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Pants on Fire
I looked across the office at my doctor. She sat with an air of integrity, as a psychologist should. She’s there for me. She’s there to listen to me, but can I hear her?
“Why do you think you feel this way?” she asked me.
I didn’t know how to answer. How do I feel what way? Why?
“I don’t understand the question.” I replied.
She sat there and her expression changed. So did her question.
“Why do you feel like you have to lie?”
I was taken aback. I was lost. I was bemused at this question. Lying? I don’t do that. Lying is something a cat does in the sun, a log in the forest, a man in a grave. But according to her, lying is something I do when I want something, when I’m afraid, when I want to fit in.
“From what I know of you, Samantha, you could have a clinical problem with these lies. I’ve watched you and met with you for two years. It’s not that hard to figure out.”
I was starting to become angry with her. How could she not see that she was wide of the mark?
“Listen, Doc, I don’t know what you’re trying to see in me, but I can assure you that you’re looking the wrong way.”
She just sat there and smiled at me. She smiled as if that was exactly what she was expecting. I didn’t want her to react this way, so I showed my anger in a more obvious approach.
“Doc, you don’t understand, you’re wrong. I know who I am and I know I don’t lie. If there is anyone lying here it’s you.”
I hoped that would turn off that stupid smile and that knowing twinkle in her eye, but it didn’t. She just kept on sitting there with her legs crossed and that coffee mug in her hand, smiling. Then suddenly, she had a therapist mood swing and stopped smiling. Instead she became solemn and looked directly into my eyes.
“Samantha, I know this is difficult.” She said as she burrowed her gaze into mine. “However, you are not going to get anywhere in life unless you try to change. This is a disability. This is your disability. Compulsive lying.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was seriously, utterly speechless. No one had ever really called me a liar before. Well, except for when I was little. I was in second grade and Grace Archambeau called me out on a lie. I had said I had my own horse. Apparently it was named Penny and it was brown with a white mane and tail. It was three days until Grace and her friends found out I was lying. I distinctly remember what they said,
“Liar, liar, pants on fire! Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
They chanted it like it was a tribal ceremony. I was humiliated in front of the whole lunchroom. They kept going until the teachers came over and told them to settle down. But it was too late, I was already sobbing.
It’s because of this I feel that my doctor is wrong. How could I possibly lie when I had a horrible, traumatic experience the last time I did it?
“Listen to me, Samantha.” She said, snapping me out of my worst memory. “You’re parents have addressed this and they want me to work on this with you. So let’s get started.”
At that moment I lost it. I began to sob, just like the time Grace and her friends had taunted me. My thoughts were racing and I started to sweat. My crying triggered me over and over again. It was as if I broke into a million shards and it was impossible for my doctor to pick me up.
Then I did what I do best. I lied.
“I’ve never lied, or fibbed, or feinted a story in my life!”
My voice was echoing inside my head. It was almost like I was a million miles away from myself.
“I’ve never lied to my friends, my family, my doctors, or anyone!”
Suddenly my lies were coming back to me, like flashbacks before you die. There I was in second grade with Grace and her friends.
“I have my own horse! Her name is Penny!”
Then I was in front of my fourth grade math teacher.
“I swear I did the homework, I know I did it!”
I was in eighth grade again with Anthony, my first boyfriend.
“I’m a virgin.”
I made it to my sophomore year in high school with my friends.
“I got so drunk last night!”
I appeared in front of my parents during the summer after senior year.
“I got into Harvard today! I can’t wait to go!”
Hundreds of clips from my life flew back to me. Over and over again they kept coming. Then they stopped. I sat there shaking and crying not looking at my doctor. Not wanting to see her face. Her face was probably smeared with a sneer of victory. She had defeated me. She had invaded me. She had…stopped me. Cured me? Was there anything to be cured in the first place? Had I really been lying? The only lie I remembered was the lie to Grace. Maybe the lie to my math teacher too, but had I really been lying about my ual life? Had I really been lying to my friends?
“Samantha…” My doctor’s voice was surprisingly soothing, even though she had won. But what did she win? Was I the one who won?
I looked up at my doctor. She wasn’t smiling. She was just listening. And at that moment, so was I.