Secrets and Lies
I have this memory of going in to the police station and giving them a report, but I’m not sure if this really happened. Memory is inaccurate, and I may have fictionalized that part. I may have just called the police and told them what happened. Either way, I told my story to a female dispatch worker. I told her all of the details, and she was very kind. She said I had been lucky, and that she was sure he was the man they were looking for. After the stress of the evening, I wanted to cry and cry. I sat on Megan’s couch for what felt like hours and talked to her mom while she nodded and patted my shoulder. She said “you should go home and tell your mother this,” but I resisted leaving. I stayed as long as I could before they kicked me out and told me to go home.
After the lies started to unravel, I had to figure out how to tell the truth. I had been lying for so long that I didn’t know how to tell the truth anymore. Lies were the first thing that popped into my head, and I was beginning to realize that people knew. I wasn’t fully trusted anymore. Once, while home for Christmas break, my mom found a pack of cigarettes in a sweater pocket that belonged to Cassie, who had borrowed my sweater to smoke outside. I told my mom that the cigarettes weren’t mine, but she didn’t believe me. I asked her with all of the petulance of an eighteen year old, “Why don’t you believe me?” But as she looked at me with the steely-eyed concern of an overprotective mother, I knew why she didn’t believe me, and all of the lies were catching up with me. I started to tell the truth in fragments—first owning up to some of the lies—telling Cassie that my grandmother hadn’t yodeled for the queen of Sweden, for instance, or admitting to Penny that I had made up the story about Bob. The more I told the truth, the easier it became and I began to realize how forgiving people can be for the little lies. And that’s when I became honest—always telling the truth even when the truth made me look bad—and I had to learn to live with the uncomfortable feelings that accompany not being perfect.
And if I’m being absolutely honest right now, then I must admit that I never told my mom the whole truth. I never gave her any more than fragments, but those fragments were enough to earn her trust, so that one day, she looked at me with faith. I could see in her eyes that she believed in me—and that felt fine—except for the mushroom cloud still hanging over my head; I never told her about the man, and I never told her about the bulimia. Instead, I spoke to her, my mouth moving, the words coming out—while the world spun out of control between us with all of the lies: the trip to the bathroom, the bottle of wine, the groping in the front seat of a car, the day spent in bed, the hours on the treadmill willing my body to change—and her love was pure. Her faith in me—in her god—was a vacuum that absorbed all of the lies between us, and I could never bring myself to tell the truth to the woman who knew that her prayers had been answered. She thought she had her daughter back, while I had hunger and my constant fear of the devil.
I ride home in silence with Megan, and when I see my mom, I can’t say it. Somehow, I know she won’t believe me, and this incident is too important not to have believed. Instead, I just say that I have almost been run-over. I gloss over the details, lock the doors, and go sit on the couch. I can’t sleep. Every time car lights flash through the window, I think he has found me. I finally go in my mom’s room and ask if I can sleep with her. I haven’t done that since I was a little kid. We aren’t a particularly affectionate family. I am loved for sure, though we don’t share hugs and feel-good moments, so she doesn’t ask any questions. She moves over, and I crawl in the bed, huddling on the other side while darkness presses in on me. My mom breathes steadily in the silence, but as I lay there quietly, the black hole of those lies is like a wide yawning mouth threatening to swallow me.