A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt dangerous. — Alfred Adler
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On the way back in our Jeep, Clyde started the lie, although he intended it to protect me. "You’ll be okay; you didn’t have a choice."
During the next few days I would weave this lie into my substance, saying I was all right, that I knew I didn't have a choice. I had no choice but to kill a seventeen-year-old. Repeat until, on the lie detector, there was no lie.
Later, on the bed, between Ann and Eli, I couldn’t hide the lie. It had stayed deep within me.
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A few years after that traumatic evening, I was on the first floor of the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Headquarters building, sitting in a straight-back chair in front of a table and attached to a portable console by a number of physiologic monitors. "Other than the incident you mentioned in the interview, have you ever had sexual relations with another man?" I would answer with another lie.
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To understand my answer, you have to understand how I came to be attached to the machine, a story that began before the lie and before the St. Petersburg question.
It was 1971. Because August 24th is my birthday, my number in the Selective Service draft lottery was 36. I'd used four years of undergraduate deferments, but no deferments for graduate school in the liberal arts were available. Unless I fled the country or found some other method of federal service, I was on my way to Southeast Asia, where friends had already died.
I wasn't against giving my life in the right circumstance, but I knew from Ty's letters before I stood over his casket, missing him and his lovely heart that Viet Nam wasn't the right circumstance. Service to country. My mother and her brothers had all gone to war, and one of them hadn't returned. Dead on Iwo Jima, Uncle Billy might have been the best of them. For me, Canada was out; running away was out. The years have forced me to consider that I might have ended up in Germany or stayed stateside had I let myself fall into the machine. Hiding in plain sight, though …
I freely admit that I was not above taking advantage of family connections to find a place in an Army Reserve unit. So I joined a Military Police company, one of the few in the country with a CID detachment. CID is the criminal investigative element of the Army, and those of us with four-year degrees were eventually moved to CID. After completing basic training, I went off to MP school at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia. There I was trained as any MP is trained.
The Army Reserve commitment afterwards wasn't that difficult – one weekend a month and two weeks of active duty in each of the next six years. I received a little more frequent training than most, and the school system for which I worked granted me the time away without complaint but without pay. The first regular, summer, active-duty tour I pulled was CID duty at a National Guard camp in Mississippi. Lucky me.
In the spring before my first regular deployment to Camp Shelby to patrol for traffic violations, watch for bad behavior in bars, and try to hold Mississippi Guardsmen to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I was at the Army's Polygraph School in Augusta undergoing the first stage of training as an examiner. I would begin as a test subject for students about to be certified as examiners. The instructor I worked with was a civilian instructor at the school and a retired CID officer. At the end of my training as an examiner I came to believe that polygraphy is bullshit.
"The secret to a good examination is the pre-exam interview. When the examiner conducts the interview, he tries to reassure the subject that there will be no surprise questions during the examination. In fact, the examiner tells the subject that before the machine is attached he is going to ask every question he will be asked during the examination in order to avoid surprises. We ask a mix of control questions and real questions. The exam is evaluated by comparing answers to control and real questions."
I offered, "Must cut down on high background levels of physiologic response."
"Yes, but the main reason we ask the questions before the real examination is that we want to sensitize the subject to the questions so that when we ask them a second time with the machine running, he will have more profound responses against the background and be less likely to be able to control his reactions to the questions."
"What if he can't be sensitized?"
"Well, psychopaths and sociopaths are the most difficult subjects because they don't have a physiologic response to lying. Part of the examination is noting subtle changes in a subject’s answers between the pre-exam interview and the interview with the machine running."
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The instructor and I, both miked, were on a dais in the front of an interior-classroom auditorium with no windows. The walls were the institutional off-white favored by Army training centers then, and the seats were wood without cushioning. Fifteen examiner students sat in the first two rows of seats where I would sit the next spring. They had their yellow legal pads or notebooks at the ready.
"I'm going to demonstrate the full process of the polygraph now with a test subject," the instructor said with a nod toward me.
"Good morning, Mr. North. I'm John Sargent, an examiner for the US Army. Taking a polygraph makes most people nervous, but I want you to relax as much as you can. I don't want you surprised by any of the questions I'll ask, so before you're hooked up to the machine I'm going to ask you every question I'll ask during the examination. Please, answer the questions truthfully. I'll make notes during the preliminary interview. It's more important to be truthful when you answer than it is for you to give me an answer you think I'll want to hear. Any questions?"
I shook my head.
"Please answer the question aloud."
"What is your full name?"
"Richard Roebuck North"
"What's your home address?"
"1242 Lake Vista Drive, Clearwater, Florida"
And so it went for thirty minutes, questions about my marital status, whether or not we had children, and toward the end the examiner asked the essential questions about drug use and theft from employers and about use of classified material. When I answered the question about drug use, the examiner paused.
"Is that a truthful answer? I mean most men your age have experimented. Remember, a truthful answer is more important than an answer you may think I want."
I told him the truth about taking office supplies occasionally from the school where I taught and that I had never violated regulations about the handling of classified material. He explored whether or not I had ever used excessive force during an arrest and if I had ever committed a crime. Since I didn't believe having sex with men a crime, even though it was technically so, I answered truthfully – no. I had also told the truth when I said that I had never used recreational drugs and never abused prescription medication. The examiner sighed and shrugged.
Then the examiner affixed tethers with sensors at their ends to various body parts. I wore a blood-pressure cuff, pulse-rate monitor, a galvanic, skin-response sensor on a finger, and a plethysmograph sensor to measure rate and depth of breathing. Each sensor created a separate tracing on the paper running through the console by directing a stylus. Computer programs now evaluate polygraphs, and examiners need less skill. The trade-off is that human bias is reduced.
I remembered to answer aloud. "Yes."
"Please keep your feet flat on the floor and be as still as you can. If your movements distort the tracing, I will ask the question again. You are to answer the questions only with a yes or no. When I ask the questions, I'll refer to the answers you gave in the preliminary interview. There will be no surprise questions. Do you understand?"
Before trainees had come into the classroom, the instructor asked me to lie about my home address and to answer yes to any question about my name. The examination began: "Is your full name Richard Roebuck North?"
Is your home address 1242 Lake Vista Drive, Clearwater, Florida?"
"No." That was a lie.
"Is your full name John Smith?"
"Yes." Another lie.
As I answered, the instructor made notations on the graph paper falling out of the console. This process would become clear to me later as I learned how to conduct my own examinations. I would learn when to ask questions a second time or when to change the data in a question, as the instructor had about my name. The polygraph machine is not a lie detector. It measures changes in physiology during an interview. People, I would learn, could have increased responses when telling the truth as well as when lying. Part of the art is determining when an increased physiologic response occurs when a subject tells the truth. This lesson contained the seeds of how I would answer the question two years later in the police headquarters in St. Petersburg.
The questions rolled until the examiner got to what I thought were the important questions. "Other than the office supplies you told me about, have you ever stolen anything from an employer?"
"Have you ever violated Army regulations about handling classified material?"
"Have you ever used marijuana?"
"Is your full name Richard Roebuck North?"
"Have you ever used any illegal drug?"
"Have you ever injured a suspect during an arrest?"
"Was the injury a result of excessive force?"
After the examination, the instructor thanked me and asked an assistant to photocopy two portions of the graph. To the trainees he asked, "Questions?" and invited comments. When the photocopies were available, the instructor passed them out and told the students, "These are the two sections of the graph recorded when I asked the subject to verify his name. What do you see?"
Amid the general murmuring, a few had the courage to say, "Nothing," or, "It looks as if he answered both questions truthfully."
The instructor commented, "So, the tracing wouldn't help you discern the truthful answer. That's a good lesson. A polygraph machine is not a lie detector. Why didn't lying about his name produce a physiologic reaction associated with a lie?"
One student said, "In this situation, he didn't think the question was important. He didn't think lying would cause a problem."
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Lying about sexuality wasn't uncommon for people like me.I won't catalog the descriptions of bisexuality most people conjure up. I don't mean the dictionary definition; I mean the judgment. Many people, I think, would equate bisexuality with deceit. I am authoritative on the subject, and I tell you that sex is a small part of the puzzle. Family, love, marriage, fidelity, children, and friendship are all as important as sex for people like me, and so is truth. In fact, the whole issue of defining bisexuality is hopelessly confusing to almost everyone including some members of the order.
I am, however, authoritative only on my own affections and sexuality. I respond romantically and physically – as in I get ecstatically hard and mentally charged – for both men and women equally, but not for all members of either sex. I am empathetic and respectful enough that I don't believe I have a right to foist my affections on every other human being. The rub is that I just can't choose one and forget the other gender. I think that makes me constitutionally unfaithful to the monosexual notion of relationship.
My entire dilemma disappeared one night on Clearwater Beach when a woman I loved told me, "I think any of us can love more than one person at a time. Now, realizing that, what we negotiate with our beloveds and our fidelity to our agreements is the crux. Lies are our undoing." Besides, she told me, she didn't have a Y-chromosome or a penis, and I seemed to need both occasionally in a partner. She also noted wryly that she couldn't fault me for craving what she craved.
She was and is my numero uno beloved. She and I share a taste in men. Our negotiation was mainly about time and primacy. She finds some other women attractive but has no desire to go down on them and during our marriage hasn't availed herself of other men except in the context of sharing an occasional one with me. I, on the other hand … am by nature a bit of a dog.
Against the background of the profound chemistry of our love, the broad outline of our quite complex negotiation is that we both recognize the primacy of our relationship, that we spend the amount of time with one another that honors that primacy, that I don't begin relationships with married men who are not out to their wives, that I don't fuck other women, that I can play safely and carefully with men during forced absences like active duty for the Army, and that we tell each other the truth, even uncomfortable truth.
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A year and a month after the training session in Augusta, I was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for a second active-duty summer. Between the last years of the Viet Nam war and the designation of Camp Shelby as a FORSCOM base beginning with the constant state of war in the Middle East in which we’re now engaged, the base was a sleepy Mississippi National Guard facility.
Clyde was another MP in my unit, but he wasn't in the CID detachment. My wife finds my gaydar woeful, but somehow Clyde and I recognized our potential. He described himself as gay-leaning, bisexual, and closeted. We were shocked by the casual way in which monosexuals, both gay and straight, used the opportunity of an enforced two-week summer vacation to cheat on spouses or girlfriends and boyfriends. When I spoke to Ann and wrote to her about the few times in two weeks that Clyde and I eventually found each other, she was genuinely pleased.
Over my six-year enlistment, Clyde and I developed real affection for each other. He seemed to trust me because I wasn't lying to Ann or to him. We were very careful, and our little trysts remained below most people's threshold of awareness, largely because I was married and some of the men in my Company had met Ann, settling any notion that Clyde and I were anything but buddies – very good buddies as, say, the Green Hornet and Kato were buddies. No one is what he seems. Clyde marveled that I could tell him I loved him truthfully without shattering either of our lives. Toward the end of my six-year enlistment, he found a boyfriend, and our relationship became deep friendship without physical benefits.
On the second day of that summer deployment, Clyde and I were in a motel in Hattiesburg after the day shift. Because we weren't exactly hiding, we could stay as straight roomies might in something better than a by-the-hour fleabag joint. Ann would be warmly amused when the credit-card statement came in, and, as always, I let her know where we were in case some emergency at home befell. Hiding in plain sight.
Clyde was stocky and not at all conventionally attractive. He defined the term straight-acting but didn’t engage in posturing, was invariably kind to everyone, and loved poetry. I had begun to love him when we talked about Richard Wright and Baldwin’s Giovanni's Roomand when his gaze didn't waver as his sexual interest bloomed. No man is what he seems.
We showered together, he trying to create a scene he wished he had played in high school and I revisiting one I had played in both junior and senior high. Giving head to a man as water from a shower flows over your head and into your airway is as irritating as it is erotic; breathing through your nose while a substantial cock is blocking your throat is complicated by the water. Water isn't a very good lubricant either but good enough that Clyde didn't complain when I fingered him while blowing him. Clyde loved to be blown in the shower, and as my forehead nudged his slightly rounded belly I could almost feel him slipping into the past, urging me on so that some other school jock or a coach wouldn't walk in on us. Reconstructing the past sometimes heightened my own orgasms.
We were young, and we could go and go. After the shower and sharing Clyde's salty, slippery spend between us, Clyde was ready to be fucked, and I, already on edge from taking his load in the shower, was ready to fuck him – but not until we made out for a while.
I wish I could communicate the difference between kissing some men and kissing women; the contrast between Clyde and Ann was stark. Slowing him down was such fun, but for both of us, that brake on our sexual energy was glorious in the warmth of its friction. Rutting was fine, but communion was essential. We paid attention to all the places on our bodies that engendered moans. We had often wondered at men who never slowed down, men who were gay and trying to make it with women or who were straight and diving into a pool with water that would never evaporate from their souls and would always bind them in agitation and sorrow. We thought them sad, but maybe they were just dogs who were incapable of reflection.
When we fucked in the missionary position, Clyde and I looked each other in the eyes; the act was a communion, and its temper changed according to what we saw.
That night, before the world changed and I fell, the conversation in our eyes plainly called for abandon. However, we never went so far into one another that I couldn't find my way back to Ann.
The afternoon after that wonderful evening in Hattiesburg, I came into the barracks about 1700 expecting to spend the night reading, because I knew that Clyde was on night patrol. He was finishing getting into patrol uniform before going to the armorer to pull his weapons, a .45 caliber M-1911 pistol and a shotgun. "Hey, Richard. Lecter's sick; wanna go slumming?"
I hadn't been on patrol for a while, and I didn't want to go into Hattiesburg without Clyde. "Sure. Let me get changed."
I pulled on my Class B uniform – not full dress but khakis, a step up from fatigues. Like Army Airborne troops, MPs wear uniform trousers, even dress uniform trousers, bloused into spit-shined combat boots. Clyde helped me get the MP brassard on my left uniform sleeve and the lanyard that would attach to the little eye on the butt of the .45 attached to my right epaulette. We stopped by the company office to let the duty officer and the shift NCO know that I would substitute for Lecter. No problem, and we were off to the armorer and then to the motor pool to grab a Jeep. Only two units pulled night patrol on the base. Others were in the city patrolling in the company of the local constabulary. When we boarded our Jeep, we did a radio check and drove off into the night. Camp Shelby has a large footprint, and we were covering the half on the north side, adjacent to the city.
The warm night was passing as the nights on patrol always passed under a clear summer sky cluttered with stars. Clyde was driving, and we chatted idly and talked about how we might spend the next trip to Hattiesburg. He joked that we should pull behind a deserted building to share a little head. I vetoed that suggestion, and Clyde made a show of pouting.
We were checking a couple of warehouses when we saw the flicker of flashlights at the end of one of the buildings. We killed the Jeep’s motor and headlights, coasted up to the warehouse front, and quietly radioed to the other mobile unit and the Company HQ. We softly walked away from the security lighting in front of the building and around the opposite end. We could hear laughter, and I thought a bunch of kids were having a lark. I looked at Clyde, trying wordlessly to tell him to be careful. This is why love and sex with your patrol partner is a bad idea; a relationship adds anxiety to situations like this. My partner swung out wide, and I hugged the wall. Two and a half minutes after we stepped from the Jeep.
We had walked into a burglary. I drew my sidearm and was about to put the three boys on their knees when Clyde screamed, "Gun!"
Two of the three ran. We let them go. I don't remember screaming at the kid to drop his weapon, although Clyde said later that I had done so repeatedly. I was looking the boy in the eye and saw hesitation on his face as I closed with him. Then, I saw him make a decision. He started to raise his weapon. I screamed, "Don’t!"
He did, and he didn't hear the reports as the slide on my .45 snapped back twice before he fell, eyes open.
Senses behave differently under extreme stress — hearing, smell, vision all betray their normal occupations. I didn't remember hearing the explosions of my pistol shots, but I remembered the soft tinkling of my falling shell casings. I remember the boy's face as he decided to shoot me, but I didn't remember much of the trip back to Company headquarters at 0200 after Clyde and I, under the procedure for such events, had been disarmed and interviewed at the warehouse.
On the way back in our Jeep, Clyde slid his hand onto my thigh. "You’ll be okay; you didn’t have a choice."
Ann was on her way because Clyde had called her, and though she would save me eventually, now I felt utter disorientation and guilt surpassing anything in my meager experience. I needed Ann, but Clyde was here. Long afterward, he told me that Ann had ordered him to take care of me; she knew and liked him. He stayed outside the office where the interminable interviews ran — interviews by my colleagues and by outsiders. I fleetingly thought of the boy; this was the stage when thinking about him summoned anger, not sorrow.
The great irony was that in the biggest CID investigation in my detachment's history I was the subject. Everyone in my unit was very helpful, especially the cops in civilian life. None of them dwelled on the incident, but to a man they told me that if I needed to talk, they'd listen.
I didn’t want to talk. My head still buzzed, and I felt nausea when I thought of that night, my heart rate rising more from the memory than it had during the event. A shrink I knew from home had called and listened while, oscillating between giddy relief and guilt, I tried to straighten out what had happened. He told me that the roof would fall in on me later when I didn’t expect it and that the worst thing I could do when it fell was to ignore the crisis or, worse, to anesthetize myself with booze or drugs. He was prescient, although I didn't start drinking or drugging.
The news coverage had been steady; most of the reporting was about the boy and his family's grief. His parents couldn't fathom why he and I had encountered one another that late-summer evening. I thought about trying to see his family, but what would I hurl against their grief and anger other than the lie: I had no choice?
When the television talent mentioned me, they simply regurgitated my service record; none of them asked what that night cost me. On the advice of a JAG representative, I made no statements to the press. News cycles are short, and at least I was old news by the time we came home to Florida. Everyone I was with seemed to be looking at me with a curiosity normally reserved for celebrities. More than occasionally, I wanted to scream to them that this was no cause for celebration.
At the Reserve Center, after the company commander read the demobilization order and we were released from active duty, I was finally alone for the long drive to my home. I was raw and felt exposed in the company of others, but solitude no longer brought comfort.
Maybe this was a deific judgment about hiding in plain sight; the boy's sins, other than his decision to try to shoot me, I couldn't know.
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Two years later I was still telling the lie — about being all right, having no choice, and having put my life as a killer behind me. Ann, it would turn out, was patiently waiting for something in me to break loose, ready to pick up stray pieces and hoping that what was left was worth something. I became more introverted than ever, and aside from family, I didn't talk to many people other than colleagues, students, and family. Family was Mom, Ann, Clyde, John, Edward, Cossie, and Elias, all of whom I loved and other than Cossie and Mom had had sex with.
As far as students and colleagues were concerned, I was forever the teacher who had killed the kid; the facts had long been rearranged into any number of versions of the OK Corral. Forever, students' descriptions of me to others would lead not with my way of helping them be better writers, but with the OK Corral. Before returning Viet Nam vets routinely walked among them, I was their only acquaintance with a killer. I didn't catch much shit from students after the summer of death, but then I hadn't before that summer, either.
Elias's place in my life was the result of a negotiation. He was a man who thought of himself as bisexual and who was out to his wife. Their negotiation was astonishingly like Ann's and mine. The arrangement that held the least possibility of disruption of our primary relationships was for Eli and me to find each other.
So, we did; Ann and Justine and we formed a stable and loving relationship that lasted through children and the usual upsets of all of our lives until Ann and I moved across the country. Sex with Eli was loving and rewarding, conferring the kind of reward in which no afterthought about a coupling is sullied by guilt or sadness — almost as good as sex with Ann.
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The old lie was a deep fabrication, the kind you have to make if you are trying to fool the polygraph. Some lies, like the ones about my sexuality, are pragmatic and more superficial. If you believed you didn’t have a choice, your sympathetic nervous system barely acknowledged it. Of course, the nervous system simply demonstrated its reaction to the lie in all manner of inappropriate places. The greatest mystery in my life is that the family didn't abandon me when I was acting crazy in all the wrong circumstances and pretending to be sane in the only circumstance that warranted craziness.
During one of my weekend Reserve drills, I was talking to Chris, three years older than I and a senior noncom who was a firefighter in civilian life. I was telling him that Ann was pregnant with our first and, as it would turn out, our only child. I bemoaned the parts of my soon-to-arrive child's life I would miss during the seven-to-five grind of teaching school followed by evenings of reading and replying to student writing.
"Join the fire department."
"Right. I'm just the kind of guy they're looking for."
"Actually, you are."
The discussion of work schedules and benefits and pay that ensued enlightened me. Firefighters made more money than I did, had better benefits, and worked twenty-four hour shifts with forty-eight hours off between shifts. Ann thought I might enjoy the work, but she also needed to think about what having me in danger every third day would mean for her. Only two days passed between our first conversation on the matter and her decision: go for it.
"I've always had a secret yen to fuck a firefighter." The smile told me how difficult the decision was for her.
"Jesus, North, you were almost shot at summer camp, I think I can manage this." The truth. She had always told me the truth about what she felt and thought, even about what I thought of as the summer of death. She had reminded me that we all sleepwalk through life, but that if we were constantly aware of every potential disaster most of us wouldn’t be of any use to each other.
I applied and was interviewed. Yes, they would like to hire me. All I needed was to complete a background investigation and a polygraph. Apparently my references hadn't anything negative to say. I wasn't worried about the background investigation, and I assumed that they'd talk to employers, relatives, and neighbors, none of whom as far as I knew had a clue that they were living with a semi-queer in their midst. The polygraph was a little more worrisome.
Before I gave the city a final answer, Ann and I walked by Crest Lake in the eponymous city park. Her belly was rounding, and instead of glowing, she was vomiting every morning.
We parked on a side street and began our usual circuit around the large lake. We moved between silences and discussions about leaving the teaching profession, which despite my gretzing, I loved. A baseball rolled onto the ground ten feet in front of us; I walked over and picked it up. "A little help!" came the cry from a Hispanic kid who had missed the ball and was running up to me.
The kid stopped in front of me, and I was disoriented because I felt as if I had walked up to him, but I didn't feel a baseball in my hand. I felt a pistol. When he was in front of me, he waited, wondering when I would cough up the baseball. All I saw were his eyes and a decision in those eyes. I turned away from him, gripping firmly whatever was in my hand, and I sobbed hysterically, rambling on to the boy that things weren't all right and that I did have a choice during the summer of death and that I could have let him shoot me.
The kid was so disconcerted that he started to run away from the sobbing lunatic who held his ball. Ann pried the ball from my hand and called him back. "Here," she said, "you just remind him of someone he knew." The boy took the ball and ran back to his friends. She walked me over to a park bench and sat beside me once I was settled.
After an hour Ann knew that this wasn't catharsis; this was unhinging. She helped me to the car and drove us back to the house. On the couch in the living room, I alternated between hysterical crying jags and near catatonia. She called Eli, who was a psychologist, and he arrived an hour later to find me with my head in Ann's lap mewling and repeating the lie as if it would absolve me.
Eli tried to talk to me, to reason with me, but quickly deduced that I wasn't amenable to common sense. Later, he told me that he was within an inch of hospitalizing me. Instead he let me cry and chatter until the evening passed. Eli told me that he was going to get me ready for bed, and marched us into the shower where we, as we almost never did in the shower, simply washed ourselves. When we came out, Ann was in PJs and the bed was turned down. Eli had dressed us both in shorts and T-shirts and had hugged and kissed me before we came out of the bathroom.
Then he and Ann pulled me back from an edge of my own making, from the lie I had been telling. Though they had never shared a bed, Ann and Eli put me between them on the mattress and drew the covers over us. Ann was facing me with her hand on my chest, and Eli was spooned behind me with his arm over me, his hand touching Ann's. I started to cry again, but Ann whispered, "Enough, now." I stopped and, wearier than I could ever remember, was soon asleep.
The dream unraveled the thread of the lie, pulling it from wherever it was woven in me.
Against the blackness, I met him again. He was standing head-down when I approached him. He raised his head and with laughing eyes looked right at me. "You fucked up," he rasped.
"I know. I didn't think."
"You thought; you chose your wife and your … friend; otherwise they would have been grieving instead of my mother. Sometimes, not thinking too long saves what can be saved."
"I could have saved you," I groaned.
"That's not why you fucked up. I didn't give you much time. If you do the best you can, people will still grieve, and some things won't work out, but your heart shouldn't tear."
"I told them I was all right, that I had no choice."
"See, I got you, too. You just took longer to fall."
"No, you fucked up."
"You made a choice, and they…" I knew he meant Ann and Eli, "… never believed your lie." Then he smiled. "No hard feelings."
He was gone, and I awoke with a gasp. I could feel immense sorrow and expansive joy. I had to be responsible for my choices. Things could be all right and terribly fucked up at the same time.
<< -- >>
In the police headquarters building in St. Petersburg, I asked the examiner where he had trained.
"Augusta, Georgia. Why?"
"That's where I trained, too."
"Oh, great." He sighed and seemed pained. "Let's get this over with."
During the preliminary interview, he asked the questions I thought he would. I had no problem with answering truthfully, until he asked, "Have you ever had sexual relations with another man?"
I was prepared with a fabrication that could defeat the machine, which after all is not a lie detector. I wasn’t happy that the lie played to stereotypes. "I don't know if this counts, but once when I was eleven a man sat next to me at the movies and touched my dick."
"I'm sorry you experienced that. Did you report him?"
"No. I just changed seats, and he left the theater."
He knew, and he knew that I knew, that the question was now useless to him. My physiology would naturally produce a deviation from the baseline, whether my answer was true or not.
During the exam, he asked, "Other than the incident you mentioned in the interview, have you ever had sexual relations with another man?"
"No." I thought, and fuck you, too. Why don't you ask if I fuck goats?
He marked the tracing, and we finished.
We talked about our experiences at Fort Gordon, and the subject of homicide didn't come up. The killing rarely intrudes on my life now, but it does at times. I am not unhinged by the intrusions, because Ann, Eli, and Clyde were lie detectors for me. Having sex or just holding one another, each of them helps support the sorrow and the joy that I carry, as most people carry them, I suppose.
<< -- >>
I believe I will not meet him when I die, but I meet him in my dreams sometimes. Now, though, when he approaches, Ann, Clyde, and Eli are with me, as I think he must be at his mother’s side when she confronts me in her dreams. I'm not afraid to look him in the eye again, though in my dream the result is always different than the result in the summer of death.
The lie fed guilt; the truth feeds responsibility.