I'm a Liar
I’m a liar. I lie all the time. I can’t remember the exact age when I told my first lie, but it was well past the fragile days of infancy and big enough to digest cow’s milk and eat regular food. My name is Cookie Wheeler. No, that’s not true either. My real name is Constance, but I hate Constance. Constance reminds me of the women at my parent’s country club with surgically preserved lips who talk with clinched mouths. Cookie on the other hand is fun: the roundness of the double oo; the sweetness of a cookie; the way the name rolls off my tongue—Cookieee!
When I announced my name change at age five, my mom, Lynn, vehemently refused to call me Cookie. My dad, Lou, adores me -- I get away with murder with him. He doesn’t have a problem with my name change. Neither does my thirteen year old brother, Liam; he’s been calling me Cookie since he was three. Our housekeeper and my friends all call me Cookie. Mom eventually caved, although when she says my name it usually with a suspicious stare. From an early age I could tell she wasn’t exactly sure who she was addressing. I also knew from an early stage I had the gift of persuading people.
“Crash!” The startling sound came from the living room – the room in which I stood, head down, hands behind my backs. Beside me: a freshly shattered crystal vase. Yellow roses flew everywhere and a wet stream worked its way across the newly buffed marble floor. The Siamese cat darted under the sofa before Mom and Dad appeared at the doorway.
“Oh god! Not the Baccarat.”
Mom looks me over from head to toe and says in a steely voice, “Why’d you do it?”
My misty eyes shift to Dad, “I didn’t Daddy. Coco did it.”
The house drama escalated.
“That damn cat,” growls Dad.
“The cat? Lou, are you serious? That cat has never broken a thing in the two years we had her.”
Dad raises his voice, “Jesus, Lynn, Constance is only four. She can’t even reach the mantel. She couldn’t have done it. Besides, why would she do such a thing?”
Mom shouts, “Of course you don’t think she did it; not your sweet precious, daughter. She’s perfect and incapable of doing anything wrong!”
Looking back, I know why I fibbed. It’s simple. I wanted attention, which I got, but then I was afraid of what would have happen if I told the truth -- I wanted to smell the pretty flowers. I stood on my tippy toes and with both hands I grasped the hook of the umbrella and knocked the vase to the floor -- I hid my weapon underneath a skirted chair. The fear of the truth outweighed the fear of punishment. All I had to do was lie and the fear went away.
Dead Lizards Tell No Lies
The well appointed house, with an American flag flying, white-and-green-trimmed windows and a pleasant garden – is where I live. Glass siding doors open onto our pool. It does look beautiful, but isn't it the worst drowning hazard ever?
The lizard floating in the pool is a silent, graying corpse. Mom reaches for her throat: “That’s . . . very peculiar,” she says.
Completely perplexed, Dad says, “I wonder what happened.”
I put my finger in my ear, twirl it around, and whimper, “I don’t know Daddy. I didn’t drown the baby lizard.”
Daddy wraps his arms around me and says, “Sweetie, of course you didn’t.”
Mom’s face tightens as I go on and on about how I found the poor little thing in the pool with it’s head and tail missing. She looks at me annoyingly, but refuses to speak what on her mind. Turning her attention back to the headless body, she shakes her head side to side, and then turns to me and says: “Oh dear, I must say it’s the worst case of Lizard suicide I’ve ever seen.”
“Don’t start, Lynn,” says Dad.
I blink a few times. Mommy knows. I feel a little dizzy. Even at six years old, I'M few moves ahead. The dizziness begins to clear. Thoughts are swirling through my mind. Wiping at my eyes with my fist, I began to sob on que, “I’m scared, Daddy. What’s suicide?”
“See what you’ve done. Now she’s going to have nightmares.”
I look at Mom, who meets my eyes but doesn't waver. She stares at me for quite sometime before she walks back through the sliding glass doors.
I cling to my lies as if they were a life raft. Every lie I tell is my way of being a part of things. The lizard didn’t want to play dragon with me; he tried to crawl away. The tail thing was an accident.
First Human Lie
My brother was my first human test in how far I could take lying and get away with it. When I was nine, the money out of dad’s wallet went missing and showed up in a sock in Liam’s closet. My brother was powerless.
“I swear, Dad,” Liam pleas. “I didn’t do it. Cookie did it.”
“You stupid liar,” I snap back. “Daddy, you know I didn’t do it. You believe me don’t you?”
With an edge of defeat in his voice Liam says, “Cookie’s lying!”
Dad tells Liam "possession is 9/10 of the law." It pisses Liam off alright, but when it comes right down to it, it is my word over his. During all the screaming, I’m thinking, I should make a peanut and jelly sandwich with the crust off, the way grandma makes them. The whole month Liam is on probation and sentenced to hard yard work; I stay awake to the wee hours conjuring up my next lies.
I feel a thrill every time I lie. I like lying. At thirteen, convincing is no longer a second person. It's become a first person. I don’t care about honesty. Honest doesn’t give the same excitement as making up stories. There’s no shame in it for me. I think of it as a perfected art. I only mist up when lying calls for it. My heart and my eyes don’t mach up. My heart wants to jump out of my chest and run further into the deep hole of lying. My eyes like to stay put and watch calmly from a secret place. I like the way my heart beats fast; the thump, thump, thump is like running a lying marathon. I don’t deny that it’s exciting.
I don’t have a physical deformity, I’m above average intelligence, and I’m from a well-off family. At fifteen I play all the good characters: straight A student, president of my class, perform at the Playhouse in the Park, sing in the choir at Smithfield Presbyterian Church, and work as a volunteer tour guide at the Smithfield Anthropology Museum. On the surface I look normal, even cool. I’m a poster girl for uplift. I’m a symbol of the global wave of optimism with my blues eyes, head of long, curly blond hair, and slender body with a nice set of boobs. I have the whole package as far as looks go, although my head is someplace else most of the time. I think in unsentimental clarity, the way a doctor does when cutting open a patient.
Mr. Poe, my algebra teacher, believes me when I tell him I need to stay after school and study for the math test. "Mr. Poe, I say with watery eyes, I swear I'm going to fail because I absolutly can't concentrate with my brother and his friends constantly shooting hoops outside my bedroom window." Mr. Poe is very accommodating. He even stays to help me past the test from childhood to womanhood -- at least that’s what I tell the school’s principal.
The shit hits the fan when my parents are called to the school. I am questioned. Mr. Poe is questioned. My word over his, my word wins. Dear sweet Lou and Lynn pull a lot of strings -- and a lot of cash -- to cover the whole thing up. After his divorce, it's rumored that Mr. Poe is taking another job out of state.
I spend a bunch of time on my computer doing research on psycho adolescents. In the past two years I’ve taken my gift to new levels of achievement.
I’m in my fifteenth year and it’s an early Sunday morning when our door bell rings. I hear faint mumbling from my parent’s bedroom. I’m lying in bed, listening to the sounds of their footsteps going down the stairs and the beeps from the alarm being turned off. I jump up, tip toe to my bedroom door and press my ear to it. I’m not the least bit surprised by the early morning commotion. In fact, I know exactly who's at the door. I called them. I got the idea from “Is Your Home a Healthy Home for Children?” web site.
I crack the door and tip toe to the top of the stairs so I can see all the action.
“Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler.”
“Yes.” says quizzical Mom.
“My name is Carla Bovin. I’m from Social Services. I’m here in response to a complaint to the Rhode Island Agencies Child Abuse Team. I heard information that a child may have been abused.”
Dad’s voice goes up an octave: “What the hell are you talking about?” Do you have some ID?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Miss Bovin, says Mom, “I’m sure there is some mistake here. You’ve obviously have the wrong address--"
“No, uh, Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, may I come in?”
“What happens if I refuse to let you in?” says Dad.
“Sir, Rhode Island Social Services and the police have a duty to think about the immediate safety of your child. They may seek an Order from the court giving them permission to interview or medically examine your child, without your consent.”
“What? Police? Lady, says my Dad, “I assure you my children are not in any danger.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Wheeler, my job is to try and find out from you and from your child, if there is any truth in the allegation and if there is any immediate danger to the child.”
By this time I can feel the full rush of my lying addiction. I know my craft, like an actor who knows his lines before he steps on stage. Bring it on.
“With your permission, I’d like to talk with uh, Constance?”
I hear the surprise in Dad’s voice: “Cookie?”
A mystified Lou and Lynn share glances that read: What the hell is she talking about.
“My God, says Mom. “I can’t believe this is happening. I demand to know who called the . . . the—”
“Agencies Child Abuse Team, Mrs. Wheeler.”
“Whatever. I demand to know.”
“Mrs. Wheeler we can’t reveal that information. It’s private.”
Dad says ina grumpy voice: “Just go get her. We’ll clear all this up.”
“Action, camera, lights.” I run back to my bed and pull the covers to my chin.
(To be continued)