The Anatomy of a Lie

 

The first lie that Christian Edmonds told was when he was eight years old. It wasn’t so much the first lie he told as the first one that had major consequences. And I mean it when I say “major”; he had to learn a whole new skill just to sell it. But that crusty cold winter morning the foremost thing in his mind was that he needed some flowers for his mom who was dying in a starched white hospital bed just a few blocks away.

It hadn’t been his idea to lie; the saleslady had noticed the crumpled drawing that he asked to tie on the bouquet, the squiggly lines that more closely resembled vomit that a dog that run through than the angel he had wanted to portrayed. So the kind lady did a few touch-ups to the drawing, and convinced Christian to still tell his mother that he’d drawn it. All by himself.

She said it would make it more “special,” a word that he had never heard associated with himself. His older sister, with her scholarship to the junior dance academy–she was special. His older brother, the all-star player on his baseball team since fifth grade–he was special. His mother would never miss a dance recital, his father always in the front row at a ball game; neither of them showed up for his classes’ play “The Little Ladybug,” where he messed up his first acting role as a raindrop that cried when it was his turn to go out on stage.

Special. He bought the lie and two pink roses for a dollar fifty cents, and waited in the line of relatives leading up to his mother’s bedside. Being that she was dying his mother did not question his claim and tearfully kissed the beautiful drawing that was obviously not something an 8 year old, even an 8 year old Picasso, could have done.

Unfortunately Christian’s lie did not die with his mother; she recovered and went on to frame her son’s deceit and hang it up in the sitting room, so proud was she that her youngest simpleton of a child had finally discovered a talent of his own. No longer could he stay up in his bedroom all weekend, eating peanut butter from the jar; now he had to come down and entertain guests with his wonderful, special abilities; he had to spend a couple of hours the night before practicing simple sketches so he could at least draw a decent bird or horse for when guests, having admired the framed lie, wanted to see another example of his false talent.

That one, crumpled picture was just the start of Christian’s legacy of deception; in fifth grade he told his teachers that he was allergic to sweaters to avoid being paired with Julia Newton, the little brunette who had a crush on him; and then he had to learn how to fake-sneeze his way through the rest of winter, as well as get his mother to completely replace his wardrobe.

In high school he feigned an ankle injury to keep from the humiliation of failing football tryouts yet again; his father had been long nursing wistful expectations for his second son to be equally gifted on the field. Every season prior when Christian had returned home clutching a name sheet that did not include his own his father would turn from the boy away in disgust, muttering his disbelief that the child even shared the same genes as him. When his mother heard about the injury from the coach she arranged a hospital appointment, and Christian had no choice but to repeatedly smash his foot against his bedpost, a sock grit between his teeth.

He didn’t take his commitment to lying to the extreme, though; when his girlfriend Camila asked if he liked Indian food he was honest enough to say that it was “fine,” which was true because although he couldn’t really feel his mouth or lungs the rest of his body still seemed to be functioning fine. When she pressed him for details he gave up and said it was “delicious,” just to make her flash that beautiful white-teethed smile again.

There was no way he’d know that she’d make it a yearly thing to return to that restaurant on their anniversary. Christian soon learned that once your tongue is numb it quite happily accepts whatever you put on it; it became an interesting experiment each time, and he could truthfully acknowledge his enjoyment in being there.

When Camila kept rewatching “The Proposal” on their Sundays together he figured she was trying to tell him something. He personally liked Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and was also in support of marriage solely for legal reasons. But Camila was American, like him, so that probably wasn’t the hint she was going for. The following weekend Christian introduced her to his parents, and both of them embraced her with sympathetic amazement, whispering between themselves what kind of saint this woman was to have chosen to be with their disappointment of a son.

That spring when he proposed to Camila and she screamed “yes!” he answered with “really?” to which she responded with “why?” and he could only say “of course, yes, good, yes. Yes.”

He found that Camila really liked it when he said “yes” to things, like about having the wedding outdoors even though it was rainy season; when she insisted on training her Corgy to be the ring-bearer he knew the rings would just end up in the dog’s stomach, but he still managed a shocked face and cry of dismay when it actually happened. He agreed to wearing matching sweaters for the family Christmas card even though he was allergic, and then remembered he really wasn’t, and then realized he really had to be.

He also gave Camila the green light for having children.

Now don’t confuse Christian for being a “yes man”; he was nowhere near as idiotically charming as Jim Carrey, and he could definitely stand up for himself whenever he wanted to or deemed it important. He had no issue being open and honest; he told Camila that he didn’t feel comfortable driving the Range Rover she had circled in the catalogue because of a traumatic incident that happened with his pet rabbit and the neighbor’s Rover when he was five.

It was an emotional and bonding moment in their relationship, and Christian felt no shame in the fictional rabbit he had killed to successfully keep his wife from spending money where he didn’t want to.

Children, he rediscovered, were exceptionally easy to deceive. His two-year-old daughter Trisha drank in every word he said about the monsters that lived in the television after dark so she never interrupted him when he was watching a game. In fact she didn’t even ask for his popcorn, she’d steer clear and hide upstairs with her mother.

Sometimes Christian did wonder if he was going too far; sometimes he would almost slip up but he always managed to cover in time and swallow down what he really wanted to but shouldn’t do or say. It was as if there were bars built into his esophagus, and they held down the big, monstrous things that wanted to break out. He only let the pleasant and endearing things float out, things like how beautiful that modern art painting looked in the sitting room, the one that cost their savings for the month and that Camila insisted on hanging low, so low that Trisha threw her dinner plate at it.

He had no qualms about the vasectomy papers he had a doctor friend forge when Camila started talking about having more children. It prompted another emotional and bonding moment for them, as Christian confessed it was his anxiety and insecurity about providing for his family that made him do it. Camila seemed to take it well at first but the next day she took Trisha and moved out to live with her sister for a week.

Christian was devastated, or at least he tried to be, sending teary voice messages every day while he finally took that seven-day camping trip with his former high school classmates. Over beers and freshly barbecued trout the men boasted of the lovers and affairs they’d managed to keep from their bland, boring wives, and Christian found himself spinning a lurid tale of the fictional exotic tryst he’d had with a Brazilian girl who worked at the insurance company where his car was serviced.

After the one week Camila returned with forgiveness and understanding for the brokenhearted Christian, and everything fit seamlessly back together. Until a few months later when Camila found herself pregnant and he had to pretend to sue his doctor friend for not performing the procedure right.

Julian was a happy little boy, though, and Christian did not resent this fourth edition into their family. It meant making some concessions, of course; he faked going to a few therapy sessions to deal with the dead rabbit trauma so Camila could finally get that Range Rover she would not stop begging him for. When Julian seemed to have a speech impediment Christian claimed that his late great grandmother was Mexican, and perhaps their son was speaking Spanish as well. He did his homework the night before, staying up to study Spanish from a Wikibook.

It turned out that Julian really did need to go for speech therapy, and Christian reluctantly took him every week–to the park to play with other kids, using half the allotted money to pay a therapist friend to write a receipt and investing the other half in stocks. He also wasn’t convinced about Julian’s handicap; the boy was probably a liar, just like his father, and wanted an excuse not to go to school. A few months later Julian’s vocabulary improved to the point that Camila decided he didn’t need to go to therapy anymore, much to father and son’s disappointment.

It took a toll on Christian, eventually, remembering all the things he was supposed to be allergic to or had invented a tragic backstory for. He had to remember to cringe at rabbits, to sneeze at sweaters and in shopping malls and in boutique stores. He had a fake cream for a fake rash that the new Italian leather sofa would have given him; he feigned partial deafness in one ear, probably due to a work accident, that kept him from responding to repeated phone calls and babies crying. He wore glasses (with no prescription) that he frequently lost to explain why he didn’t get everything on the shopping list. And he had some medical anesthetic cream on hand that he’d bought off his dentist friend every time she made a dinner date for them at that Indian restaurant.

And then there was the other thing, the biggest one, but he kept it and the all other little gray lies tightly together in his stomach where they wouldn’t leak out.

Unless a large helping of alcohol loosened them. In order to maintain control Christian never got drunk with Camila; he needed to stay clear-headed around her to keep from slipping up. But that holiday the kids were finally old enough to go stay with her grandparents for the weekend, and his company had also shut down temporarily due to a gas leak in the factory. Unable to pull a work excuse he had given in to his wife’s request to go to a Disney costume party, and followed her around with a Pinnochio nose strapped to his face. He passed most of the drinks on to the person next to him but when Camila demanded he compete in a tequila shot challenge with her he had no choice but to consume the toxic potion.

That evening they tumbled out of the taxi and back upstairs into their bedroom, Camila not stopping to pull the Minnie Mouse hairhand off.

“I could do these myself,” insisted Christian as she pushed him onto the bed and unbuttoned his shirt.

“Your nose is getting longer,” she giggled, leaning down to pull the papier-mâché Pinnochio mask aside. Her tongue ran along his jaw and up to his ear. “Lie to me, again,” she whispered.

“I love you,” he said.

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About Elena Sichrovsky 0 Articles
Born in Japan but raised in Taiwan, Elena Sichrovsky is an Austrian citizen now living in Shanghai, China. She's a student there at SUES and also a member of The Shanghai Writing Workshop. Besides short stories, she also loves writing poetry and is currently working on finishing her first novel.

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