A Clever Lie

by Kathleen

Jeanine and I work doing data entry. On Fridays, we cross the street and drink daiquiris before going home. We’d seen him around, straight black hair he tossed back, heavy eyelids covering the bluest eyes, and a weird, thick moustache. His smile was enormous and he floated over to our table with such practiced languor; he had to be kidding. Still, I ran off to fix my mouth: shell-pink pencil, matte lipstick, concealer and fixative.

When I returned, he watched me even while telling Jeanine that people with fingertips like hers were clairvoyant.

Staring at me, he said, “Keith.” And ordered us fresh drinks. After a while, he whispered, “Come with me. I want to talk to you.”

I shook my head but Jeanine said, “Go on, Robyn.”

He wrapped an arm around me, issuing me outside. At seven it was still light and the stream of people flowed past in waves.

His finger under my chin, he said, “A beautiful affliction. Corrected and healed.” Keith traced my scar covered with concealer and I was too surprised to react. He fingered his moustache. “Mine’s a lot worse under here. But yours—I’ve always wanted to kiss a harelip fixed like yours.”

No one has ever said, “harelip” directly to me. The word’s offensive. My tiny scar’s noticeable only in bright light. So, I’ve no right to complain.

His nose didn’t look flattened. And who knew, under that moustache? His smile really addled me. So I said, “Now’s your chance.”

“What?” Like he forgot. And then, “Oh yeah.” His arms circled my waist, tipping me backward for the kiss: people noticed.

Maybe because Keith said the truth—out loud—I took him to the apartment I share with my sister. Of course, I’ve heard “harelip” usually whispered, or shouted from far away, but my family protects me, as if it’s something shameful. So when he touched my mouth and said, “a beautiful affliction,” it sounded like the truest love.

In my room, I said, “I never do this,” which was true.

My sister knocked on my door, “Robyn? Do have company?”

“Yeah.”

We had our clothes off. Keith pressed into me and stopped, his eyes wide. “Am I the first?”

“No. I’m twenty-two.”

“Well, I’m twenty, but I can tell—I’m the first.”

We did it all night with intermittent rests. Keith was determined I “get off.”

“If it’s happening, you’ll know.”

It happened and kept happening.

At dawn, he said, “I’m leaving, Robyn.”

Stretching my hand up, I brushed my fingers through his moustache, which suddenly looked sparse. “Do you really have a harelip?”

“Yeah.” Then: “No, I just said that. But don’t smear that gunk on your mouth. You’re way prettier without it.”

“You lied about that?”

He was dressed and opening the door. Like taking pity, then, he weaved back, his face above mine. “Yeah, but we had fun. Maybe I’ll call you.”

12 comments:

paisley said...

why is it i get the feeling he sucked all the fun out of it with that last line.....

kathleenmaher said...

Your feeling is right, Paisley. In fact, she had more fun than she can probably deal with; so that she'll keep wondering about that "maybe," while both hoping and dreading she'll catch sight of him when she's out with Jeanine.
A clever lie, but a common story.

Rufus said...

fabulous. a great twist at the end.

Mike French said...

Hi Rufus - good to see you at The View - hope you like it here! See you over at GO! Smell the Flowers.

Stella said...

Bastard.

Not you, Kathleen. Sorry. I meant the guy, of course.

kathleenmaher said...

Rufus, Mike, and Stella, thanks for commenting. Rufus, so glad you found me here. Stella, your meanings are always clear--you're a lucid writer. Only someone trying to misinterpret you could.

Paul Burman said...

I agree with Stella and Paisley. What a user. It's good to see a story provoke this sort of response. Nice one, Kathleen.

kathleenmaher said...

Thanks, Paul. I keep thinking things have changed between young men and women dating. But when I ask around, they haven't budged.

Stella said...

I may quote you on that, Kathleen ;)

kathleenmaher said...

Stella, You quote me and I'll quote you.

Manny said...

Where on earth do you get your ideas? This particular lie was certainly out of the ordinary.

kathleenmaher said...

Mostly I'm not sure where ideas come from. This one especially just happened to be there, in my head. If anything suggested it to me the suggestion was totally subconscious.