I decided to be truthful, just for tonight. Normally I tell people what they want to hear—it’s so easy—but I want to be a man of conviction, you know? I have my convictions and I stick to them. I have a conviction addiction. My new conviction, just for tonight, unless it works out, is to exude truth.
Women are easy to lie to, because they love when you lie to them. They pretend to want the truth, but really they just want conviction—again!—whether it’s true or not, and a lie is always more convincing than the truth, to a woman.
This woman—the one at the bar, next to me—was a whale, and I considered telling her that joke, the one about the guy who asks two fat women at a bar speaking with accents if they’re from England, and they scoff and say “Wales!” and the guy says, “Sorry, are you two whales from England?” Anyway, this one wasn’t really a whale, but she was a bit heavy and she reminded me of the joke for some reason, but just because I want to tell the truth doesn’t mean I should lead a conversation with an insult. And besides that, she had a pretty face—freckled, with high cheekbones, and some puffy pink lips—so, no, I wouldn’t insult her; I would simply tell the truth if it came up. Anyway, I needed a truth to tell, and so I told this one:
“People don’t go to bars alone often, anymore—and when a woman does so, I mean, certainly she wouldn’t mind a bev—that’s beverage; I call them bevs—and I can provide one for you.”
She looked up from her book—I tried to read the title, but I didn’t have my glasses. My eyes aren’t that bad, but sometimes I need them to read things, like small print. Anyway, she looked up at me and her auburn hair—clearly dyed; why don’t women ever keep their natural colour anymore? I doubt I’ve ever met a woman with her natural hair colour who wasn’t a born ginger or under 13—fell over her eyes a little and she pushed it back over her ears. Normally I like short hair on women, but short hair doesn’t look good on heavy girls so it was okay, and I liked the auburn, even if it came out of a bottle.
She said, “Excuse me?” So polite! Excuse me—that’s one of those auto-pleasantries. Like, Sorry? or Pardon?—do we even think about what that means anymore? It’s all slang, all shorthand. You’re not sorry, and maybe you should specify what I should be excusing or pardoning. Anyway, I didn’t say any of that, but I was thinking it.
“I guess you’re excused,” is what I said. I feel like my thoughts on the matter were implied with that sentence. I went on to rephrase my offer: “I was asking if you would like me to purchase you a beverage.” I hoped I wasn’t speaking too slowly, as to insult her. It was the truth, but attitude isn’t part of truth, and it’s not needed when speaking such.
“You don’t need to buy me a drink,” she said. “I have a drink.” She did: a whiskey-Coke, I think she said before. The truth, when it’s obvious, isn’t necessary to exude. So maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t lead with the whale comment.
“That’s good that I don’t,” I said. I knew she was hoping to be rid of me—I mean, probably—but I’m an excellent conversationalist, and I can forgive her for thinking I’m not based on asking her an admittedly familiar, if not cliche or presumptuous, question. “Because I don’t have too much money to blow on alcohol. It’s so expensive, right? I mean, I’m pretty rich, but—“
She laughed. She stuck her hand flat under her nose when she did so, as though she were covering a sneeze poorly. The laugh was nice, though: a little too loud, but it had character. Like a squirrel’s hiccup.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, smiling because I already knew. Women like that sort of knowing smile—that, I also know, and it made me smile wider.
She smiled back thinly, her puffy lips disappearing into an unpuffy pink line, her eyes off to the left corner as though wondering whether she wanted to encourage me by replying. Of course she did. She said, “Oh, you’re rich, are you?”
“That’s what I said,” I said. “I’m probably the richest person here. Maybe richer than everyone here combined. Probably, in fact.”
The woman’s eyebrows jumped up together, and back down quickly, in an “oh brother” fashion, and she took a sip of her drink, her cheeks and lips tight as she drained a little through the straw. Then she closed her eyes and turned to me and opened her eyes and said, “You don’t look rich. And weren’t you just complaining about the price of alcohol?”
“Rich people worry about price. Poor people don’t. And that includes clothing. I picked up my clothes on clearance at Sears. Sometimes I steal my clothes, actually, but not these.” I was wearing an orange undershirt and a checked blue button-up and jeans and brown loafers from a brand I don’t remember because it doesn’t matter.
I’m not sure she believed me about the stealing part. I don’t do it often, but I used to wonder what being a thief would be like, so I did some shoplifting here and there. Not so much anymore, unless it’s small and I can get away with it. She closed her book and rested her elbow on it before I could see what it was, but at least she was actually turned towards me now. She looked smug, and I hated that—smug is just not a good look on a woman, and rarely on a man. Confident is good—cocky, too, even—but smug is not. It annoyed me, but I guess I expected a little smugness. It was all part of the conversation. She had her part to play, and that part was a smug one.
She said, “You’re not very convincing. You sound pretty poor to me, dude.”
I said, “I have more than seven thousand dollars in my bank account right now,” and took a pointed victory sip of my Canadian.
She hiccup-laughed again, hand under her button nose. She took the hand away and nodded and said, “Impressive.” God, I hate sarcasm. It’s so lazy. It’s just lazy humour—and it’s smug. Nobody likes a sarcastic person—at least outside of the movies. Why don’t people realize that?
“I know it is,” I said. “Now do you believe me?”
The woman appraised me for a moment, no doubt to decide whether or not I was joking. That’s another problem with sarcasm—it’s so prevalent that nobody knows what serious is anymore. Eventually, she said, “Seven thousand isn’t that rich, dude. You say you’re rich if you’re, like, a millionaire, or not even—like a billionaire now, probably. Millionaire isn’t even rich anymore. I’ve got just about seven thousand. Am I rich, too?”
I was waiting for this, but I tried not to show it—don’t want to appear smug or anything. “That depends. Are your credit cards paid off? Any student loans or anything? Mortgage? Monthly payments with interest?”
She exhaled through her nose and rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, okay.”
“Okay. So I guess you’re debt-free—congratulations.” She moved her elbow away from her book and put her hand on it instead.
She was smart, she didn’t need me to explain. But that’s one of my convictions, you know: I don’t ever want to be in debt. That means no loans, no credit cards, no mortgage. I’ll live on rent my whole life unless I can buy a place outright. I don’t want to be pinned down. My coworkers try to tell me that paying rent is throwing money away, but at least I’m free. I’m not a paranoid, or a conspiracy guy or anything like that, but it’s true, and tonight is all about truth: governments want you to plant roots, to get stuck in a debt-loop, so you keep pumping money into the city, or the country, or whatever. Maybe I have commitment issues, but I like thinking that I can pack up and go anywhere if I wanted to.
I realized I was talking aloud. The woman was frowning at me, wondering what I was going on about. I was too used to saying whatever was on my mind that I–
And now she’s leaving. I guess I can’t stop. Too much conviction.
Day 210 and 211’s six random prompt categories were, “A compulsive truth-teller,” “Ale,” “A bad joke,” “A cheap date,” “Filthy rich,” and, “A bad habit.”