I’m a liar. I lie about things I don’t need to lie about, harmless facts that need no concealing. “Did you go out last night?” “No.” “What do you do for a living?” “Ice sculpting.” “What’d you eat for lunch?” “Salad.” “That doesn’t sound likely.” “You have no evidence to dispute me.” Sometimes my reflex to lie is so quick, I follow up statements with, “That was a lie.” As in, “Yeah, of course I know who Lana Del Ray is. That was a lie.” Or “I ran four miles this morning. That was a lie.” Or “I don’t know what that smell is. I always wash my clothes. That was a lie.” Lies flow out of me smoothly, naturally, like a mountain spring or an incontinent asshole. Nothing can stop the endlessly gushing geyser of deception.
It’s partially a result of having a mother who’s concerned for my physical and spiritual welfare, one who asked reasonable questions regarding my activities. She’d ask, “When are you going to be home tonight?” and I’d answer, “Why, ten of course,” when my brain was saying, “I’ll be home whenever I feel like, lady, cause I don’t play by the rules just like Bam Margera or Han Solo.” Or she’d ask, “Did you do your homework?” and I’d answer, “Yes,” when not only had I not done my homework, but didn’t know whether I had homework, and even if I did, I had no intention of completing it. When someone cares about your behavior and much of your behavior’s malicious or illegal, it behooves one to fabricate.
For a long time, I would steal video games from Blockbuster, clip off the security strip with hedge clippers in the backyard, place the disk in the display case—which didn’t have “Blockbuster” written all over it—and then toss the empty cases behind a bush.
When my mom found these, I said, “Oh my gosh! You know what this means, mom?”
“What does it mean, Brad?”
“It means somebody’s been stealing video games from Blockbuster, clipping off the security strips, and tossing the empty cases into our backyard.”
“Hmm, you seem to know an awful lot about this.”
“That’s because I’m an ocean of valuable knowledge, mother. Now, please excuse me while I go upstairs to play video games I purchased with money.”
For Fourth of July one year, I went out to the country with cousins and shot off roman candles while holding them in my hand. What I didn’t know: sometimes roman candles explode in people’s hands, leaving a burnt stump. My mother asked me later, “Did you shoot off fireworks?”
“Because it’s okay if you did.”
“Oh. In that case, yeah I did.”
“Eugh. Stop lying to me, Brad.”
“Did you have sparklers?”
“Did you have M80s?”
“Did you have roman candles?”
“Did you hold the roman candles in your hand when you shot them off?”
“It’s okay if you did.”
“Oh. In that case, yeah, I pointed them at people like shotguns and chased them around a field screaming.”
“Okay see, I was lying that time. You’re in trouble now because you’re an idiot, and holding roman candles like that will explosively amputate your hand.”
The other day, my cousin told me the sheer volume and nonchalant delivery of the lies terrifies her and makes her concerned for my psyche. The complete lack of discomfort as I look someone dead in the eye, and take them on a voyage to the mystical land of Fallacy, the casual mutilation of their perception of reality — after the third or fourth time I do it, she becomes enraged.
“Why would you lie about that? It doesn’t even matter!”
“I don’t know,” I say.
It denotes a moral failing in me. Lying is such a gigantic moral failing that Satan is known as the Prince of Lies. Not the Prince of Murder or Rape or Grocery Store Sushi, but Lies. At least with murder or rape, there’s an honesty to it, a sincerity. Even with grocery store sushi, you have some idea what you’re getting. But not with lies, and that’s why no one likes a liar.
A few months ago, my mother questioned me about a water vacuum I’d ostensibly purchased to dry the carpet after the bathtub in my house overflowed. She had told me to purchase one or else the carpet would mildew — “Just buy one and don’t be a cheapskate.” I, however, did not want to spend money on something that would dry on its own, and she knew this. So when I said, “I’ll get right on that,” she knew I was lying. I knew she knew I was lying. She knew I knew she knew I was lying, and yet, we both maintained the façade. For weeks afterward, she would question me about the water vac: “How did the water vac work out?” “Do you want to store the water vac at my house?” “Did you empty out the water vac?” Probing the lie! Seeing if the pure radiant light of truth would shine through darkest deceit!
Finally, while helping me move out of the house, she said, “Only one thing left to move: the water vac. Where is it?”
“It’s in the garage,” I answered.
We looked at each other. My mother smiled. How far would I take this? What were the true depths of my fraudulence? We headed toward the garage.
“How did it end up working out?”
“Great,” I said. “I guess I got a nice one because it dried the carpet pretty quickly and when I stepped on it, no more squishy sound.”
“No more squishy sound, huh? Is that right?”
We stepped into the empty garage, looked around, and clearly: no water vac.
I said, “My roommate must have packed it by accident. That’s a lie.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s always a lie.”