The affair only lasted three months, or so she says. Hotel rooms were booked in different parts of town with prepaid Visa cards so as to not show up on any trail if the husband were to go sneaking around. Cash was trashy, she insisted, as I tried not to laugh at the oxymoronic nature of the statement. The places were always located next to busy shops and restaurants, so they could park there, instead of at the hotel. The planning was meticulous, or dare we say the deceit was flawless. It takes a lot of work to do bad things, but maybe that is why we do them, because we just get too bored doing the easy stuff the right way.
She told me the story in private, in a room full of people. She knew they weren’t listening, or perhaps she hoped they were. There was always a bit of carelessness in the way she told me the stories, the way she would paint the picture without any regard to if she spilled the paint on the floor. For someone who took the time to plan out the perfect lie, she sure didn’t seem to care who knew, as long as it wasn’t him. She couldn’t tell her friends, she knew them all too well, and she knew that they would marvel at the tale at first, and then attack her with it later, if the timing was right and if the stakes were high enough.
I know the story well, hers and his. I know what she did and why she did it. The lies she told, the secret places visited, the words spoken and the ones not. She was good at her telling, almost as if she got more joy from the planning of it all, the telling of it to me in secrecy, than she got out of doing it. Husbands don’t find out the lies of their wifes, because to do so would take work and effort, the ability to actually sit and talk, to piece inconsistency together like a beaded necklace. For him to have found out he would have to do the one thing she would say he lacked, the ability to actually care. Oh sure, he would make a scene and probably divorce her if someone were to say something, but she wasn’t worried about him, about his private detective skills. No, all the work, the cover up and the misdirections weren’t for him, they were for me, or whomever else she chose to tell her lie to. She did all the work because it made her feel special, made her feel smart enough to go through all the details and make the plans. He never really thought she was smart, and perhaps this was her own way of proving to herself that she was. It was never really about the sex, it was about the lie, the building of it, and the getting away with it. This was about her getting away with the telling of a story, and feeling important in the process.
I hear stories, I am told tales. I am one part bartender, and the other part priest. The people that are too afraid to go to the confessional come to the clinic. They come in, lay down, and in the mist of stretching and physical pain, they tell me their stories of emotional pain. Sometimes they do so in the cover of tears, the sadness and misery of things long gone, caused by the parents they hated while alive, but dearly miss once passed. Other times the stories are about what really happened, the tale that isn’t told to the doctor, the real reason the ankle got twisted, or the bones broken. Doctors will listen for minutes, to see the physical damage and repair the dents. I get to talk for hours, to understand why they were in the car in the first place, where they were going, why they were going there, and who they were meeting. The doctor only sees the results of the carelessness, I get to see the cause.
The authenticity of the tales is never questioned. I am not the judge, merely the confessional. My goal is to not bring shame, for many times, it’s already there, waiting for the perfect time to grow and bloom into a beautiful flower, one that has been hidden for so long. People want to talk, to share their stories, to tell their lies. The problem is that other people don’t want to listen. The game of one-upmanship isn’t just reserved for the winning stories, some want to compare tragedy. And what better place to share the stories of pain, than with a person that deals with it for a living.
Lies eat people up. They consume us, like a lighted match, burning bright, hot, angry. Sooner or later the flame will consume the very thing that allows it to exist, the stick, and eventually, it will burn the fingers of the one that created the flame in the first place. Lies are a virus, once created, they no longer belong to us, they are an entity of their own, and the longer we try to hold on to them, the more they will consume us, eat at us, and maybe eventually kill us, or at least the soul.
I hear the stories, I am told the lies. I am the person they have come to trust because I have found the secret to listening to lies, and that is to listen. People want to talk, they want to breathe out the lies that have consumed their lives, all in the attempt to extinguish the flame, before they get burned. Others hold on, hug the lie because in the cruelty of the world that rewards individualism, the lie they have, the problem they created, is the only thing that makes them feel special, the one thing that gives them a sense of place, but not purpose. The lie helps them feel like they aren’t like everyone else, that they are somehow special now, but in the process of holding on to the lie, of keeping it alive and feeding it, they have found out that the lie is also the thing that keeps them separated from the others. It really is quite sad, the wanting to feel accepted by the whole, to be part of the in-crowd, that you will go to great lengths to be the bad you see in others, to be part of their evil, rather than be part of their salvation. We want so much to be liked that we do the things in the dark, because deep down we all know the common denominator for people is shame. Lies are there to lie, to live on for the sake of evolving, of growing larger and darker. The virus will eventually die with the person it embodies, unless it is freed, it’s power taken.
I will hear the story of love lost, of hate created, of secret places visited with lovers. The stories will be told because I will be there to listen to them, to allow the holder of the match to strike it, to let it burn, to give the teller of the tale a place to extinguish the fire, but only after they have a chance to watch the flame. People get obsessed with the flame. They get hypnotized by the lighting of their match, of the brightness and the warmth of a small fire, one that can cause great damage if dropped on the dry ground. And maybe that is the power they seek, the power of how damaging their small flame can be. Sometimes, all I need to do is remind people that firefighters are more heroic than arsonists. People need to hear that it is more powerful to put out the flame than it is to keep lighting it. People light the lie because it helps them see in the darkness of their mind, what they don’t always understand is it is easier to come out of the darkness of the cave they have chosen to live in rather than keep lighting matches.
I will hear the stories again, they will make their way out of the person and into the light. I will ask a simple question, and they may take it as a complex one. I will sit and listen, not acting shocked by the tales that come out, just allowing the person to do the one thing they don’t get to do other places, feel important. I know some of the stories will be true, and some maybe ambellish. I will let the fisherman tell the stories of the big one they caught, let them have their moment in the spotlight. I allow the actors a stage, a place to feel appreciated, to play out whatever scene they have in their head, fiction or non, for my goal is the person, not the fable. Some people need to release the poison that is infecting their soul, slowly eating away at their very existence. And for some, I may be the only person they talk to that day, the only set of ears that will be available for them to say the things they want to say. Everyone wants to feel important, and my job is to allow them to do so, one little match at a time.
Whatever happened to the lady you wonder, the one at the beginning, the one whose affair only lasted months, but her sense of dominance will last for years? I don’t know, her knee got better, our time done. Oh, you got excited about her match, her story, her small little flame and how she liked to let it burn in front of me. Be careful with matches my friend, don’t you get hypnotized by the flame of others, for sooner or later, you may want one of your own, to hold and to stare at. For if you play with matches, you will eventually get burned.