“Why don’t you take off your headphones.”
She delicately pulls one side of her soft, creamy headphones to the side, taking care not to catch her hair. Her ears are toasty. Almost steaming. Just as she expects the temperature to be wherever she goes. Bring the temperature to her liking. Set the table for her. Forget the needs of others; she’s cold, she’s hot, fuck the rest.
“This is the Acela. Your ticket is for the northeast regional. You have two options. You can call 1-800-RAIL and pay to upgrade your ticket. Or you can get off at Stamford and wait for the regional, which is 10 minutes behind us.”
“Ohhhhh.” She’s milking it. “So I… I get off at the next stop? And wait 10 minutes?”
“Yes,” he manages tersely. He’s had enough. But what can he do? One of clearest guidelines in the Amtrak employee contract states that no employee shall ever punch a female passenger in the face. Even when she’s lying through her teeth.
I know she’s lying because she’s not stupid. She switches focus from her book to the window, easily teleporting from one world to the next. All while listening to music. This requires a quick mind, one that can keep many balls in the air at once. I bet she brags about how good she is at texting while driving. There isn’t a chance in hell that she boarded the wrong train accidentally. The Acela ticket is an extra $50, the trip a half-hour shorter. She hoped he’d tell her it was no big deal, that he’d let it slide just this once. Then she’d throw him that doe-eyed smile, thank him profusely, and return to her life of outrageous, manufactured privilege.
It shouldn’t affect me this much, but it does. The ticket guy said “you’re on the wrong train too.” Which means he’s had this conversation with others—possibly dozens, hundreds—on the train. So many transparent freeloaders hoping to inveigle their way to Boston in less time. But the ticket collector sees through their duplicity.
Now we’re moving backwards. A switch was frozen ahead. Gotta go back to switch tracks. Dear God, let this mean that she’ll miss the train behind us? Please grant me this. I wished for a television role last night, but we can table that for now. Bump this one to the top of the inbox, please, oh merciful, almighty, omniscient fatherly ghost.
I have a problem with liars now. I don’t know when it happened, but I grew into it. I used to lie a lot as a kid. Then the stakes grew: get yourself caught in a couple mid-twenties lies and you’ll find your friends less inclined to grab a beer on the weekend. I stopped after college, I think. It’s been a long time since I lied. I miss it.
Kids are so stupid. When you’re a kid, you can convince other kids of anything. Their brains are too unaware to spot a tell or an inconsistency in your story. In fifth grade, I convinced my entire grade that J.K. Rowling was my godmother. Harry Potter was flying off the shelves and I chose a connection that seemed just weird enough to be possible. My cursive was solid, and I would promise these morons a hand-written note from Rowling in exchange for a couple shiny Pokemon cards. I’m dead serious—I told you I gave up lying years ago. The tricky part was explaining how Aunty J.K. was able to turn the notes around so quickly. My story was that dad, through work, had access to an extremely high-tech fax machine that allowed the original note to come through. All the way from England! They bought it because, let’s be honest, they were reading Harry fucking Potter. In those days, we all believed in a little magic.
Helping my cause was the inability of children to form intricate lines of questioning. They couldn’t poke holes in my story, nor did they want to. Better to believe in something. Idiots. My forgeries brought me Mew Two, Blastoise, and Vaporeon before our science teacher, Mr. Fiser, exposed my operation. Check out the big police man. Make way for the hero, who makes like $45k a year. How quaintly noble. Those who can’t do, rat.
But is there anything more delicious than catching someone in a lie? Christ, that’s the good stuff. When you can feed the liar bits of bait so they lean in to their lie, to your face, and you know? It only happens once a decade but oh, my God. Scrumptious. Providential. Ejaculatory.
“You’re telling me you didn’t sleep with Ben?”
“No! What the fuck! I love you. I would never do that to you!”
“Well where were you last night?”
“I was hanging out with Laura! We did pure barre, then got falafel, then opened some chablis and watched You in bathrobes.”
“Oh, you were with Laura?”
“Hmm. It seems unlikely that you were wearing bathrobes with Laura last night… SINCE THE GOPRO I HID BETWEEN ORDER OF THE PHOENIX AND HALF BLOOD PRINCE HAS YOU ASS-NAKED, TAKING BEN’S DICK!”
We pulled in to Stamford. She got off the train. Toodles, toots. Here’s hoping your lifestyle doesn’t catch up with you. May you continue to get away with your falsehoods from today until the day you depart this world. Ha, I’m lying; I hope you get caught in a lie that causes everyone who attended your wedding to unfollow you on all social media platforms.
On to Boston—an honest town if I ever saw one.