I ran away for almost a week, and I learned the following: I only believe the last lie I was told.
I woke up at 2 a.m. Thursday, panicked because a man said on Wednesday that he adored me and wanted to be my guy. I packed up the dog and, without a word to anyone, I drove four hours to Key West–a place I’d never been. During the four-hour drive, I cried and cried about a boy who’d said on Monday that he was my guy, but changed his mind. So there I was, driving away from both invitation and rejection. I couldn’t get away fast enough.
“Just you?” asked the nice woman checking me and the dog into a B&B two blocks off Duval Street. Yep, just me alone, I told her.
“Vacation?” she asked as she swiped my credit card. Nursing a confused and aching heart, I told her.
“Oh, well, here’s where I would go if I were alone on a Thursday night,” said the nice woman. All suggestions welcome, I told her. Sympathy is not, I thought.
The last lie I was told on Monday was, “I’m so sorry. I feel terrible.” And I believed it, until his final text communication that read: “Let’s just take it a day at a time.” That is the last lie I believe from this particular boy, even as I know there are likely no days at any time to be taken.
The last lie I was told by the man who adores me was, “I understand if you need to be away and take some time.” Except it turned out that my bartender girlfriend coached him to text this, as angry as he was that I had run away. But his heart is aching from his perception of my rejection, just as mine is aching from my perception of rejection from the other boy. All because we each believed that last lies we told one another.
“You look sad,” said a drunk, scraggly looking young man outside of a popular bar that features live music. “Don’t. You’re in Key West. Have fun!” I’ll do my best, I told him. Which was the last lie I told him because I never saw him again.
And yet, within minutes–literally–I was surrounded by locals who said, welcome, where are you from, how long are you here, how old is your cute dog. I soon knew one was a nurse facing a 12-hour shift the next day and that’s why she wasn’t drinking. Another said he’d just broken up with a girlfriend, but since she’d landed in jail, maybe that was good thing. Someone else claimed to know the boy who wanted to take it a day at a time with me, because they are both musicians who play the same instrument.
“I’ll call him,” he offered, “If you think it would help.” Oh no, no thanks, I told him. He doesn’t want a thing to do with me. Which was a lie, because supposedly taking things a day at a time is acceptable after you have had a magical weekend away and declared being in incredible like with one another. But I did not burden my new friend with the last lie this boy had told me. Because who’d believe it anyway?
When a drunk girl threw up on the patio where I was sitting with the dog, I excused myself and took the pup into the actual bar area, where a fun band was playing and other drunk people were dancing. The dog wasn’t allowed to be in there with me, but being a slow Thursday night, the kid acting as security merely patted my dog’s head and smiled. “She is welcome here anytime you are here,” he winked.
I perched off to the side of the stage, and suddenly the band members were my friends, asking the dog’s name and where had I appeared from. Soon, every song included Rouletta’s name, as in “My baby, she sent me a letter from Rouletta.” And they each coaxed a smile from me as I continued to drink my dinner in hopes of forgetting why I had run away from the last lies I was told.
At 4 a.m., I was drinking more wine at the Green Parrot and wishing I’d eaten something since noon. The band members had taken me under their collective wings and I was now as drunk as anyone else in Key West, and I told myself–and believed–the age-old lie that I was fine.
At 11 a.m. I woke up, fully clothed, with the fully clothed bass player from the band sound asleep next me. And when he woke up a few minutes later, I cringed and said, “Please tell me we did not have sex last night.” And he told me the truth I already knew. I then relaxed and allowed my head to pound and my stomach to growl as my cell rang incessantly and friends texted and left messages that wondered, “Where are you? Are you okay?” To which the bass player who told no lies said, “Just tell them you’ve having fun. You are, right?”
And so began the perfect friendship with the bass player and the other band members, one that formed so quickly and completely I wondered how it was I had only just met them. They swam in my pool, hung out on my deck, watched football with me–even found a fellow Redskins fan for me on Sunday. We talked about music, about playing in bars, and how they were “real” musicians with incredible credentials, even as they played “Secret Agent Man” for drunk tourists four times a year in Key West.
“But it’s perfect for a week, you know?” said the bass player. I am sure each band member believed this lie, because they had to. And in a way, I am also confident they were having the fun they wanted me to have as well. So maybe it wasn’t a lie, after all.
“He’s texting you?” asked the awkward, cute guy from Ohio who had perched at the same bar stool next to mine for four nights in a row as we patted my pup and sang along to the sets we knew by heart after the second night together.
“Don’t answer. Let it go,” he counseled. “Trust me, it’s the fastest way to get over him. I know from too much experience.” And I believed him, just as he believed me that I wouldn’t respond, even as I secretly did each time he went to the men’s room. Because maybe, just maybe, my one-day-at-a-time boy would understand my confusion and hurt in a texted response that he couldn’t hear in person. Which is the boldest of all lies I have told myself, much less believed.
“We’ll see you when we come back in March, I hope,” said the band members on my last day in Key West.
“You will, count on it,” I told them.
We believed these heartfelt lies we told each other because we earnestly meant them as we hugged goodbye. Although you never know, it’s hard to forget fast friends who make you smile as they sing to you, and who make others happy enough to dance away an hour or a night. My music makers transformed my gut-wrenching run-away time into hilarity. For a few days, I felt clear of mind and heart. And I want to hold onto that clarity for as long as I can, now that I am back in my reality.
And that’s the last lie I am telling myself, because sometimes, if you simply believe the last lie you were told, you will have discovered a tiny possibility of truth.