Love and Loincloths
My senior year of high school, I was hopelessly in love. He was good looking. He was charismatic. He was funny. He had some downsides though, among them the fact that he was gay and likely had some version of borderline personality disorder, but the greatest being that he was really into Live Action Role Playing, or "LARPing," for those of you who aren't virgins and don't know the official acronym.
Yes, every other weekend he met with friends in the woods of middle Georgia. He painted himself as a cat-man hybrid, and was part of a group lead by a forty year old man who wore nothing but a sparkly purple loin cloth and cheetah-styled body paint. He would return to school on Monday morning with tales of how he and the loin cloth man had completed a successful mission to stop the trolls from invading the cat-person's rightful territory, which extended from the edge of Hard Labor Creek park all the way to the Cracker Barrel sign.
I should stop here to say that I totally understand the idea of LARPing. I get the desire to live out Lord of the Rings-- I'd be lying if I said I've never priced out replicas of Galadriel's robes on eBay. I do, however, have some questions about an organization that allows scantily clad grown men to frolic with minors. I admit that everything I know about sex crimes is from Law and Order SVU, but it seems to me that the loin cloth would at least cause some raised eyebrows in the legal department. Especially when then man's name is "Randy."
It became clear to High School Me that my intended's love for all things LARP was the mistress standing in the way of our happy future together. How can a normal, human girl compete with a weekend of imaginary fire powers and guild-making?
There was only one way, one option: I had to pretend to possess magical powers.
I've actually never told anyone this aspect of the story before, primarily because it makes me look like some strange combination of bitch, lunatic, and predator, all titles which may be deserved. But even in high school, I was nothing if not ambitious, and wasn't content to settle for "just friends." So...I told the boy that I possessed the power to read minds. I hinted at other super powers as well, but that was the main one-- I was smart enough to not claim any powers that would require CGI or David Blaine to prove. Mind reading, however, was easy to fake-- I'd watch for his telling body language, then say aloud whatever I discerned he was thinking; it was easy, seamless-- Miss Cleo would have been proud.
And I have to admit, there was something exhilarating about the lie. I was the girl who attended midnight Harry Potter releases, who stayed up late to work on her own fantasy novel, who got grounded for owning books from the metaphysical section of the book store. Even though I knew the fantasy world I was creating for myself and the boy was just fantasy, I liked living in it. I liked feeling special. I liked feeling important.
Things got a little confusing, however, when a few weeks later the boy told me that he, too, possessed mind reading powers, including ones that allowed him to connect to the minds of notable, attractive, male celebrities of the time. I was unquieted by his revelation, but was trapped-- he clearly believed in my powers, and there was no way for me to call his bluff without confessing to my own lie. So I just kept lying, occasionally upping my supposed magical skill set when he did the same. Soon I was performing luck charms, and he swore that one day, Randy of Loincloth Fame would be teaching him how to light a candle from the other side of his mother's basement.
Our invented world got more complex, and I soon began to lose track of the lies. We were living in the most elaborate fantasy novel I could ever dream up. It became clear to me that while I was getting more and more uncomfortable with the lies, he was relishing them, not merely accepting the fantasy, but rather allowing it to become his reality. Furthermore, I realized that in the strictest sense of the term, I was now a Live Action Role Player, something I wasn't exactly thrilled about. I'd achieved my goal and won his heart, at least temporarily, but I didn't want his heart in the fantasy world-- I wanted it in the real one.
We parted ways dramatically after a dance performance where we glared at one another while salsa-ing to a Santana song. It would be years later before we touched base again; I met him at a Borders. There was no seating in the cafe, so we went to the children's section and sat hunched over the tiny table covered in open board books and an abandoned pacifier. It was quiet, save for a French cover of My Heart Will Go On was playing. I'd changed a lot in the two years since our last meeting-- I was in college, working on a fantasy novel-- one where the magic could live on the page instead of through me-- and dating a boy who I didn't have to lie to. He seemed changed as well, which was comforting. I exhaled, smiled, and after he finished telling me about his new job, asked him where he was living.
"With Randy," he said. I held in a wince, wondered if Randy possessed a separate loincloth to wear around the house. You know, more casual than the sparkly one he wore in public.
"And how is that?" I asked.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It's me, him, and....two cats that aren't really cats, it you know what I mean."
I did not know what he meant.
"It was a little weird at first," he continued, "when they came up to me and started meowing, and I realized I understood them. But now it's cool."
At that moment, a Borders employee brushed by us. Her movement upset a display of Incredible Hulk comic books; a few moments after she walked away, they began to slide off their shelf, one after another. The boy held a hand out toward them, and began to flick his fingers to the side as they fell. When a single comic remained-- "Can't get the last one," he said.
I left shortly afterward, and we haven't spoken since. Looking back, I'm sad for him. Not only because, if he actually had telekinetic powers, using them to spill comics would be epically lame, but because he was still lost, after all that time.
Living in a fantasy world is beautiful, it's fun, it's intoxicating-- there's a reason it's my preferred genre to write in. But when you allow yourself to become convinced that the invented is the only place where you have value, or skill, or power, you con yourself out of truly living. But reality? Reality is not only equally beautiful, but it's honest--it will never lie to you, never fluctuate with a writer's whims, never ask you to suckle a fledgling dragon or wear a purple loincloth. All reality requires...is the truth.