Thursday, July 14, 2011

Third eye unblind

My mother was standing by the door when I tried to walk out with her car keys in my hand.

"Where are you going." It wasn't a question. It was more of a statement or even a challenge.

"I'm going to see my friend Rod." Rod lived about four blocks east of us. Mom looked at me the way she always did when she thought I was lying, with her third eye open, staring into my face. I thought I'd found a way to beat that eye by trying to move past it quickly enough, but she was blocking the door. I began to wither under its unblinking gaze. I reckoned I was busted.

"Okay," she said, giving me a reprieve. "Be home for dinner." I was out the door before she could change her mind. I was in her '63 Plymouth Sport Fury and out of the driveway in about thirty seconds. I was not going to Rod's. I was heading west a couple of miles, to see my new girlfriend. There were various reasons I lied to Mom about where I was going. One, I didn't want to have to explain who my girlfriend was, who her parents were, what her dad did for a living, on and on. Interrogations by my mother, especially under the gaze of her third eye, could go on for hours, even days, with no details overlooked. Two, the reason I lied is because I was I always lied to my mother. Going to Rod's was a lie I felt was safe. Mom didn't care much for Rod, and hated his mom, so I didn't worry about her calling up to find out if I was there.

As it turned out, it was my first winter as a licensed driver. Going through a residential bottleneck of a road, where the street suddenly went from two lanes down to just one. Another car cut me off. I skidded on ice and hit a telephone pole. I didn't get a ticket, although I got a lecture from a cop about driving on snow and ice. When I got home Mom's third eye was not only wide open, it was sparking with rage. "I thought you were going to Rod's! You were going in the other direction!" Smashing the front end of her car made her less angry than my lie.

Even forty years later, her mind mostly taken over by dementia, Mom would occasionally remember that lie, and her rage would begin anew. The problem with Alzheimer's is that time has no meaning, past and present are the same. For her it was as if she had just learned of my lie and her car's smashed front end. My long-ago lies were caused by immaturity, a teenage brain. My mother had no tolerance for the slightest untruth. Mothers have a built-in bullshit detector, and Mom, with her terrible third eye staring into my teenage brain, could detect a lie even before it came out of my mouth.


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