I’ve Failed Us All
I decided to run for president. Well, let’s be honest. I decided to drive for president. I went to the DMV because it’s the most official place I know how to get to without getting lost and having to pull over to cry. The woman at the counter looked at me a long time when I asked her what kind of form I needed to drive for president. And then she started to tell me a story about how she’d been working this job for six months, and everyone who came through the door hated her.
“That’s not true,” I said, but it was. I hated her, too. She had a daughter she was trying to raise by herself because the father, well he was still in the picture, he was just a dumbass.
“A lot of men like football,” I told her, but that’s not true, either. No one likes football. It’s just easier than spending another afternoon describing the void.
My job is to make small talk with Korean businesspeople to help them remember how to speak English. I have a checklist I go through every day for a month, then I start over. We start simple, How was work today? Where do you live? The biggest problem at first is that they don’t know how to lie.
When I ask, “How are you feeling?”, they say, “I’m so tired. I cry all the time. I’m afraid my son won’t have a father because
I will surely kill myself.”
“No, no,” I correct them. “When someone asks, ‘How are you?’ you answer, ‘I am fine.’ Or, ‘Okay. How are you?’ No one actually wants to know how you feel.”
They apologize profusely, beg for another chance.
“That’s fine,” I say. “I won’t tell your boss.” The truth is, of course, that the calls are monitored. Then we move up to more complex lies like politics and social issues.
“What do you think about abortion?” I ask. “Abortion is a complex issue with many facets to consider,” they might say.
“Good use of vocabulary,” I say. “How about gun control? Or a livable minimum wage?
By the time they finish the course, they are able to converse at length without saying anything. This is why, when I see you, I have no lies left to share. You understand.
CL Bledsoe is the author of a dozen books, most recently the novel Man of Clay and the poetry collection Riceland. He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.