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The Mind Lies
The deliberations of the mind and heart are seldom in accordance. If anything, it seems that one’s thoughts only serve to conceal the deepest, most honest feelings that one possesses. Is this, perhaps, how my every belief came to be a lie? After much time spent in contemplation of this subject, I conclude that, yes, my mind and heart had been working against one another for quite some time. And they began to do so the moment that I met Lily.
Today as I lay in bed, I noticed that my eyes were not shrouded in darkness as they usually were at the early hour of my awakening. I opened my eyes to see a stream of light pouring in through the window, and suddenly noticed how cold my room had become overnight. I blinked once more, and as my vision became clearer I became aware of the delicate snowflakes sinking slowly through the air, transforming the world into an oasis of white amidst the dreary winter setting. A grin spread across my face as I lay in anticipation of the inevitable call from Lily, which always succeeded a snowfall. And sure enough, I heard the familiar ringing and ran to the phone without hesitation. There was no question as to whom the caller was.
“Hi Lily! I know there’s no school today! Will you come over in an hour?” I said the words I had said so many times before, not realizing that her acceptance of my invitation today would change everything.
Unsurprisingly, she had eagerly decided to meet me within the next hour. But what I didn’t know was that her visit today would be the last. Well, maybe I had known somewhere in my subconscious, that our relationship had begun to decay. I suppose that one might have predicted the onset of our friendship’s decline. It was apparent in the increasingly meaningless nature of our conversations, our inability to make eye contact as we spoke, and the way that we seemed nearly desperate, longing to keep our friendship intact for just one day longer, for fear of being alone. As I dressed myself and prepared for Lily, I could sense a warning of impending doom emanating from somewhere inside me. But as usual, my feelings were oppressed by my thoughts.
Lily, punctual as usual, arrived as promised. Her mother waited in the doorway to superficially greet my mother. Ms. Hirsch, formerly a Mrs., waved nonchalantly at me, but there was a spark of bitterness in the liquid ebony of her pupils. I could tell that she had spent the last two hours of her life perfecting that one lock of platinum blond hair that fell so elegantly across her face, but even longer distorting her mouth into the spuriously cheerful grin that she flashed at me now. When she realized that my mother was not home, I could see a flash of relief cross her face.
But she lowered her head and with a grand gesture said, “Hello, darling! What a wonderful day it is, today. Well, I must be going. Do tell your mother I say hello.”
She climbed into her Porsche and speeded away with the perpetual urgency that seemed to govern every aspect of her life, as well as Lily’s. As I closed the door behind Lily, a near replica of her mother, who embraced me immediately, a gust of bitter air escaped through the door. I could feel it, but did not shiver.
Because when we were together, we were impervious to the cold around us. Figuratively speaking, it seemed as though our friendship kindled a fire that the vehement winds of unkindness and belligerence, that so strongly influenced most girls, could not extinguish. At least, this is what I had believed.
I lead her up the staircase to my room. My family lived humbly; my parents were devout Christians, and I used our religion as an excuse for our lifestyle, claiming that we were not supposed to be wealthy. I knew there was no element of truth in this statement. Lily’s origin contrasted mine greatly, but we never openly noticed this contrast. I knew that my parents frowned upon her mother’s divorce, her grandiose home, and her religious identity. I knew that her parents frowned upon my parents’ meager belongings and Christianity. I knew that both families were only feigning friendship. But we did not acknowledge these facts, nor did we acknowledge our identities and the difficulties associated with them.
Lily reached onto my desk and began to gaze at a photograph of us. We were in the early stages of our youth, two nine-year-olds holding hands; the nascent beginnings of friendship were evident in our smiles. Even in the days before we’d officially met, I had found myself drawn to her. I had been entranced by the levity of her expression and the jovial nature of her demeanor. My thoughts compelled me to befriend her, as though there was some magnetic force attempting to unite us. She was the little girl whose effervescence was irresistibly contagious, with whom every other girl hoped to share her youth. But only I had had the pleasure of doing so.
Perhaps I’d thought that by associating myself with someone as seemingly carefree and light-hearted as Lily, I could escape the hardships with which I was inundated. Perhaps I could experience the wonders of an opulent, lavish lifestyle. I’d thought I could achieve real friendship even if I concealed every aspect of my life from her, pretending to be a part of her world. But how could I achieve friendship with someone who didn’t know me?
Lily wasn’t any more honest than I. Especially in the past few months, I had watched her effervescence melt away and be supplanted with bitterness. I had witnessed creases of worry and vacant stares replace her previously unmarred face and vibrant eyes. The facts that I knew about Lily were few, and the emotions I knew even fewer. But we had crafted this friendship into what it currently was, which was exactly what we’d needed it to be- an escape.
We depended on one another not to reveal a single secret, nor to explain what we were feeling. It was our duty not to confide, but rather to pretend. We pretended that the world was perfect when we were together, and in the few moments of Lily’s presence, I could be sure that she would not question a single aspect of my existence. She just knew, or pretended to know, that I, Eliza Prescott, was fine. We were grasping for perfection in one another when our lives were falling apart; we needed someone to envy us, to praise us, to refrain from pitying us, which could not be done if we shared the truth with one another. Our relationship was a sort of asylum, in which we were free from the hardships of the outside world, but still faced the threat of their infiltration. So our conversations remained shallow and materialistic, sometimes silent, even, simply so that if the rest of the world came crashing down upon us, at least this one ounce of perfection would still exist.
But while this haven of perfection existed in our hearts, we were ignorant of its presence in our minds. We had beguiled ourselves into believing that true friendship existed between us. When Lily told me that she cared for me, I believed her. But without our dependence on perfection, there was no true substance to our “friendship”, and we may have gone without ever acknowledging this fact.
Today, however, it seemed that Lily’s mind had surrendered to her true emotions- that our asylum had been broken and here we were, faced with the troubles we had so persistently attempted to avoid. I watched as the whites of her eye began to glisten and the river of emotions she had so artfully dammed up began to flow as never before. She was in foreign territory, lost amidst a sea of tears and ready to drown. She exposed herself in the hope that I might save her.
“Eliza, my parents divorced. I bet you knew, but I never told you. My dad took our house- the judge gave him everything. He left and he isn’t coming back. It’s going to be finalized tomorrow, and then I’ll have nothing. You probably know what that’s like, don’t you,” she glanced at me urgently, desperately, begging me to break the confines of our refuge, too, and offer her my help.
But I found myself incapable of doing so. My mind struggled to comprehend the situation, but failed. Then her words reverberated in my mind: I’ll have nothing. You probably know what that’s like. Reality came crashing down upon me, and it was a burden too onerous for me to bear. She acknowledged the imperfection of my life, as well as hers. But the moment when I truly became aware of the absence of real friendship was when I realized that, though I’d once claimed that I would ache at the sound of her despair, my words had been untruthful. I remained stolid amidst her tears; I did not possess but a single emotion of love, of caring, for her. And I now knew that the feelings were reciprocal. Our relationship had been nothing but a lie of omission. I had no one else with whom to pretend, and wanted nothing more to do with her.
So, quite simply, without thought preceding my actions, I told her to leave. She gazed at me in bewilderment, and I watched as she became aware of the true nature of our relationship. But before she could do as I had asked, I took the first, once cherished, picture of us from her hand, and sent it plunging to the floor, taking delight in the sound of breaking glass. Thus our beginning triggered our end. We ambled slowly down the staircase, and I opened and closed the door behind her. There was not so much as a glittering flare of warmth kindled in the solitude of my home, and I felt the frigidity send a shiver up my back. This time, I felt the cold. But I liked it. It was pain. It was truth. It was reality.