by LINDA EDDINGS
Q: You came back to Chicago.
A: I don't know how he knew I was in town, but he did.
Q: You were reluctant to go back with him, to his apartment.
A: He told me he wanted to talk. When he said it, I realized that was what I wanted, too. He didn't look like himself, had put on weight. He mentioned it and explained he had given up smoking. I can't explain this, but it felt like someone was watching us.
Q: Did you feel pity?
A: I tried to. He was telling me about his last girlfriend. She had probably had things on the walls, before she left. I said, why did she leave?
Q: There is a myth that smoking reduces the appetite. It isn't true. The act of taking drugs simply mitigates the pleasure we take from food, in contrast.
A: His mother — when he was a boy — had tied him to a chair when he wouldn't eat.
Q: Did you check on the story? Do you know if it was a lie?
A: That doesn't matter.
Q: I had a boyfriend who was a pathological liar. Eventually I realized when he told a lie he always touched a dimple above his eyebrow.
A: I think a dimple specifically refers to a cheekbone. Anyplace else, it's a twitch.
Q: In that case, your eye is twitching. But since I always knew when it was a lie, it meant he could no longer effectively lie to me.
A: You told him.
Q: No. Our connection was mostly physical anyway. To make him conscious of his tell would be to make him into an effective liar. Since no woman willingly tolerates that for long, I would have been dooming him to certain unhappiness.
Q: We hold the fate of others in our hands. To pretend it is not so...
A: In his apartment, I felt a keening despair. He had nothing on the walls, nothing at all.
Q: That is the mark of someone who is easily distracted from what he should be doing, who could rationalize anything.
A: I know.
Q: Yes, that was good.
A: He said that it was because she knew he loved me. There was no point in competing with that.
Q: He was probably telling the truth there.
A: Do you know when I lie?
Q: Do you know when I lie?
A: I used to think I did. You have become subtler in the years since we began this. I don't see you as a human. You know what I mean. I see you as a useful, kind, giving abstraction.
Q: You did it there. That kind of blithe summary. Weak people - your ex, maybe - are addicted to that sort of thing.
A: His father was abusive, also. When he attained some corporate rank at his firm, his father's first question was, "Why aren't you a partner?"
Q: Don't change the subject.
A: This was the subject.
Q: I meant, don't change it again. I do know when you lie, sometimes. At other times, I don't have the slightest idea.
A: You should look for a tell. It was lucky I could see it in his face. Usually the lie is on the body somewhere: the crossing of a legs, cracking of a knuckle, shifting of a tailbone.
Q: I realized what was happening in the apartment. His girlfriend was watching you. He had to prove something to her?
Q: Were you angry?
A: No. I felt I deserved it.
Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn.
Mixed media by Ching Ching Cheng.
"Sprained Ankle" - Julien Baker (mp3)