There are few things more nebulous or slippery in this world than the truth. Two people might experience the exact same thing, yet somehow one can see a pond and the other an ocean. Whether the truth is a pond or an ocean doesn’t matter. When there’s no one to vouch for you, every truth is just a story you hope others will believe.
Sometimes we misuse truth. We abuse it. We rip it to sheds and sew it up differently, then hide the needle and thread so no one knows what we’ve done: Look what you did we cry, pointing at this new thing whilst the other person stumbles and stalls and tries to remember.
The Thai’s been talking to me again. It started over the summer and I had hoped maybe she’d give me another chance but it soon becomes clear she’s not here for love but catharsis. She sends me messages full of anger, eking the pain out in drips at first, then gushes and roars until my mouth and nose are so full of it I can scarcely breathe.
She tells me I’m “stupid,” “manipulative,” a “compulsive liar,” and her dad “fucking hates” me. She tells me all the appalling things I’ve done. Did I do that? I wonder. I don’t even know. My light wind is her tsunami. My burnt toast is her house up in flames.
I apologise over and over and over again but my grovelling is grist to the mill of her anger. The more I say sorry, the more hateful I become. “You know for a writer, you’re terrible with words,” she spits at one point but there are no words I could say that will make this better.
Seeing the pain I’ve caused is terrible. It’s like being forced to walk onto the battlefield and look on the bodies of the dead knowing you were the one who lit the bomb. I realise in a way I never have before how much power I have to hurt and it scares me. How did I not see? Why wasn’t I more careful?
All the time that I was crying for want of the Friend, the Thai was crying for want of me. The difference was that I let her, I encouraged her, because her kindness was a balm to my broken heart. Of course the Thai won’t forgive me. My behaviour was unforgivable.
And yet some of what she says isn’t true. I’m not manipulative. Clueless, yes. Selfish, yes but I’ve never been manipulative. I’m not a compulsive liar either. If I lied – once, twice – it was only ever because I didn’t want to scar her with the truth. If I lied, I lied for her.
It doesn’t matter what I say though because our truths – her truth and mine – have drifted so far they’re like lost, lonely stars. Who said what and why? Who felt what and when? Our history has been pawed over so many times it’s come apart in our hands in a cloud of dust.
So then, what’s the truth? My truth is that I liked her very much but I had feelings for someone else. I tried to get close to her, too close to her, and I ended up hurting her terribly. I was selfish, but I couldn’t see it. I was cruel, but not deliberately so. If I lied, I lied to save her feelings.
I’m not a monster. I’m just a woman who made a mistake and is sorry.
That’s the truth.