The Art of Lying
Those Devil Lips that know so well the Art of Lying
By Tariq Iqbal
There is the Bagheera and Baloo in all of us, he reflected, sitting in the comfort of his living room armchair, pen in hand. He had watched Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book a hundred thousand times, and knew Baloo (Urduبھالو) the bear and Bagheera (Urdu بگھیرا) the panther to be diametrically opposite characters. Bagheera, the sane, rational one; Baloo the happy-go-lucky, carefree one. And he knew that often times he had been the Bagheera, the responsible one, the one toiling away, putting food on the table, finding delight in the very act of giving. But sometimes, there was the Baloo in him taking over, wanting to sing and dance and play, with stars in his eyes, a sparkle in his smile, and a spring in his step. These were those times.
She had come in early, as was usual for her. Signaling to him that she had a bad throat, she croaked “Good morrrning, can’t speak,” in a husky voice and made her way to her cubicle.
“Hey, I’m going home to Canada next week. Can I get you something from there?” he had slid back his chair and called out to her in the emptiness of the office in the early hour, “Something you used to like when you were living in the States, some brand of coffee or chocolate that you don’t get here, for instance?”
She walked over. “No, nothing really, thank you,” she croaked. Then stayed on to chat. They talked about how beautiful the weather should be this time of year in Canada, and in ‘her’ California. He noticed that her sore throat eased up perceptively as she began to speak animatedly in her usual charming style. He smiled.
“Well, I will get you something from there,” he said as she walked back to her cubicle.
The day before he left, she brought him some boxes of her native Omani sweets to carry home to his family, in a gesture he found adorable.
“Don’t eat them all on the plane,” she admonished.
The plane ride home was long, gifting him long hours of having nothing to do but watch movies and think pleasant thoughts of her.
“Now, how does one charm a pretty little girl?” he asked himself, sitting in the comfort of the settee next to the bedroom window, at home, where his heart was. He looked outside at the clear blue summer sky, at the peach tree in the backyard, its branches laden and bent with the ripening yellow and red fruit, at the tulips, purple and scarlet, blossoming in the far corner of the garden, and addressed the question to them.
As one, they answered, “Get her a Dream Catcher.”
“That’s a very good idea,” he agreed.
“And a cookbook,” they added.
“Why a cookbook?” he was unsure.
“Not just any cookbook, but one that takes her across this land of a thousand lakes through its local cuisine, A Mari usque ad Mare (“From Sea to Sea”), opening her eyes to the allure of this beautiful and bountiful expanse, simply irresistible.”
“That’s a very good idea,” he agreed, “Though I’m not sure she knows how to cook, no girl with a degree does these days,” he added, amused. He could never cloak his male chauvinist pig-ness.
“And keep showering her with gifts,” they continued, “The Beatles got it wrong, money can buy you love.”
He looked for a Dream Catcher, an enthralling creation of the indigenous First Nations of Canada and the Native Americans of the United States. Grandfathers and grandmothers weave them from twigs, sinew, and feathers for newborn children and hang them above the cradle to give the infants peaceful, beautiful dreams. “The night air is filled with dreams. Good dreams are clear and know the way to the dreamer, descending through the feathers. Bad dreams, however, are confused. They cannot find their way through the web and are trapped there until the sun rises and evaporates them like the morning dew.” 1
He looked everywhere, in every mall across town, and beyond, until one in an online store finally caught his eye. There it was, an indigenously crafted piece of beauty inlaid with sparkling clear Swarovski crystals. He had always had a fancy for sparkling clear Swarovski crystals. In ruby red, this was the one, he was sure.
The cookbook was an easier affair. There was this cosy bookstore which he would frequent for their fresh coffee and pastries, right by the side of that small airfield close to home. Sitting there, watching the small planes take off and land, on and on and on, he would see himself at the controls in the cockpit, at one with the heavens and the earth, at peace with the world. And she was right where he thought she would be, in the display by the corner, beaming at him and saying, “It’s me, dude. The enchantress.” And that, really, was that.
“Now what else can I do?” he put the next question to a family of four burly racoons, mama, papa, and two grown children, loitering in the garden, looking for food in the dead of night, startled and frozen in fear by the glare of the automatic spotlights switching on, spotting movement.
“You write. Write her a story. Tell her how you feel about her,” papa racoon suggested, a faint quiver in his voice.
“That’s a very good idea,” he agreed.
“You’re not going to be able to tell her any other way,” papa racoon continued.
“And you can lie through your teeth,” papa racoon wouldn’t stop.
“Pardon me?” he was shocked. “I don’t lie,” he lashed back in anger.
“But you have a way of saying things that makes the world seem like a wonderful place. That’s as good as lying from where I stand,” papa racoon retorted, observing his situation, spotlight and all.
“Hmmm! You have a point there,” he conceded, “It’s an art. If you must, call it the Art of Lying.”
Then more vociferously, “But it’s my world and I can paint it any which way I like. So bugger off.”
And with that settled, he got out of bed early the next morning, made himself a nice cup of tea, sat himself down in one comfy corner of the living room with a clear view of the green leaves of summer fluttering in the soft breeze outside, and the tiny hummingbirds flying around poking their long beaks into flowers swaying in the gentle wind, and the occasional squirrel on the fence nibbling at whatnots, and got to work. He began to write “California Dreamin’”, because California was where her heart was, and California was what her dreams were all about.
Click here to read more from the author: Letters from my Brother: Tale of the Pantaloon (پتلوناں مضبوط)
Tariq Iqbal, aka Tony, is a retired banker who refuses to retire and is, therefore, a freelance consultant (aren’t we all) who advises banks on the profitability, or lack thereof, of their customers. He dabbles in writing, wears his heart on his sleeve, and is generally likeable, if he says so himself.
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