I am a good liar. I always have been. When I was younger my lies were a lot bigger. They ranged from knowing S Club 7 to having Super Powers to having a Thunderbirds styled Swimming Pool in my back garden. I was notorious for creating stories and convincing my friends they were true. To this day few reunions with old friends go by without the phrase: Remember when you used to say… followed by an outlandish thing I’d told them when I was seven.
As I’ve gotten older my lies have gotten smaller.Yes, I’ve done that. You were totally in the right, you don’t need to apologise. That’s a lovely dress, polka dots are so in right now.
This whole situation was a lie. Applying for a visitors parking permit when I am not a visitor but a residents permit costs more. The online application was simple, and I was worried I’d be caught out. I’m sure people have been punished for less. All I had to do now was go and prove I lived where I said I lived. I quick in and out job. Don’t say too much, I thought.
The councils ‘One Stop Shop’ in the Municipal building was a large purple room, with murals of Liverpool blown up on the wall. It was weird, I looked like something that might spring up during a Great War. The room ill fitted to the action taking place. It was oval, with an oak desk dividing it in two. The only way to their side was through a large metal door, with an electronic code.
An old woman called me forward. She had a grey afro and a small gold crucifix hung around her neck.
‘How can I help you today Sir?’ Her accent was Jamaican.
‘I’m here to give evidence,’ I said.
‘Excuse me? Evidence on what?’
‘Oh God, not a crime or anything. For a parking permit.’
‘I see.’ She looked me up and down, I wondered if she could she tell I was under false pretences? ‘How long ago did you apply for the permit?’
‘About two weeks ago?’
She sighed deeply and then sucked her teeth. She had no time for procrastinators.
‘Take a seat over there. Thank You.’
The people in the room were a mixture of those who had their lives together and those who didn’t. Most of former were sat behind the dividing oak desk. I’d like to think I belonged with them, those with the steady nine-to-five and sense of purpose, but I fell in line with those on my side much better. They all looked confused or impatient. They checked their watches or muttered under their breath. Those that were here on their lunch breaks looked the most irate. Each time someone’s name was called they’d through up their hands in annoyance, as if it was unfair the person in the queue before them went first.
The woman next to me though up her arms and shot her a smug smile as I moved towards the desk.
The woman that called me up was middle aged, had long flat hair and glasses. There was a scab on her chin that she picked at she talked. Her name badge said ‘Judy’.
‘So a visitors permit is it?’
‘So you don’t have a car?’
‘No…’ I said. Shifting in my seat as my new car keys poked into my behind.
She tapped away on the computer. Slow taps, all done with one finger. She asked me various questions: the size of my flat, who I lived with, did I pay council tax etc. All of which I answered truthfully, and was thankful I could do so.
The screen hit a loading wall, she apologised and said ‘this bit always takes some time.’ I felt a shift in the atmosphere. She was perched on the edge of her seat, looking at the screen but glancing at me out the corner of her eye every two seconds… small talk was coming. Keep cool Jon, don’t say anything you don’t have to.
‘So, who is gonna use this pass?’ she said. Flicking the flakes from her scab to the floor.
My brain must have done some fancy thing. It must have sensed I was panicking and kicked into auto pilot, because everything I said after this was completely improvised.
‘My boyfriend,’ I proclaimed. A boyfriend that doesn’t exist.
‘Oh that’s lovely. How long have you been together?’
‘Three years,’ I said without missing a beat.
‘How’d you meet?’
‘Uni. He was in the year above me. He’s graduated now.’
I had entered dangerous territory, I was adding details that weren’t essential. I was fleshing out my fake life.
‘What’s his name?’
I couldn’t stop. I had the spade in my hands and my arms were moving of their own accord. Digging further into the ground. An inch closer to hell each time for all my sins.
She turned back to the screen, tapping away again. I was stuck with these images now, this false life I’d created for myself. Recent Creative Writing Graduate Tom. Tom that made the four hour drive to see me every other weekend. Tom was just that little bit taller than me, and he lives in Weston-super-Mare but was itching to get back to Liverpool. Tom that liked Steinback, and would tell me about it and try and get me to read more than 50 pages of East of Eden. Tom that would berate me for listing to One Directiononly to sing along with me each time. Tom, my imaginary boyfriend.
‘So I’ll just get this permit all printed off for you,’ she said.
She gave me a smile and waved the papers in her hand and off she went. I watched her walk away until she disappeared out of view. As lovely as she was I’m glad it was over because I hadn’t uttered a single true word since I walked in.
God, this is a new low,I thought. I’ve never lied about being single. In fact I’m probably too open about it. The worst part was it felt really good, to lie about this fictional man and have Judy believe me. I’ve spent so much time explaining to people why I am single it felt exhilarating to tell her I wasn’t. For her to ask questions and be interested. Was this the biggest perk of being in a real relationship, the bragging rights?
When I recounted the story to my friends they found it hilarious. At first glance, I suppose it is pretty funny. If I’m honest I don’t want to analyse the situation any closer, because I’m worried what it might reveal. I’d keep it as a funny anecdote and not a formative experience that reveals my undying need for love and affection, and that suits me.
‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you met a boy called Tom?’ Mel said after I told her.
‘I’ll settle for meeting anyone.’
‘Imagine if you married a Tom!’ she said, excited. ‘Then I could tell this story in my speech. Jon actually predicted Tom a long time ago…’
She continued on with the imaginary wedding speech. The jig was up now. Everyone knew I was single and that Tom didn’t exist. Except somewhere in the world was Judy, the only person to think otherwise.
Mel put her wine glass down on the table and checked her phone. She frowned at a recent text, ‘I need to find a date for my cousins wedding.’
‘You can have Tom,’ I said.
‘You Can Have Tom’ appeared in The Glass Hive in 2016.