Truth is merely a perception. Memory, a feeling. Right?
In other words, does it really matter that (you think) your sister always got the extra spoonful of fried bacon on her polenta, or why your mum was draped over the ironing board, weeping, that bright Saturday afternoon in June (or was it August?) the year you turned nine or maybe seven and came home with a tadpole in a jar. Or was it a bee?
It´s what we take from it that counts. It´s the part that remains that has all the punch. Even if we made it up.
I´ve been thinking about this kind of thing since reading Lynn Crosbie´s Liar, (Anansi, 2006). Though not about being nine or bees in jars—it´s about adult love betrayed—the same principle applies. We remember what we need to, and if we´re lucky we figure out a way to do something with it that allows us to move on.
In this case, Crosbie has chosen to write a poem that reveals love in all its dimensions, including the kind that lingers as something important yet also suddenly somewhat irrelevant
It would surprise you, how seldom I think of you…not hating you as much as what you have done.\ You could be anyone.
Never whiny or even slightly cruel, her prose shows us the world she lived in through the prism, the remnants, of perception; a looking ´back´ at love once it´s morphed into something clearer, more honest. It´s all memory and feeling; truth and lies in various forms.
It is unpleasant to see people change. It feels contagious, it feels as if it is their own fault.
I am tired of watching women who, in their terror of being left, are changed also.
Large women, as insistent as thunder, made small, their allure recast as repulsion, all of them looking for dust in the corners, freezing sauces, probing themselves with sharp instruments.
Crosbie shares what it´s like to be both betrayed by someone and by oneself. The things we tell ourselves in order to keep what destroys us. We protect the liars by lying to ourselves.
The piece is focussed throughout, without slipping into notes of revenge, imposing hurt, or issuing blame. Even references to sexual intimacy are muted as if to respect the former lover´s present life.
Clearly, this is not about The Other, it’s about Self. A much harsher truth to face.
Deception itself is pleasing, because it alters you, entirely.\ Then things resume as they were.
Despite knowing her relationship (with the unnamed beau of several years) is crashing, and even though she has, by now, forgotten him ‘in theory’…. It is our life I cannot cross over, as though we sunk our savings into a business that leaked money, that bled us dry.
Heaving, you began to speak and blocked out my past.
And then, the end, only realized by his new beginning and…the tiny anchor of her diamond.
The moment we let someone into our lives, they come equipped with enough ammunition to destroy us,\ though the terms of destruction are unclear.
I had let him see too much. In doing so, he became disgusting to me.
I especially enjoyed her memories of trying to integrate with him, his family…
I was following your mother around the kitchen, trying to help. Wiping the counter, re-folding the gingham tea towels.\ Have you tried this new Swiffer thing, she asked, and the intimacy of the question disarmed me.\ I was sorting through five different answers when she said, With that place it´s not likely to make a difference.
She, the narrator, remembers watching him as he slept…. watched your eyes drift like fish under your lids.
And her own insanity, her own culpability in things (and I adore her for this, especially)…
What are you doing in there, I would ask. This sort of recollection makes me understand your departure better.
Maybe the saddest line in the book is when she refers to his marriage to someone else, and hers with him that had no ceremony, but had other markers…
…every day you rushed home to me, without stopping.
Liar is about different forms of betrayal, a love poem and a lesson.
Ultimately, perhaps, it´s a gift to self—and quite possibly the best form of revenge.
(~Read under a large umbrella, next to a small vineyard in the foothills of the Andes.)