clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Learning to Lie

We learn to lie in some very odd ways.

I've thought of this for quite a while. Naturally, it is something of interest to me as my characters are liars and murderers and murderers who lie about murder.

I have now something to share. It is not the finished beast that I will submit, but it is the germ of the story and a tumult for our character. It is a bit of my journal.

My interest is that in the more severe emotional perspective our character can compartmentalize neatly (thanks to an intimate understanding of lies) and that the less well-handled outcome is due to a truth.

I'm not writing here for a message. I am writing for the observation that I have seen too closely : We are quite comfortable with the correct and proper lie, we are uncomfortable with an ill-dressed truth.  It isn't a "new" revelation or something hidden from all other authors. It is merely a subject I care enough about to treat (I believe) well. In so, I think it has merit.

I share.

In a current work I have a fellow who is going to tell the truth. It will change his life drastically. Friends, business associates, maybe even his wife. All the negative consequences come from the truth.

As he is contemplating this event, our protagonist is revealed to be living in crisis. He has few emotional responses, little social involvement, few friends outside of work. As he and his wife enjoy a retreat at her sister's country house - sans said sister - his wife confesses in a horrendously messy manner that she was having an affair with a fellow who was actually in his fraternity and was a part of their wedding. He's broken it off and she wants to tell the protagonist because she works it around in her head that it was the protagonist's "fault." He wasn't sufficiently inclusive of her in his emotions. He wasn't making her feel "special" [ whatever the hell that ever is ...]. So ...

He confides in her that he is about to take action that will forever change their life.

She's not happy but the emotional revelation that she's been having an affair requires her to push the "don't you care" button. He admits he has know for some time and chose to avoid the confrontation of  any of the more clever means of discovery and declaration because he was waiting to see how it worked out in the end.

She has it in her head the "change" regards a divorce. He allows her deception to go forward partly because he just doesn't want to clarify the bit with her and hear more of her talk. Partly, he allows the illusion to go forward to see where it leads. He's going to let the untrue part run its course.

She's furious. He waited to see how the affair might turn out ? What kind of detachment is that ?

She asks him in the "this is THE big question" manner that fractured wives and girlfriends have been known to do : "do you love me, really ?"

We go back and see him as a child of five sitting on a bed. His mother - who any reader would attribute as a nutcase as I introduce her - asks her son "do you love your mother ?" Presumptively, the question stems from some household mystery and the emotional extortion of "do you love me" followed by a "then if you love me , tell me the truth about X."

However, the child - our protagonist at a young age -  sees, understands, and has already rationalized that this and other episodes of the commonplace emotional dysfunction of a 60's household leave no room for the illusion of love. He answers frankly. He tells the truth. He says "no."

The mother quickly packs and leaves. A period passes uneventfully as the child goes about a day free from concern. Some TV, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. The father is absent and unknown so we just know the mother left and the child is fully functional. He reads a bit of the newspaper.

In the late afternoon, Aunt Betty - a neighbor who is addressed as Aunt - arrives and discusses in child-talk the need for his mother and that he really must love her and that life changes horrendously without a mother [ the orphanage threat]. A call is placed and the mother returns home for a hug-filled reunion after a prompted (and reasoned) admission of love. The child's own poorly executed surface lie of "I was only kidding. It was a joke" is not embraced but allowed to pass with the "you never ever lie about love." From the source, we can see the opposite message etched in stone upon the protagonist psyche.

The child reveals in thought that the calculation of lying about feeling any love preserves his world. The scene of course ends with the mother pressing on to ask about the loss of X and the child's involvement (to which he lies flawlessly and now is believed).

We return to the wife ( a mess by all estimation) asking if he loves her. "Of course," he replies. 'I could only wait to be assured you loved me.'

She flies to his arms and sobs with the delight of reconciliation.

He suggests air - cool air might be a good thing for a new start. They walk out through the woods and down to the lake. She never asks about the revelation of "changing our lives" thinking that it had to do with "going to the lawyer's" as part of irreconcilable differences.

He considers the model of change - moving to a small town, a small accountancy, the effort at recruiting new clients in a static economy, and the effects of the stigma of being party to a RICO charge against a Fortune 50 financial firm.

He's weighing the truth versus the convenient lie. We leave without resolution but with the protagonist recounting the theme of the Hardy poem "Neutral Tones." [the poem]

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