Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!
My parents were fond of tossing out quotes, and the above, from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion, was always a favorite. Because if you have children, or just know some, you’ve heard everything from the little white lie to the whopper. Most of us outgrow our lying phases, but sometimes even in adulthood, we find ourselves telling a lie when a truth would serve just as well. It may be the kind of lie that doesn’t open a door to pathological lying, but if we’re going to stick to that single mistruth, it will require care and commitment.
Such is the case with the narrator of Paul Brownsey’s story “True in My Fashion,” which begins…
I am very happy with Kenneth, but the relationship involves a lie. I told it thirty-three years ago.
If you distinguish big lies from little lies, mine was only a little lie. It isn’t, for instance, that I have a wife and children but have lied to keep them from Kenneth’s knowledge all these years.
Nor is my lie anything like that told me by someone I was with before Kenneth, a person who said he was a television producer for BBC Scotland. I thought his rundown, two-room flat in Partick was a bit of a dump for a top BBC producer, but he said it was just a pied-à-terre and that his real home was a big house in Helensburgh where, unfortunately, we couldn’t go because his mother lived there. One room had bare boards and an old vinyl settee and a TV. The other contained a cooker and dripping sink, a wee Formica-topped table, three stacking chairs, a shower cabinet, and a mattress on the floor where we had sex.
Once, he told me that Debbie Harry was coming to dinner with us at the pied-à-terre. Then the story was that she’d cancelled because of flying to New York to record a duet with Darryl Hall but had sent me a present as an apology. I looked at the album, which was signed in her name with love to me, and thought how the bedsheets always reeked of cooking smells, which implied he stayed there a lot.
One night, Kenneth came up to me in the bar and told me that my BBC producer was just a clerk in Glasgow Council’s cleansing department.
When I learned he wasn’t what he’d said he was, I wasn’t upset or angry with him. You need to know a person for that, and here I felt I did not know anyone, because he’d deceived me about himself. If a tree in the park dematerialized before my eyes, I wouldn’t feel shock or alarm, because it would be too weird and disorienting for ordinary feelings.
No, my lie was nothing gross like that.
So what is this web our narrator has woven? The answer is in Best Gay Romance 2014, on sale now in ebook format and trade paperback.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. All rights reserved.