WHY DO THEY LIE TO ME? • by Rohini Gupta

Why do they bother to lie to me? Don’t they know that I can see the truth?

They come, they sit smiling at my table and they tell me stories which have no truth in them at all. I see past to the truth and I make their dreams come true, but I do not, and I have never, dealt in lies.

The woman comes, with her husband, weeping. She wears rubies; he wears a solitaire which could buy a palace. She has lost a diamond ring. The husband describes the report he made to the police. I do not listen to him. I ask the woman, “are you sure you want it back?”

“What kind of question is that?” the husband demands.

I ignore him and ask her again, “do you want it found?”

“Of course I do,” she says, “can’t see how distraught I am?”

The husband puts an arm around her and tells me he will pay and repeats his promise several times, anxiously.

“Then you shall have it by evening,” I say, sighing.

He smiles, but she looks back from the door, wondering. She does not know the price she paid. She will not be pleased. Some days you cannot please anyone.

Sometimes I get tired of the facade, of pretending I don’t know what I know, of watching them tell me one thing when their thoughts are boiling with another.

The father comes, with his teenage daughter, and a marriage proposal. He shows me the photo of a young man. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to look into this young man’s troubled life. I look at the daughter instead, and I see the tightness and anger inside.

“What do you want?” I ask her.

The girl says nothing and looks at the floor. She does not want marriage at all. She wants to go to college and get a job and earn money first. Her thoughts swirl like dark eddies in a red rage of anger but they never spill out into words.

Do I take his words or do I take her thoughts? His words have a foul taste and I decide I will take that little white flower of hope which I see deep inside her.

“Very well,” I tell her, “you will get what you want.”

She raises her head and looks at me wondering.

“Go to college,” I say.

I look at her father, and he looks at me suddenly, shaking his head as if he is waking from a dream. “Of course,” he says.

He sweeps the photo off the desk into the wastepaper basket. The girl’s mouth drops open. She turns to me with blank, bewildered eyes and the little white bud of hope explodes into a flower.

I take the fragrance of that flower and it is enough. She did not lie.

Just before dark, my last visitor arrives. He leaves his bodyguards outside. I have seen his handsome face in the newspapers.

He smiles at me, examines my tiny room and sits as if on a throne. It is a throne he will ask for.

“I hear you are the woman who can make desires come true. You are highly recommended by those whose opinion I value.”

“I can.”

“Can you make me Prime Minister?’

He waits tensely while I think. “No,” I say at last, “it will not work. The price is too high.”

He laughs and sits back, relaxed now that prices have been mentioned. “No price is too high, just name your figure.”

“I do not deal in money. The price is a lifetime of truth, and only the truth. No prevarications.”

He smiles, “I am a truthful man.”

“You agree to a lifetime of truth?”

“Of course,” he says, showing me his fine white teeth. He is a handsome man, this one, but his aura is fetid. “Is that all? I could pay more.”

“Once paid,” I say, “there will be no refunds.”

“Can you really do it?’

“It is done,” I tell him and so it is. I have doomed him and he does not even know it. He asked and he received. Case closed.

At night the woman of the diamond ring comes back and bangs on my door at 2 a.m. She is white and haggard. Her ring was not lost. She had given it to her demanding lover. But I have promised it back and so the police have arrested the lover and her ring was dropped into her unwilling hand.

She is wearing it on the hand that hammers on my door. I don’t answer the door. She shouts and weeps and bangs for an hour. Finally she goes away.

I am tired, very tired. I am fed up of the dirty green smell of lies. I know it is time for me to leave.

The politician will be back and will move heaven and earth to find me but I will be long gone. His colleagues will kill him one day when he can no longer lie, cover up or deny. He will make Prime Minister though — I have promised him that — and the country will be better for it. He will hate it and never stop seeking me.

I pack a bag and leave before dawn. There was a time when I dreamt of a house and a family and a place I could call my own. Those dreams died a long time ago.

For me there are no homes, no roots. Before dawn I step out into a shadowy world, slip past the sleepers and take a train to a place I do not know, to a town which will be new and will be just the same, where the tomorrows will be just like today.

The world has no place for the few like me who see the truth. This world belongs to those who lie.

Rohini Gupta writes in Maharashtra, India.

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