In high school, I was best friends with a compulsive liar.
So crazy were some of the things she had told me over the years that I had gotten to the point where I was basically desensitized, nothing surprised me anymore.
So when she told me about a guy she had begun to become involved with, I barely batted an eye.
I also knew it was a flat-out lie.
We were sixteen then, and the new guy, she told me, was a teacher at our school.
I didn't know this teacher, I didn't have his class, but I had seen him around. He was young, and handsome, and I understood why she'd crush on him. I assumed that's all it was- a crush, that, in her mind, she had twisted into some dark, scandalous fantasy. So brushed her off with a "that's nice" and continued to eat my lunch. I added a rare word of warning, though, that it was probably a bad idea to go spreading rumors about an innocent teacher.
Perhaps I should have just acted like I believed her for once, maybe then she wouldn't have gone to such extreme lengths to prove to me something I never wanted to know.
I remember exactly the moment I learned the truth about this relationship, and how much it terrified me. There was a party being thrown by an old friend of hers, the kind with a bunch of high-school dropouts and jobless twenty-somethings, all of whom would be too drunk to notice who else was there anyway. I didn't want to go, but she insisted, he was going to be there and I had to meet him, she said. Ok, whatever you say.
I had been at the party for maybe a half-an-hour when I saw her stride into the room with a man. Not just any man. The teacher. His arm was around her, she was giggling about something, it was true. She looked happier than I had ever seen her, but that didn't make it any less wrong in my eyes. I didn't know what to do- this girl had barely spoken a true word in the entire time I had known her, but now, the craziest thing to ever come out of her mouth was being proven right in front of me. I ducked out of the party as soon as I could.
The next week at school, I did my best to talk some sense into her. It's illegal, it isn't right, he's too old for you, he could get fired, he could get arrested! Nothing worked. She insisted that they were in love and that nothing could happen to him as long as I swore not to tell anyone, ever. I think she just assumed that love could conquer all, but I knew it couldn't. It didn't matter that she was the one who instigated the relationship, that she had wanted it. She was underage, and if anyone had found out, he would be the one to pay. I never understood how anyone would put someone they truly "loved" in that position. Their relationship remained a mystery to me. From that day, anytime she tried to talk about him, I cut her off. Plausible deniability, I guess. Even though I already knew way too much. I had a class in a room across the hall from his, and every time I left to use the bathroom, I half expected him to follow me in and murder me because he knew that I knew his secret. It was paranoid, I suppose, but people have been killed over less. Such was the burden of being a confidante, a role nobody ever really talks about when they read about sex scandals in the newspaper.
Above all though, it put me into the middle of the biggest moral dilemma I've ever had to face. To tell, or not to tell? Legally, telling would have been the right choice. But she was my best friend, and betraying her secret that she had made me swear to keep didn't feel right somehow. But I constantly waivered. Telling could have meant ruining someone's life, maybe two some ones, if my friend really loved him as much as she said. But they were breaking the law, which is there for a reason. It affected our friendship too, I know it did. Whenever we fought, she was always the quickest to apologize, as if maybe I'd spill the beans on her for revenge. Which, believe me, I did think about. But doing that would have felt like the right thing for the wrong reasons, and I've always thought intentions counted more anyway.
In the end, I never told. No one did, which was kind of surprising, considering that the rumors began to fly immediately, as high school gossip so often does. The months went passed, and before we knew it, she had turned 18 and we had graduated. There was nothing to be done at that point, anyway.
Today, it nears their 3 year anniversary, he's met her parents and they are happier than any other couple I know. And my friend isn't exactly the promiscuous, psychotic party girl she used to be, which can only be a good thing for her. I'm not saying that what they did was right, it wasn't. But it did make me think that maybe people aren't always as good or evil as we like to label them. We all do bad things, we all do good things, we are all humans. Realizing that can be kind of a bitter pill for some to swallow, but take it we must if we ever want to have half a hope of understanding each other.