Nick’s father demands truth, yet he also dissects truths. You’re selfish, weak. Why did you choose writing? Why not some other major? Come home, serve your father. He demands the minutiae of Nick’s life. He needs to know what he excretes, what he drinks and thinks, his guttural voice prying into spaces that Nick has made for himself in graduate school, in a new state. His voice fills Nick with shame, weariness, anger, so many things.
His father worries Nick’s a drunk, has health issues. Nick is too helpless at his age. Nick is thirty, for the record. He needs to handle a thousand tasks a day, get a girlfriend. Get pussy, be a man.
So, Nick lies, unable to form answers without his father’s immediate rebuttals. Words have slipped him. Truth is worn out, weary.
Courage has fallen on the battlefield.
Nick just wants peace, to live with ease, drink even. His father thinks he’s a lush anyway. He wants to be the sarcastic but confident person he pretends to be day by day. He wants to dispense one-liners. He wants to create, have intimate communion with words. All that’s not happening, so Nick can only fit the pieces of his life to his advantage. A lie told enough, as Lenin proclaimed, becomes the truth.
Nick makes up girlfriends who adore him and who have high-powered, confident fathers. There are lawyers and movie magnates with improbable names, like McLovin, names which Nick appropriates from movies, namely Superbad. His father values prestige and connection above all else.
On top of all that, Nick pretends to enroll in a Ph.D. program after grad school. Nick makes himself a number-one student, his advisor’s prized pupil. His father eats all this up, or at least he seems to. It’s not necessarily Nick’s best lie.
He doesn’t want praise from his father, for praise is always followed by a “but.” Another criticism. You did well at this, but (insert criticism here).
Nick knows his father will discover these truths. He will rip away things from Nick, as he always does. His anger will rise. Why did you lie? Couldn’t you tell the truth? Didn’t I tell you to tell your father the truth? The anger will be followed by the same old lectures. Round one, two. Round three.
But for now, Nick lies. It’s so easy.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. A native of Idaho, Yash’s work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, and Ariel Chart, among others.