It’s a pretty inventive lie if you ask me. I consider myself clever for coming up with it, but it didn’t spawn from a love of the supernatural—although that has always been a true love of mine—but from something else entirely. Something equally as forbidden!
Tanya and I were in her basement sitting on the seesaw. Yeah, it was one of those basements, like a real life version of Romper Room. The walls were white wood paneling and fluorescent lights provided an extra cheery glow for the heaps of Barbie Dolls that lay in concentration camp-like piles. Her basement was different than mine in that it offered promise: the promise of never feeling bored. She had every kind of foam ball imaginable, every shape, size, and density. Balls to bounce on, balls to throw, and clear plastic glittery balls so small it was hard not to put them in my mouth and chew on them. She had a tiny closet filled from floor to ceiling with board games and colorforms. She even had a “teenager” section in one corner, complete with a shag rug, a lava lamp, and a 45 of Phil Collins singing “A Groovy Kind Of Love.” No joke. I guess it felt dated at the time but there was so much fun shit down there who even cared? You should have seen the rest of her house. The wallpaper in the kitchen had pink and silver flamingoes! It was very “Ruthless People” meets John Waters daydream.
All of the stuff in her basement provided hours of entertainment, but in the end we would still get bored. Of course, that’s when the really fun stuff goes down. Boredom leads to “I dare you to touch Gabe’s tongue with your own tongue for 10 seconds.” Life changing moments. On this day though, it was just Tanya and I, and after playing with Barbie and listening to Groovy Kind of Love for the 3rd time, we lazily sat on the seesaw and asked each other stuff. Tanya finally asked me, “What’s your biggest secret. And you HAVE to tell me. You tell me and I tell you, those are the rules. So… what’s your biggest secret? Go.”
Fuck. She had me in a corner. I HAD to tell. But how could I tell her my biggest secret? I had never told anyone that I masturbated. As far as I knew, I would take that one to the grave with me. Was it something other people did? I didn’t know and I didn’t want to know. All I knew was that I never wanted to tell anyone, and that included her. It was my favorite new weird thing, and if I told her, it might ruin my favorite new weird thing.
“Okay, I’ll tell you, but it’s really, really, really private. No one else knows, and no one else will ever know, and you can never tell anyone as long as you live…”
“Okay,” she said.
“I mean it’s like really private. Like I’ve never told anyone this…”
“What? Do you like, play with your vagina at night or something?”
I was shocked. My face turned red and my heart stopped. How did she know? And moreover, how did she have the balls to bring it up? She said VAGINA! I had no idea what to say to it, or how to respond, so I did what came naturally and whatever my 10-year-old instinct was at that time.
“EW! No I don’t ‘play with my vagina!’ That’s so gross! Why, do YOU do that?”
“No! I was just asking! Because I had heard something about it on TV or something!”
I blew it. I blew it twice. She was basically giving me permission to tell her, but I was too pussy to come clean about what I did with my pussy. Only later did I realize it was because she had been masturbating too and I guess wanted to talk about it. Now I still had to tell her what my biggest secret of all time was, and I had nothing. I was literally making it up as the sentence came spilling out of my bullshit filled mouth.
“The secret is this… and no one knows about it… except my parents, and a few teachers, and if you tell anyone… you will get in a lot of trouble… because… this secret is really… important
“Okay! What is it already?”
“My secret is… I’m a ghost.”
“No you’re not,” she said.
Yes I was. And the reason why it was such a secret was because I knew she wouldn’t believe me, that no one would believe me, and as I spoke, I spun a tale so believable that when I left her house that day, not only did I feel satisfied, but I almost started to believe it myself.
“There are a lot of us actually. I died when I was three, I drowned, but what happens to children when we die is that we get a second chance to live like real people. I’m just like any other kid really, except that I’m a ghost. I’m actually dead. I don’t get sick but sometimes I have to fake like I’ve been sick so that people don’t start to wonder why I’m always healthy. My parents know, obviously, but I don’t really need to eat or anything. I just do it to fit in. It’s a real thing, people being ghosts, but it’s so hard to get the rest of the world to believe it so we don’t tell anyone. Ghosts are looked down upon in this country. Ghosts have a reputation of being scary and mean. People are racist against ghosts, so we chose to stay private. I mean we’re already dead. Isn’t that enough?”
I kept going and she was silent, maybe even a little spooked. I don’t remember how else I convinced her but at the end of the conversation she did in fact believe me. I knew what I was doing was wrong, this huge lie, and I felt guilty about it. But at least she didn’t know I masturbated.
The next day she told me that she had revealed my secret to her mom and her mother assured her there was no way it could be true.
“That’s why I told you not to tell anyone!” I said. “I told you! People don’t want to believe! Your mom is prejudice!”
“Whatever Lesley, it’s not true. I did believe you, but now I don’t.”
“Well, you can believe what you want. I knew I couldn’t trust you with my secret!”
After that we didn’t hang out as much, which was fine anyway, because 6th grade was starting and I wanted to be friends with more popular people. She dyed her hair blonde and wore clogs every day, but she had trouble walking in them so she would just shuffle along and drag her clog heels in the hallway. You could hear Tanya coming from a mile away. When everyone else started wearing raver pants and Polo Sport puffy coats, she wore blue eye shadow and those loud wooden clogs, all year round. She wasn’t trying to be fashion forward or retro. It wasn’t an ironic look even though it sounds awesome now. It always seemed like her family was stuck in 1975 while the 90s were pulsating through my own veins at a crystal meth like speed. Whenever I hear a girl’s clog’s clickity clacking, I think of Tanya. She haunts me to this day.