“Whatever Heather, there is no way that’s true. You know what, I’m really sick of all your lies. Why don’t you call me when you’ve figured out how to go for more than twenty minutes without lying,” Joel shook his head in disappointment and turned to walk away before his girlfriend’s tears could persuade him to stay.
Heather just stood there, dumbfounded. She couldn’t believe he had actually done it. He had actually walked away. He had been threatening it for a year now, ever since he discovered her little secret. Ok, it wasn’t a little secret, who was she kidding. Heather was a compulsive liar.
Heather lied about everything, big stuff like where she went to college, everyday stuff like what she ate for lunch, even trivial stuff like her favorite color was magenta (when it’s actually green). She couldn’t help herself; the lie seemed to produce itself before she could rein it back in. And now, she has lost the love of her life because of it, which was ironic for several reasons. One, she had been seeking counseling now for six weeks to help her curb her tendency towards fibbing in order to prevent this very thing. Two, the ‘lie’ that sent Joel over the edge and out of her life was in actuality- the truth. Wasn’t it? Heather ran through the story she had just told, perhaps a lie had snuck in without her knowledge, something that hadn’t happened in several weeks but wasn’t completely unlikely. Perhaps she had had a ‘relapse’ or something.
Thinking back now, she could definitely see how Joel could believe that she wasn’t being truthful; it was a pretty unbelievable story. That and she hadn’t had chance to tell Joel the key element of her story which would have made it at least plausible. At that moment Heather’s phone chirped, alerting her to a new text. Desperately hoping it was Joel wishing to talk to her, Heather lost no time whipping out the device and scrolling to her messages. It was from her boss, Natalie. With a sinking feeling, Heather went ahead and read the message: “Hey Heather! Thanks again for helping out today. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t played ‘patient’ for the exam. See you on Monday!”
Heather suddenly smiled as she finished reading the text. Grabbing her keys from the wall, Heather ran out of her apartment and hopped into her car. Driving like a crazy person, she arrived at Joel’s house in record time- in fact, she had beaten him home. Turning off the ignition, Heather got out and decided to wait for him sitting on the trunk of her car. Swinging her legs like a little girl who has just been told she’s getting a pony for her birthday, Heather was running through what she could say to make Joel listen to her, and believe her.
Looking up at the familiar sound of his car (he really should take it in for an oil change), Heather hopped down and waited while he drove into her driveway and disembarked from the driver’s side. “Heather, I told you, I’m tired of the lies. There’s nothing more to talk about since I know that anything that comes out of that mouth of yours isn’t going to be worth a damn,” he said sadly.
“Ok, then I won’t say anything, at least until I show you something,” Heather said pertly and handed him her phone, with the text from Natalie still displayed. Seeing his confusion at the message, Heather took the opportunity to explain.
“So what you didn’t let me tell you before you took off, is that all those things I said I did today at work, hung out in a wheelchair, be an frail elderly woman with no mobility, that I was almost suffocated, and I was dressed up like a ghost- all of that is true. I was asked to be a ‘patient’ for my boss’ class midterm. Her physical therapy students had to treat me like I was an elderly woman and put me in a wheelchair, they put pillows all around me so I wouldn’t fall over and covered me with a sheet, something called ‘draping’ so my ‘character’ wouldn’t get a chill. Oh and one kid made me lay face down so that my face was stuffed in a sheet and I couldn’t breathe. All of it is true, Joel,” Heather smiled, sure that Joel would believe her now.
Joel looked like he had swallowed a bug. He looked like he had stepped on a tack during a funeral. He looked like he had sat in a heap of warm spaghetti. He did not look like he was relieved to discover he was wrong about his girlfriend lying to him.
“What’s the matter? You can’t say that you still don’t believe me?” Heather said with growing outrage.
Hanging his head a little, Joel kicked at the ground and heaving a giant sigh, dug his hands in his pockets and said, “No, I believe you”.
Heather’s smile vanished before it had time to develop- there was something not right in Joel’s reaction. “What is it?” Heather’s tone was flat and hard. A sinking in her stomach told her that whatever it was, it was not going to be anything pleasant.
“Thing is, ehhhh…” Joel sighed and swiveled his neck so that it popped and cracked like bubble wrap- a nervous tick of his, and further indication that the news was going to be unpleasant. “Thing is Heather,” he started again, “there’s someone else”, the phrase was said in a rush of cold air that seemed to rob Heather of her ability to exhale. Now that the worst had been said, Joel didn’t seem to know how to stop himself and continued, “I met her two months ago at this show and well, we just hit it off I guess. I didn’t mean for anything to happen, I swear I didn’t but…” he spread his hands in front of him in a gesture to illustrate his apparent ‘helplessness’ to not cheat.
Heather stared at him, dumfounded for the second time that day. Finally, after several more awkward minutes of silence, Heather without a word, nodded her head once and left. “So that’s what it feels like,” she said to herself. Thinking of all the lies, all the half-truths, all the embellishments she had told over her lifetime she almost felt like she was even now, like the world had paid her back and they were back on level terms. It was almost a relief in that way, like a clean slate. Of course she was heartbroken- that went without saying, but a little piece of her knew she would eventually be ok, better even. Cranking up the radio, Heather thought to herself, “Lesson learned” and almost smiled. Almost.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Today I played physical therapy patient at work for about three hours. This is something I have been asked to do every year since starting as the coordinator for the program, and no, it wasn’t in the job description. It’s always a little awkward for me to transition from my usual role of advisor, coordinator, deadline giver and form collector to ‘frail elderly woman with no mobility’ as was my character today. That, and getting touched and prodded even, by a bunch of veritable strangers makes the experience just a tab bit awkward for someone who’s catch phrase in college was “don’t touch me!”. But, duty calls, and if the students need a patient, if the faculty need a volunteer… I’m there. Happy (ish) to help. So during my ‘patient’ role today, I was placed in a wheelchair, laid out on a table, covered with sheets, surrounded by pillows and towels and at one point denied the ability to breath (which was quickly pointed out… eventually, haha). I just always think it’s funny on these types of days to think about having to explain my day to someone who has no idea what I do, “Yeah, I got pushed around in a wheelchair, covered in a sheet like a ghost, a towel was stuffed in my crotch and apparently I have no pulse in my foot. So, what did you do today at work?” Makes for an interesting Friday, that’s for sure.
Love & Squirrels.