Sometimes I have this dream where I wake up in a house that's on fire. My throat is already burning and dry, and my eyes are flooded by thick grey smoke that wraps my face like gauze. More than fight for my life, I wonder who the fuck's house I have woken up in, because I know for sure I don't live there.
There is something about waking life that can seem very dreamlike if you look inward long enough. Reality has always been something of a puzzle for me. There's a lot of layers there, who am I, what is the world, and how much of what I see is real or not? It got very muddled as I became painfully aware that not everything I thought to be real actually was. I had to pick apart my reality and the constant that I shared with others.
To make matters more complex, I became a hell of a liar. Lies are a very tricky, complicated thing. Even when they're yours, they have their own fingerprints and their own weight. They wrap transparently over things that are there and take on that appearance, even as they suffocate whatever true being lived below it. Lies, after a point, become convinced of themselves, that their reality is just as good as the original one.
Last year I started writing an article about lies that I remember I had hoped to use as a sort of "come out" for myself. I wienered out by the time I actually decided to post it. I justified my lack of confronting myself because my lies were for my own benefit. They didn't, or shouldn't matter to anyone else.
I put my feet on the floor and I realize that I'm already dressed. Someone's hand is on my arm. "Get up, it's time to go."
No shit, man.
This is kind of a struggle. There's something about admitting what's true that makes me feel like I have to give you some back story to justify why I was a liar in the first place. I guess the simple answer is because I didn't really know what else to do, or who else I was. I was very young.
The real story goes like this: I was a very awkward teenager. I didn't have a lot of friends, or any, really and I spent most of my time by myself. I used to go on these really long walks and listen to music and the whole time I was convinced that someone was going to kill me although I didn't know why I had that paranoia.
On one of those walks, I met the person who would ruin my life. I've already written about that and don't want to again. No one saved me. I just stayed on the floor and cried and felt stupid, and disgusting and used and ashamed, this whole caldera of feelings I had no context for. I never understood how someone could betray me that badly or why, and I shut down. I spent the next three and a half years in my room and In that time, I don't think I ever once admitted what happened. Not until much, much later.
Not until after I had lied about myself for years.
While I was in that hole, I invented the second reality. I invented friends and life experiences so that when I would later have to talk to people I wouldn't feel like such a moron. I invented a past drug problem because it made it easier to ask for drugs when I was old enough to look for them myself.
In my adult life, my lies became my passport to the strange and interesting people. I was too shy, too broken, to talk to anyone without them. With them, I had something to contribute. It got me here.
Get up, it's time to go. And we do. I follow blindly through passages so narrow and full of smoke it feels like I'm pushing through the bowels of a monster with indigestion. The hand that is tugging on my arm is starting to hurt. It's not a hand, it's two fingers. Not fingers, claws. Nubby little claws that dig into my arm. They're so familiar to me.
They're the claws of a T-Rex, a green dinosaur toy that I've been carrying with me for almost a year now. He is conspicuously large but people rarely question me on it, no matter where I take him. His paint is a little bit chipped and reveals his grey body. All in all, he has survived a lot. He is my little protector.
I think I was 19 when I first talked about what really happened, but I only approached it by putting it in the context of my other world.
The story that I told was that there was someone else in the bathroom. He stumbled into my nightmare as an unintentional hero. I wasn't violated, just almost was, and out of the insanity of the experience I had a friend. More friends, as I met his circle. I got into drugs, struggled with them, quit them eventually, went to college. I usually omitted the first part that touched reality until much later. I had my bad crowd, and I used that to explain my weird behavior.
I used my fake teenage years to give myself strength because in that version, I had overcome something, albeit something else. I had an origin story. It helped me explain a lot of myself and even after writing this and admitting that none of it's true, I don't know how much of my daily rhetoric will change. I'm so used to that being my past that it feels like it. I became who I was because of those lies. As I became more sure in my footing though, I realized something that's been hanging around me like the smoke in my dream.
I follow my impossibly large and small plastic friend unquestioningly. I'm not so sure it's because I trust that he knows where he's going so much as I'm confident that I have no fucking clue. Given that, and the fact that I have to assume left to my own devices I end up in the burning house of a stranger, I sort of assume he's better at making these decisions than I am.
We walk outside, but outside is a stage, some show I had but didn't remember. I can't see the audience with the brightness of the stage lights. I feel good about it. There is a kind of stillness, a quiet that lets you know that people are listening, that they want to be listening to you. I think I like that silence almost as much as I like to make people laugh. Stage left, in the wings, T-Rex motions with his tiny arms that I should start. I grab the microphone, look to the floorboards and they're starting to smolder. Well, fuck. This place isn't any more stable than the last one, is it?
I realized as I became more okay with confronting the truth that I also had no grounds to talk about it. Sexual assault is often reduced in court to "He said, she said." All I read about in the media was how it broke down the victims as though they were on trial, retraced every word they said to look for lies and falsehoods. It seemed too late, too distant, to try and find him now, but I had to face the fact that if someone started tugging at my tapestry and uncoiled everything I'd fabricated, what were the odds that they'd start accusing me of lying about that, too?
There is no part of me that thinks I have a defense if they did other than it happened and it broke me. Even now I wouldn't be able to handle that test. The fake reality had webs around the real one, and I haven't really been sure what to do about it.
I think a lot of people could find, at the very least, my motive for lying to be empathetic. It got complicated as I met people that related to my non-existent past; I had some pretty heartfelt conversations with people about their struggles with drugs, or people they'd lost to them, and in the back of my mind I had to wonder if I was cashing in on their struggle, and that felt bizarre and awful. How was I supposed to tell them? It was so second nature to tell those stories and I needed them so dearly. Even now I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do about it. It feels as much a part of me as the actual blankness that encompassed most of my teenage years. It's like I've grown another head, and I'm not sure which one is supposed to control my body.
I don't think I would tell my younger self not to lie. If I hadn't I might have killed myself. It was escapism at the time. It became a little more hurtful when my escape bled into someone else's struggles. The only thing that I can do now, I guess, is bridge the gap between that person I assumed I was and the person I really am. The person I assumed I was, she was tough. She had been through a lot and come out of it strong. I had made her that way, and she was me, so that meant I was, too.
But I'm not. I am incredibly sensitive and I don't take my blows well. I surrounded myself with people that I thought were strong, though, and I made up those stories so I knew what it looked like to feel brave. In a way, it sort of worked. I have a self-confidence that I am gently pulling the false framework away from and creating the skeleton of who I want to be.
Weird as I may be, nearing my 30s and having a plastic dinosaur as my chief companion, I keep him around as an anchor. I'm not very good at managing the chaos in my life. I have trouble deciphering who is really me, who I am inventing out of habit and who people think I am. The older I get the more efforts I make to live honestly. I don't know if it's harder or not, it's just more important.
I can't blame anyone for lying because the truth was something impossible, that harsh reality made you weak, or small, or cowardly, or awful. Maybe that's what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom; our lies aren't just bluffs; if we scare off predators with eye spots, we may adapt to grow those big eyes. Our lies create realities and we can master perception that way. It's a pretty crazy power to have while it lasts.
I'm still ashamed of myself for lying, and for this long, but at least I have the opportunity to be open before getting caught. I've made it this far on a very calculated lie. I can only hope I can make it further on the truth, and hope that my real life isn't such a tinder box.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.