I should have lied.
As I stood there, staring off into the creeping, thick black stain of night, I knew I should have lied. Made up something, instead of saying the truth. Because as Gramma always said, “the truth ain’t better than any sort of fabrication you can come up with. Both gonna hurt nohow.”
The white tip of my sneaker dug into the dirt, kicking a wad of dried grass and Georgia clay about two feet in front of me, while I hemmed at the idea. Was fibbing just as good as being honest?
“The Lord might not think so,” my mother might say, as she finished drying the dishes in the sink. “But it is better to be right with Jesus, then have that burned on your soul when you get to heaven. That’s the devil’s calling card, and he will come a-callin’. Trust me.”
But I didn’t. I think she was lying to me. It wasn’t like she’d ever met the devil. He ain’t been to our house for Sunday dinner or nothing. I ain’t seen him around, so how could she know? For certain?
My eyes scanned the horizon, looking for anything to focus on, but there was nothin’ hanging around. Not a possum nor ‘coon poking their head around, ferreting out some nibbles. It was just me, standing in the dark with dirty shoes.
No, I should have lied when he asked. I reckon I was taken in by the moment of having someone actually talk to me who weren’t no adult I was related to. I mean, he seemed nice and all. With his high polished black leather shoes, like none I’ve ever seen before. And that starched straight white buttoned shirt. He looked like one of the God-fearing men, who carry a small Bible with them always and could recite it, without missing a single word.
Then he took my hand.
This is where I should have lied. I had to get home. My mama’s gonna be sore. It’s too late for me to be out.
But I didn’t. I held tight to that hand without no sort of reservation. Held tight, because I feared he’d change his mind and I’d be stuck here forever. Melting into the heat of summer, unseen and burdening, like Georgia humidity at the peak of day.
I sighed, staring off into the indigo, no concern for where we were heading. Just so long as it was away from here.
Finally, he spoke. “Truth is I have no use for ya, but ya seem like you ain’t got no-one to love ya. You ain’t got no-one, do ya? Not really. Because ain’t no-one keen on ya.”
I stopped for moment, feeling the full sting of his words. Truth is, he was right. And we walked on, as the town faded behind me, and the burning from his words eased a bit. And we walked on, while I grew up, with his thumbprint on my heart. And we walked on, until I knew he had come a-callin’, for me. Just me. And no amount of lying would have helped.