Two Lies and Another Lie

By Lucas Southworth

We linger as long as we can, in bed, in the mornings, on weekends. We’ve been known to be quiet at parties, and it’s true, we prefer the bedroom to bars and restaurants and museums. We prefer each other to a crowd. I’ve counted one hundred and one nights since we first slipped into this bed together. That was the end of winter, blankets piling up, coffee turning to quick sludge on the nightstands. Now, with summer coming, the two of us lay under the sheet, sweating where our knees touch, where the tips of our fingers rest on each other’s skin. We turn on the television to make sure we’re not missing a celebrity death or terrorist attack or the rare report of a good deed done. We watch a scene from a movie before flipping to another. Each one, we notice, follows a couple or potential couple: a woman and man, a man and woman, a man and man, a woman and woman. They walk through an apocalypse together, or they eat bad beef and have to juggle a single bathroom, or one decides to make a change and the other isn’t so happy. We watch five minutes where a man and woman sit in bed talking, staring out from the screen as if it’s their window to us instead of our window to them. We’re not so unique, we remind ourselves; we’re not so arrogant as to think so. But we have figured out something that few other couples have. We turn the television off to silence, vague and dreamlike, and we move again, fill the air, and we start talking too, but we don’t talk about ourselves. We play a game. Not the one called Two Truths and a Lie, but the one we made up called Two Lies and Another Lie. The challenge is to say nothing true, to avoid, happily, our childhoods and to forget all those years when we were half of other couples before we were half of this. We know, of course, one of us went to the mall and haggled with a kid in a wrinkled polo for this mattress, the perfect firmness meant to share with someone else. And we know one of us followed a realtor through bedrooms and basements and kitchens and held the hand of a fiancée or fiancé until settling on this very place. But we don’t talk about that. In those relationships, in those pasts, there was so much emphasis on truth, on trust, so much of it we became trapped, confined. Eventually we couldn’t help but show more of ourselves, and we let the other person down and we let ourselves down in the process. We’d strayed, and our straying was called a lie. But it wasn’t, was it? It wasn’t. So on our first night we decided on our game, and we found it was like watching each other dress and undress, the undressing a move toward trembling rawness, the dressing a covering up. We coasted on aliens, dragons, and witches, on murder, pleasure and fear. We lived on the telling, not on the breath of the one telling it. I heard that from God, you’d say, or I was visited last night by O the great Muse, or I read that in Vicarious Living, or I overheard it near the pinball machine at the Happy Hipster. We draw curtains and undraw them. We turn lights on or off, depending. We order in or go out to eat. And we’re comfortable not knowing what we don’t need to know, not wanting what we don’t even want. We play our game until we’re kissing and kissing deeper, our skin different and the same and perfect and not and miraculous. There are just a few moments afterward, when you’re sleeping, that I begin to worry about how long we can stretch this. How long it can last until we, again, demand the real. Whether it hurts us to start and start and start without any endings. And I keep thinking of those times on vacation when I suddenly became aware of my keys in my pocket, suddenly aware of how useless they were. The keys didn’t remind me of home so much as the fact that I was not there. And, even when I left them in the hotel room, I found myself sliding them under my stacked and folded shirts or pushing them deeper into the drawer, and deeper, until they were hidden under the crumpled pile of dirty socks and underwear.

 

 

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Lucas Southworth

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