escape. The scent of burnt charred meat an echo against the tongue.

I can’t remember exactly how I replied, but I do remember the chunky unpleasant texture of the words I swallowed back. The truth was like spoiled milk, without even tasting it, just a whiff of the scent, and you knew it was bad. I didn’t know how to say it, I felt like I couldn’t. At least in the moment, I was certain of that.

Looking back, the lie, it wasn’t for her. It was for me. I liked the way it tasted, liked the idea of what it would keep together.

But lies are not impervious, and the truth has a way of coming out. It likes to unfold in its own time, a growing, crawling, blooming thing. And if you’re unlucky enough, sometimes you get to see the way the lie unravels, like a cake that crumbles, icing that won’t stick, the sharp taste of black licorice beneath the chocolate where it doesn’t belong.

Like most things in life, it does not happen all at once. The lie unravels slowly, despite how it may otherwise appear.

It starts then, in the normal way. There is yelling. It is loud, it is quiet, hushed. It is heard at the nights, well after bed, in the morning before the first light of dawn breaks. It is heard through closed doors and air vents, upstairs when they are downstairs and then it builds. Heard on the same floor, from the other room, at dinners and TV time. Heard in the daytime, the afternoon when the sun is out, has been out for hours and will be for more. It builds and bubbles and grows and it does not stop. The cadence and pitch are always wrong and the voices chase me down hallways to the basement, to my room and still the arguments can be heard.

The anger that simmers behind his teeth is spit out, hot enough to burn and hurt. Searing words and searing taste. It’s like someone sets the pot on the stove in the morning. The lid clamped on tight. The fire is low, but never stops. All day that pressure builds. The pot hisses and bubbles, simmers and steams but the lid isn’t removed until he’s home and she is there.

There are other things, ones you do not hear, ones you cannot see but the truth is not just a taste, sometimes it likes to remind you that it is there, it is physical and tangible in a way that lies are not.

I see the truth manifest in purple spots. Marked shapes and bruises. New patterns. I never hear them, never see the act, but I cannot ignore the truth like the aftertaste of my lie.

When it’s gone on long enough (,too long but I can’t-) we’re in the car again. Circled back but- she’s not the one to bring it up. There is a moment, there is a moment, a beat a space a breath and-

An exhale.

There are no words, no lies, no truths. (But a lie by omission is still a lie. And some lies are too sweet not to tell myself).

In the space between what I thought and what I said, I imagine what the truth might taste like if I could say it. If I had the words. Fresh like mint, a taste that cuts through the others, one that might wash away the bitter aftertaste that won’t leave my mouth. I wonder if it would be fresh, something green and growing or if the truth has an expiration date. The herb spotted, the leaves dry, wilting. If you leave the truth alone long enough, if you feed the lie enough, can that mint wither? Will it rot beneath the sun, will it lose all it’s leaves, will the cold settle in too deep and freeze the roots hidden in the soil? Left alone, can the mint outgrow it's pot?

It comes to a head one day. A day not unlike any other. Her lips are red and I know she can taste iron in her mouth. The salty taste of tears an afterthought.

“I’m-”. There are things I want to say, should say, must say, and yet still I cannot get the taste I desire. “L-let’s leave, let’s go somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t matter.”

Her smile is crooked her breath a broken staccato.

“He doesn’t care, I was wrong, please, I was wrong. I’m sorry – I’m so, I’m so sorry”. The words gasped, my tears salty. I wonder if they have the same flavor as hers, I - . There is a fleeting moment like I could almost taste it, taste the truth and m-

“Of course he loves me.”

There is an absence to her voice, something missing. A robotic tone to the words in a way that only things being repeated, recited, can sound like.

It is with that apathy that I know I am a selfish thing, the pot that holds the mint. And I learn a truth all my own. That sometimes the truth can be delivered too late. That roots will wrap around themselves in too small pots again and again and again until they suffocate themselves.

August 19, 2021 03:34

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