2PANTS ON FIRE
From an early age I figured out that I was a great liar. Phenomenal, actually. I also figured out that a great liar can easily manipulate people into getting what they want. So for a really long time, that’s what I did. I lied. And I got what I wanted. It wasn’t really much of an active choice as much as it just became part of me. I lied a lot. Lies that people today still don’t know are lies. They’re just walking around thinking that what I’ve said is the truth. But it’s not. It is fiction. My imagination. And if you put my hyper dissociative disorder aside, I think what made me a great liar was the fact that I could keep it a lie; Nobody ever caught me. Keep the lie as close to the truth as possible - it’s easier to remember.
I was 15. It was early August and it had actually been a nice summer in Sweden, for once. I had become one of those people who said that they preferred to hang out with the older crowd but never actually did. I bragged about things that hadn’t really happened and I exaggerated a lot. I had been bullied heavily through middle school, and this was the summer everything was going to change. This was the summer I was going to re-invent myself and take over the world.
My not-so-close friend from Los Angeles was in Stockholm, visiting with her family. She was a real “Cali girl”, smoking weed constantly and talking about her many model friends. It used to fascinate me, how people could go on and on about their famous friends even though it had nothing to do with the previous conversation topic; the name dropping and casual but not too casual mentioning of awards or achievements. Now I live in LA and I do the same thing. Urgh. Anyways, she was visiting for two weeks and I was the only person her age that she actually knew so by default I ended up having to show her around. We ended up sitting on these cliffs by the water, a somewhat sacred summer spot for the neighbourhood kids. We were both trying to make our lives sound more interesting than they were, as teenagers sometimes feel like they have to do. (Why do we constantly feel the need to prove ourselves?) And all of a sudden she got a text. One of those texts that brought out a genuinely excited facial expression on her, something I had yet to see.
Earlier that summer she had a met a Swedish model in Los Angeles. He had been there for work and they had been friendly, most likely because they both knew that they wanted to fuck each other. I can’t remember where I read it, but did you know that most people can tell if they want to sleep with someone within 2 minutes of meeting them? I can see that. Totally. My friend took a deep breathe, I think to hide her excitement, and started telling me their story. She explained how she really wanted to meet him now that she was in town and how I had to help her hook up with him. Great, exactly how I wanted to spend my last days of summer holiday. But I knew her friendship could come in handy if ever decided to move to Los Angeles, so I put on my best smile and said “Girl, he better have some cute friends!”. Pause for laughter. She laughed.
Just a few days later, we were walking out of the metro on our way to his apartment. He lived in a nice neighbourhood and we were giggling our entire way over there. Excitement. Genuine excitement on her part, not so much on mine. But it was still something out of the ordinary. And it would be a good story to tell my new friends when starting high school. We stood outside his apartment building, about to text him that we were there, when we heard my friends’ name being called. We had just been talking about how he didn’t know how old we were, and how we wanted to keep it that way. “Let’s say that were 19, if they ask.” Had he heard us? We both looked up. Blonde hair, blue eyes, tanned. Typical Swedish boy. I wanted to roll my eyes but had to admit, he was a pretty good looking guy. He was sitting in the window smoking a cigarette, and threw down his key as he told us to come upstairs.
We walked into his apartment. And yes, of course, it was the most beautiful apartment. Huge windows, high ceilings and big open spaces. He was in the living room, now casually laying in a hammock, hanging in one of the rooms corners. He got up to greet us. He introduced to us to one of his friends, another “Typical Swedish boy” blonde. We all sat down, less nervous energy in the air than I thought there would be. The guys pulled out their cigarettes and I did the same, not only because I wanted to seem older than I was but also, I just really wanted a smoke. We were all talking, sharing life stories and fun anecdotes. I was obviously making mine up. “I’m so glad I’m done with high school. Seriously, it was such a waste of time,” I hadn’t even started yet. “I’m a photographer, mostly passion projects but shit work is still work” I take photos on my DSLR sometimes. “I lived in Bangkok for a year,” I was there for a couple of months when my mom’s new husband had to be there for work.
Age never really came up, because there was no need for it. I did most of the talking, out of me and my friend, and I could tell that everyone in the room was impressed. Charmed, even. That is what my lying ability did. It helped me make my mark, work a room. I could create a persona and fully let it take over me. Whoever I needed to be, I could be. And I was enjoying it, the spotlight. Their eyes on me, my voice filling the room. The people, an audience almost, leaning in and giving me their undivided attention. And it’s easier with people like those; they don’t know me, we don’t have mutual friends and we’d probably be in each other’s lives for a couple of days. So we sat there, talking shit, until a knock on the door interrupted our conversation. Another typical Swedish boy? Not even close.
Their friend had run out to buy smokes before we had gotten there. He stood in the doorway for a second as if he was scanning the room, noticing me and my friend, the two female presences that hadn’t previously been there. He just stood there. Calm. Observing. Tall, dark features and tattoos. Our eyes met. And there it was, something I hadn’t felt in awhile; genuine excitement.
He walked across the room and chose to sit next to me. Cheap after shave. Worn clothes. Stubble. He made a gesture to borrow my lighter and I nodded in its’ direction. I still can’t put my finger on it, but there was something about him. He moved slightly closer to grab it. He lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply before blowing the smoke out. He looked at his cigarette with both love and hatred in his eye, before turning to me. He introduced himself and shook my hand. His grip was firm and with intention, and all I remember thinking was “I hope his intentions are the same as mine”. We dove into conversation and two minutes in I knew that I had a new goal for that encounter. To leave with his phone number. Minor tweaks to the persona I had created, and I was ready. Ready to lie my ass off to get what I wanted.
We stayed for another couple of hours, until it was soon time for dinner at home. Right before leaving they told us about a party that would be happening the next day. And that we should definitely come. They would let my friend know the where and when. And the rest would be up to us. We all hugged goodbye and the two of us were giggling the entire elevator ride down to street level. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t asked for my number, or given me his. There was something about that look in eyes, something about the way he hugged me. The game was on. Maybe he didn’t know, but I did. And if winning was what I wanted, I’d win.
My first realisation at the party was that it was nothing like I had previously described my “exciting encounters with the older crowd”. I had always imagined people doing all kinds of drugs, drinking only champagne and fine wines and some old record playing in the background, so that was always the picture I had painted when bragging to my friends. This was not that kind of party. It was casual. A bunch of actually cool people who didn’t need to prove to neither themselves nor others that they were cool. They all just knew that they were. It was an energy I hadn’t felt before. As a teenager I’d always been making things up, exaggerating to make people think I was more admirable or attractive. But these people, they didn’t do that. They had actually done the things they said they had. They had actually put the work and effort in and earned the right to carry themselves the way they did. I hadn’t earned that right, not yet. So, I became an observer. Learning their ways, picking up on their body language and behaviour, analysing their choice of words. A lesson I will never forget, as it taught me how to act like an adult. A cool one.
We were mingling - a drink in the left hand, shake with the right. Laughed when it was appropriate, shared input when we could. But both me and my friend knew it was an act, and both me and my friend knew I was the better actress. And what happens when everything is going the way it is supposed to? You get bored. So, I wandered off towards the kitchen, knowing there was a balcony somewhere I could smoke a cigarette on.
It was dark out. Summer evenings are usually pretty bright in Sweden but the sun had set and there was a slightly chilling breeze. I didn’t even notice him until after lighting my cigarette. He was standing on the other side, taking deep puffs and exhaling clouds of smoke. Had I interrupted him and his thoughts? I chose not to say anything, didn’t want to break the silence. It was kinda nice. Just two people in the same place, at the same time, for the same reason. Reasons. I felt him quietly observing me, watching me raise my hand to my mouth for a drag. I turned, facing him, and for a hundredth of a split second he looked as if embarrassed. I had caught him staring at me. The embarrassment vanished as quickly as it had appeared in the first place, and was replaced with a smirk. Which was all I needed. Confirmation, validation, proof on interest. As I said, game on.
We hugged, and talked as if we had known each other for years. Not a normal conversation though, an intriguing one. Have you ever met anyone and everything about them is just mysterious? That’s how this was. Everything was as if we were speaking in riddles, and only the two of us knew the truths. Cigarette after cigarette. He was lighting them for me now. It felt as if we were there for ages. I didn’t even notice how close we were standing to each other, until I did. I could feel the heat coming from his chest, his hand on my waist. His eyes looking for mine. We shared a moment, a few precious seconds of just looking into each others eyes, and just like in the movies, we both leaned in. Unnoticeably but still noticeable. And then, I heard someone shout my name and the moment was gone. My friend was calling for me. Knowing that the moment has passed I smirked at him and walked back into the apartment, becoming a part of the crowd. But something separated me from them, other than the obvious age and lying. His eyes were not on them. His eyes were on me, and on me only.
My friends’ mom had been calling, asking for her to come home. After all, she was 15 in a strange country and a curfew wasn’t unheard of. It wasn’t that she wanted to leave, she needed to. So we started grabbing our stuff and ended up in the hallway, locating our shoes and jackets in the piles on the floor. Not for a second had I stopped thinking about him, my mysterious man and our moment. Constantly in the back of my head, there he was. And I had a plan thought out, how I was going to find him and take him aside and him my number. I knew how I was going to smile at him, say something like “I’ll be expecting a text tomorrow,” and then just walk away. Leaving the ball in his court, intentionally. Leaving him wanting more.
It was a good plan, decent at least. I didn’t get to use it though, not that night. I didn’t really need to.
- Don’t tell me you’re leaving already?
You were standing right behind me. Apparently you already wanted more. And I wanted to casually flip my hair and ask if you wanted me to stay, but I also knew that wasn’t the move. It wasn’t the right thing to do in that scenario. So I didn’t flip my hair and I didn’t ask. Instead I finished tying my shoe, stood up and said that it was time for us to get going.
- Stay. Come home with me tonight and have coffee with me tomorrow.
I didn’t have a plan for this. Hadn’t pictured this scenario, this outcome. I was trying to read your face but there was nothing to read. You had spoken your mind. You wanted me. I blushed and you asked my friend if you could borrow me for two minutes. I hadn’t had time to explain the situation to her and she truly had no idea what was going on, but I don’t even think you waited for an answer. I just remember my hand in yours, you leading me into a room and the door closing behind us. Not even a second to register what was happening, just your lips on mine, your tongue on mine. Both our hands everywhere. And just like it had been on the balcony, time changed. It was no longer seconds, minutes and hours, it was solely time.
There was something primal about him. Something I still cannot explain. It just felt as if that kiss was meant to happen, right there and then. His one hand in my hair, the other one on my back. And time really did stand still for us. I forgot about the lying and deceiving and all I knew was the two os us in that moment.
There was a knock on the door, and once again the moment was lost. We looked at each other and you whispered, almost as if you were too taken by everything to speak normally.
- I need to see you again.
He gave me his phone and I put my number in. Left without saying anything else, cause everything had already been said.
On the way home I had a mix of butterflies and anxiety. What if I would never hear from you? Of course I would. But what if not? Would that all have been for nothing? It was all just a game anyways. But still. Regretted not saying my earlier thought of line, to “text me tomorrow”. I hadn’t realised that I had already won.
He texted me the day after. Lying, 547. Not lying, 0. Game over.