“Because there are enough lies in life,
so you better be in control of your own fiction.”
“But I didn’t know that I loved her! Not after she left!”
The night before, this man had challenged me to a writerly duel: to commemorate a story of a woman whose departure he regretted the most, in his life. He slouched on a high chair outside of a club filled with pretty honeys galore. With his black, dense Persian hair in a cloud from his own cigarette, he hung that head low, frowned, avoiding my eyes, and confessed his loss of that one woman — the one that every man must have in order to become a man; the one that has changed his heart, for good — for the better!
The following day, after my words had been published, he rang me up immediately, to justify his truth. He must’ve sobered up a bit:
“You wrote that I loved her!” he objected to my story, seemingly irritated.
“I mean, well, I did. I did! I did, but I didn’t know I did. I didn’t know I did until, you know, she left me.”
Oh, c’mon! Don’t give me this shit!
It was my turn to be irritated. The truth, in actuality, was a lot more brutal than I made it sound: “A first lesson in the fragility of love and the preternatural cowardice of men” (Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). In my writing, I had been forgiving to his one crucial fault, never calling him any low name, never scolding for the lapse of his better nature. Yes, I would side with the woman — that one, that good one, like me! — that has changed his heart for the better. For good! On behalf of her truth, I had written that day’s rant blog; even though she had left long ago, in pursuit of an even better truth. On behalf on her truth and of my own, I’d spoken — because I too had just left a man that “did and did, and didn’t know, didn’t know he did”. Fuck you, I thought: It’s MY fiction!
“But you wrote he was all that — ‘holding his own’,” another reader — my brother who’d always changed me for good, for the better — was saying soon after my own break-up.
I had rung him voluntarily, for some truth; because I had been digging around for it, desperately. Perhaps he would know, I thought, what had gone wrong in my love, before I left it. Perhaps, he could’ve seen the signs while its truth was still happening.
“Well, truthfully,” my brother confessed, “he didn’t. He did NOT ‘hold his own’.”
But fuck you, I thought: My lover was MY fiction. How else was I supposed to be in love — but all in, despite the other player’s truths, more obvious to others than to me? Yes, we all do this: We fall in love with the wrong people, ignore the signs, go out on the limb and lose ourselves; only to go scrambling for truth later. And yes, I had done it again — for love, for good. For the better.
Sometimes, the choice is clear: To alter the truth to fit the story. Other times, the split between truth and actuality is not even visible. Because the truth — is a matter of an experience. It’s an opinion. Because no artist creates for the sake of THE truth — we create for the sake of OUR truth. The way we see it, perceive it (and it’s all very specific): The way. The truth. Happens. To US.
So, last night, when I got inside an elevator with three middle-aged men breathing down my neck — and down my backless dress — I gave jack shit about their truth. They could’ve been in town and in this fancy hotel for a vacation with their families. They could’ve been each in the midst of their very happy marriages, with healthy kids in college and their own college sweethearts sleeping dreamily in their beds that they wouldn’t have to make in the morning, for a change. They could’ve been sweet and clumsy — good men slightly discombobulated by the presence of my brazen sexuality and of that goddamn backless dress.
They could’ve been, but last night — they weren’t! All three rode down with me, from the Penthouse to the garage, and they flirted, unapologetically:
“Come on in,” one of them held the doors, waiting for me to join them. “You’re in for some trouble!”
The doors closed. It was just the four of us: Me, in my goddamn backless dress, and three middle-aged men in the midst of their dissatisfactory marriages, in town for their conferences, their infidelity, on the hunt to satisfy their mid-life crises. (See how it’s done?)
“We’ve been watching you all night,” another one said. I wasn’t sure which one of them was speaking; because for the entire ride down, I would be facing out, giving them the full view of my exposed back — and not a sliver of fucking hope!
“Have you?” I said over my shoulder, turning my head just far enough to be seen, but not far enough to see.
“We have! We have!” the third one chimed in, spraying me with his drool. “You were texting viciously on your phone and crossing and uncrossing those long legs of yours.”
“Was I?” I had decided to give them as little as I possibly could. But then there was that goddamn backless dress!
“You were…” one lingered, and I could feel the shivers of disgust bounce down my spine like pearls of a broken necklace.
“You were doing a little Sharon Stone act.”
They laughed. Brutal.
Yes, these men could’ve been sweet and clumsy — good men, slightly discombobulated by my presence. But TRUTH be told: They weren’t! And I had already forgiven them for their faults. I hadn’t called them by some low names, scolding them for the lapses of their better nature. But I was sure that they would reappear in my words — my fucking fiction! — and I wouldn’t even need to alter the truth to fit the story.
“But you wrote…”
Just a few weeks ago, my own former scorned lover would ring me up and give me a laundry list of all the untruths he had to object to. But truth be told: Fuck you, I thought! My life — is MY fiction!