by Nik Perring
Once upon a time there was a liar, and this liar lied about everything. It wasn’t by choice. If he was asked a question he would answer it with a lie. It was simply the way he was.
As you can imagine, this made the liar’s life more complicated than it should have been. When he was a child he only ate his favourite dinner once – his mother genuinely thought that he didn’t like it. So, our liar grew up eating green food, and watching documentaries, he played with wooden animals, and he listened to classical music. Some might tell you that those were not bad things, that they helped, but he wouldn’t agree with you. The liar’s childhood was, more or less, the opposite of what it should have been. Good things were rejected and the bad were welcomed.
Little changed as he grew older. The liar failed at university and at every job he took since. He lived in houses and towns he hated, he had almost no friends, and he dated women who were bad for him. The saddest part was that those relationships only ended when his partners were sick of him, or got bored; the liar always survived crunch talks.
‘Do you really want to be with me?’ they’d ask. ‘Shall we try to make this work?’
And he’d answer, ‘Yes.’ Every damn time.
The liar did manage one good relationship though. I don’t know how, but it worked. This was before a lousy marriage, and its complicated divorce, and before the lousier marriage and divorce that followed that. Her name was May and, somehow, for a time, she understood.
What got her in the end was the dull and sickening ache of someone who couldn’t make her lover happy. Sure, she wanted to be told nice things, she’d have loved a compliment no matter how occasional, but mostly she wanted her liar to be happy. She wanted him to tell her what he wanted, so they could do the things that he enjoyed once in a while.
She just wanted normal and, if you ask me, she deserved it. She was a beautiful, beautiful woman.
But the liar couldn’t change. If he was asked a question he would answer it with a lie. It was simply the way he was. And so one day, May, knowing the liar could not change, made the most awful decision of her life. She even asked the liar, her brown eyes wet with tears and heavy with sadness, if he thought they’d be better off without each other. I don’t need to tell you how he replied. So, cracked and broken, May packed her bags and left. She took a job in Germany and flew there the next week. It wasn’t her dream job, but if it was then at least she’d have been able to say.
Losing May hit the liar hard. He tried to write, he wanted to call, but he knew how it would end up, and he didn’t want that. So, he moved on, as best he could. From lousy job to lousy job, and from lousy relationship to lousy relationship. And so on. The weight of regret was heavy. Some nights, as he tried to sleep, he could feel it on his chest. Sometimes it stopped him from breathing.
The liar did not see or hear from May in years.
He saw her last night though. The meeting was unplanned, of course. May was back in town, back from Germany, to attend a funeral. She and her sister went to a bar to toast the deceased. And he was there too. She saw him as she was raising her glass.
It was against her better judgement to approach him, and her legs felt weak with nerves as she did. But she did. She walked across that room and she joined him at his table. Struck up a conversation.
After a little time had passed, and once she felt she was able to, she asked him something important. She asked him the most important thing she’d ever asked anybody in her whole life.
May looked straight at the liar and she said, ‘Do you miss me?’ and then, a moment later, ‘Did you really love me?’
The liar opened his mouth to speak, but he closed it again quickly. He fumbled at his glass, breathed deep. He did not reply. He simply looked at her. The answer was in his eyes.
He said nothing and for long, long moments, she said nothing either.
They just watched each other. And, finally, they both understood.