The truth is rarely pure and never simple. ~ Oscar Wilde
You know when someone says, “You want to know the truth?” that there is likely either something really offensive or outrageous coming down the pike. It is such a silly concept, that one would “want the lie.” Of course, I could get all Jack Nicholson on you and remind you that perhaps, “You can’t handle the truth!” Like a thousand little pin pricks… you can feel the truth, or its varied alter egos.
Or maybe the more salient fact is that the line between truth and less than true is not only hard to discern, but malleable, inconsistent and often prepared to order. Less often it is prêt-à-porter.
I say all of this in a Holden Caulfield kind of way. Holden tells us a whole bunch of stuff in the first two chapters of Catcher… but the leads off the third chapter by announcing: “I am the most terrific liar you ever saw. It’s awful.” We have been discussing narrative bias in my freshman English class and debating whether or not bias negates reliability or if, in fact, a story can be untrue if the raconteur is using it simply for narrative value. This comes on the heels of a rather confounding conversation I had with a writer of some stature who disagreed with an assertion I made that non-fiction is easier to write than fiction. I said that I believe non-fiction to be easier to write because it allows us to borrow from experience in a way that somehow avoids cliché, whereas in fiction our efforts to avoid cliché lead right to it. The striking blow to my position is the simple fact that there is no singular truth. By that alone, the determination of what is fiction and non-fiction becomes subjective enough that, in terms of genre, the distinction is no longer so clear.
So here is a true story for you.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered that Ex #4 has remarried (for the record, we were never married). I examined how I felt about this from a variety of perspectives. I picked at old sore spots to see if I had any sort of reaction. Nothing much came up. Which is not to say I did not have some thoughts on the matter. That he married a tall blonde coach who he had hired at his school (and who was in a relationship at the time they met) was not lost on me, for example. But I have no idea if the parallels are as similar as they seem. Who knows if they became a couple in the same sordid way that he and I did, or if there was some other force at work. It is what it is. And it has nothing to do with me anymore.
That is the truth.
A week later I found myself at SFMoMA with Frenchie and I saw this painting:
“THIS COULD HAVE BEEN YOU!”
“THIS WAS YOU!”
I am not sure I have ever experienced such immediate and simultaneous recognition and relief. I looked at the painting for a while. The part of the painting that I could not stop looking at is the little bit of the eaves of the houses on the other side of the fence. That has to mean something. She was so apparent, and apparently unaware of what lie beyond the fence. Though I am most certainly projecting. I was not even sure of the artist or the title*. It didn’t really matter. What matters is that I am no longer in that painting. And that she is so glad she is in the painting makes me happy. For everyone. For the universe.
This is the painting** I belong in:
That is also, the truth.
* Robert Bechtle, American, b. 1932. Watsonville Olympia, 1977. (center image)
** Elliott Hundley, America, b. 1975. Agave, 2010. (first and last images)