She was always over the top The way she would tell it, it was either a world of lollipops, unicorns and rainbows or sour milk, mildew, and snapping dogs. A bump would become a shove and a smile a romance.
It wasn’t that she didn’t know the difference. Her scales were weighted properly. She just enjoyed the drama of exaggeration and it became the path she trod by choice, for entertainment. Therefore, it wasn’t until her mid-thirties that she understood that this path of choice was a toll road and there was payment due.
She learned this in the single moment when she opened her mouth to speak the words, “I do.” No, not the wedding vow. “I do.” She was wedded to John and had been for fourteen years. Together, they had three sons and a daughter, aged twelve, ten and seven, their third pregnancy delivering to them twins - their third boy and first girl. No. This was not a vow. An oath, rather. To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
In the split second before speaking, she realizes - the more potent the exaggeration, the more dilute the truth. And she wonders if she does take this oath, can she honestly remember the truth? Will she be able to recall the true specifics of that night? Without her usual rewriting? Or have those details permanently morphed into the sugared version she has told, again and again, making it a story to dine out on, setting the gossip circuit humming, adding a bit of embroidery here, a touch of tat there to keep interest focused on what she can add or confide or tell. Now it has all turned deadly.
She coughs and pauses to sip from a glass of water placed next to her, wondering what exactly truth is and where it lives at present. When, she asks herself, had that whisper of tires on the tarred lane in back of her house happened? Was it before or after midnight? Was it even a truck she’d thought she glimpsed? She knew that pointing a finger at the local clam digger whose interest in the lady at the end of the lane had been well known was her usual way of playing with what she always considered to be boring truth.
Now, again, she raises her hand, preparing to take the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, wondering as she does if every truth she’s ever experienced hadn’t been lost to her a long time ago.