03 December 2014

Half truths and outright lies

I used to write fiction exclusively — I'm finding it now on my hard disk as I clean things out and look through all the old writing I'd done at college. I find these stories that I see right through, having written them. They're full off embodied memories of the past, nights from high school where all the rooms I was in late at night had Christmas lights hung about and the drone of indie rock in the background. This week, I hung the Christmas lights we took from Malaysia in the living room here, in Birmingham, on Victoria Rd, and they pulse on and off through the night. I told the girls that when mummy and I started dating I had the lights hung round my apartment, which is true: that tiny place in Matsuhama where the Agano River flows into the Sea of Japan. I had a Nissan Alto too, another thing I point out to the girls as I walk them to school and for some reason, there is an Alto on Tennal Rd. Blue like mine was blue. I had this car, I say to the girls.

Where my ability to write fiction went, I don't know. I read through the stories and think about how I was trying to hide and encode memories of things. My character sits on the sofa with his girlfriend and thinks about putting his hand up her shirt. It's plausible deniability in fiction: my character says fuck all the time, not me. I read through these stories that lead to tremendous precipices, and teeter on the edge. I liked to drive up the tension and not resolve it for the reader. This says something who I was at the time. A liar, really, but the kind of liar that thinks he's telling the truth.

One story was called 'Half Truths and Outright Lies', a term I had taken from an accountability group I was in. Accountability group met on Wednesday nights, in Martin's apartment: we were a group of 'men' who had a list of 11 questions we asked each other. One of them was about telling half truths and outright lies. The list of questions though really centred, as these sorts of Christian self-criticism sessions do, on sex and purity, a metaphor now as I think about it, but the kind of metaphor that was lost on me at the time. Yes, of course I had looked at a little porn and lusted, but less than the week before. Someone had a streak of 10 days. There was one of us who never looked at porn and we were very impressed.

I remember, particularly, walking home from accountability — the mytonym we used for the group — in the middle of the night, across the Knox College campus, wondering about my future, about Heather and whether we would make it through the year apart from each other. In December, I went home and asked her, in my parents' garage, to promise to marry me. I don't remember if it was that year or the year before.

Now, I have fewer reasons to lie, but I still hide things throughout my writing. There are no more characters, just myself as a character. Stephen is a fat white man, looking away: I encourage you to fill the truth about what I'm looking away from or towards, whatever it is that you want. In ten years, I suppose I will come back to this writing and remember the feeling of sitting in this room, in the terrace house on Victoria Rd, in the cold with my back to the radiator as the Christmas lights blink on and off. I will remember what I was thinking. There is a list of new failures, not as simple as they were when I was 18 and 19, trying to keep the girl I loved from walking away from me. Now, there are wives and children and bank accounts. No one's leaving anytime soon, nothing as simple as putting your hand up someone else's shirt, or worrying that you might be caught out, that your parents might wake up at the wrong time. Now, there is less to hide — why hide anything at all.

I hear the girls stir in bed. One might have woken up. In this Christmas light lit world, the writing stops at a different precipice.