“Your breathing gets all weird when you lie,” Jay said, turning the length of his body around and squinting at me. We were sitting side by side in his Chevy Impala with some tinny nu metal song playing, it sounded like Nickelback. He loved that shit. I bit my lip and looked to the ceiling, to the stains from rain and slashes of fabric from whatever the previous owner had done to it. I looked to the floor where Taco Bell wrappers were crunched into corners, where his vape cartridges were, where Red Bull spills had hardened and were now sticky puddles like carbonated ice skating rinks. I looked out the window into the fog and the rain, over our city. Pinpricks of light that convey life, busyness, the stars above us impossible to see. I shivered into the hoodie that was his.
It infuriated me how messy yet honest Jay was – it always made me love him more. He’d hold my face in his warm calloused hands, his chipped incisor and eyes like chlorine, and ask me to tell him the truth. He wanted to know all my insides.
He just would never understand that I couldn’t, not fully, not ever, give that to him. It was my fatal flaw, my need for secrets, no matter how small. I lied about whether or not I’d loaded the dishwasher the night before. I lied about letting the dog out. I lied about getting gas. I lied about how much I spent on those overalls. I lied about the tiny bottles of whiskey that littered the bottom of my handbag. I lied about what happened to me in the bathroom at that bar called Trailer Park with the frozen margaritas that always made me barf. I lied about what happened the week I disappeared.
I never lied about loving him. I think maybe I just didn’t how to make my actions match my feelings. No one had ever taught me that.
I willed my lungs to cooperate and I closed my eyes, warming my palms in front of the heating vents. I turned down the radio so he could hear the rhythm of my breath, how steady it was now, how it moved through me like water, like clarity, like I had nothing to feel guilty about. I turned towards him, looked up through my lashes, and touched the back of his neck the way I knew he liked. He was so warm, so sweet, so undeserving of what I’d done to him.
“I pinky-swear, cross my heart, hope to die, I swear telling you the truth.”
Lyz Mancini is a writer living in Catskill, NY. She is a beauty copywriter for brands like Clinique, and has written for Catapult, Slate, HerSTRY, XOJane, Roi Faineant Press, Bustle, and Huffington Post. She is a Pitch Wars 2020 and Tin House Winter Workshop 2022 alum and is represented by Victoria Marini of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.