Lies are best when they can’t be proved “How old are you?” Sebastian who still had his ex girlfriends “you are just a fucking 19 year old drunkard” lambast still ringing in his ears made a swift judgment call. Audrey looked about 23 so to be safe he answered “twenty six next month”. Audrey frowned a little but seemed pleased.
“I’m 25 as well!” She exclaimed “honestly – I was worried initially that this might be Mrs Robinson situation”. French girls love to reference films, thought Sebastian who inwardly noted that she was already consciously linking herself with him sexually.
“Don’t worry, lots of people say that” failing to add that the lots of people he spoke of included only those girls to whom he had lied about his age. “Not specifically referencing The Graduate, English girls prefer to put it more crudely, expressing their doubts in terms of cradle snatching and what not”. “Cradle snatching?” English colloquialisms for older women with younger men were clearly not taught at the academy. “It essentially means the same thing, I have a baby face” Sebastian didn’t have a babyface he looked about 19 or 20, precisely his age when you average out Eastern European and western methods of calculation. “I’m hoping it will mean I’ll look 30 when I’m 40 and 35 when I’m 50, but life is too short to moisturize and I could never bring myself to join the ranks of the non-smokers so I doubt it will pan out like that”
. “I see. So what do you do with yourself young man” inquired Audrey, who was still apparently unsure about the lying drunk 19 year old before her.
They had met in the crowded outside smoking area that has come to characterize London clubbing since The Ban. Sebastian had only just found a space sizable enough to light up safely when a man wearing a fetching turquoise wife beater with eyes like tea cups had stumbled into some a group of smokers ahead of him. The man with the tea cups had apologized, before politely asking his new acquaintances if they had a spare cigarette. 2 of the 3 chain smokers snidely refused the tea cupped eyes man’s request, while the third upon realizing his friends attitude to the situation said he had some but not for him. The Stumbling man sighed, resigned to the knowledge that he was in the company of a collective of twats. Meanwhile Sebastian, who had been observing the episode unfold decided that he liked the cut of the stumbling mans wife beater a lot more than the Twat collective handed him his rolling tobacco and a bottle of water. One of the three chain smokers complained to the back of Sebastian’s head that he had stepped on his toe, Sebastian pretending not to hear, patted him on the shoulder and replied that he didn’t have any cigarettes left before leading his new friend to a spot of safety by the fence.
“Thanks man” said his new friend with an earnestness that only comes with chemical intoxication.
“No bother – smokers have enough enemies without their natural allies giving them the cold shoulder”. Sebastian had become a militant pro-smoker since the ban. As far as he was concerned being shunted outside at the fascist whim of people who never went to clubs (except on special occasions) was an injustice. Sebastian believed smokers should be treated like VIP’s and formulated a methodology to back it up.
In an aging society in which the pension time bomb was imminent; the tax smokers paid together with the early death lung cancer gave them; smokers should be heralded as selfless heroes or at least given a free bus passes certainly not shunted outside in the middle of winter. On the plus side though, the smoking area of most clubs was usually a sociable place, one where the non-smoking, early home going chaff were separated from the wheat and furthermore was an area where everyone was united against a common enemy – the anonymous face of whoever was responsible for the injustice of The Ban.
Recently Sebastian had even read about another beneficial side effect of the ban, namely that non smokers were becoming upset (anything that displeased non-smokers by default pleased Sebastian) that all the girls, certainly all the goers, spent all their time in clubs outside “smirting”. Smirting was a new term that would be rendered outdated in six months that had been coined for the practice of flirting in the smoking area. It was through a chance meeting in the smoking area that Sebastian would end up meeting and seducing (or being seduced by – it was never clear) Audrey a French girl with a lot going for her. It was a week following his meeting with Audrey that Sebastian would think of his meeting with her and then lonely non-smokers bitching to each other about smirting and would spend a quiet moment laughing to himself.
So, by the time they were they were halfway through their cigarettes, Sebastian had discovered that the wife beater clad man was from Marseilles, had been christened Xavier but went simply by V and had a quantity of MDMA on his person. V had generously insisted upon giving Sebastian one of the bombs he was keeping in his left sock and while Sebastian had wanted some he was a firm believer in Drug Etiquette that dictates that it’s always best and politest to make the offerer insist before relieving them of their drugs.
Insist V did and it was immediately following the ingestion of the aforementioned substance that a beautiful but grumpy looking girl came pushing her way through the smoking area, scanning in a desperate manner the cigarette smoking faces. Upon entering their circle of vision the grumpy women spotted V and bowled over pushing her way through the collective of chain smoking twats and the fresh cigarettes they were smoking. “Putain, t’étais ou ?!” She asked V menacingly. While extremely attractive she seemed equally disgruntled and Sebastian was pleased that her focus of her conversation wasn’t directed at him.
“I’m not sure, somewhere around, I couldn’t possibly say exactly where but anyway do me a favor and speak in English; this is Sebastian and while his name is French he speaks very little of the mother tongue” Sebastian had explained this fact apologetically to V at early stages of their friendship.
“désolé” apologized Sebastian meekly and with terrible pronunciation.
“C’est qui ca ?” said Audrey apparently still angry at her brothers disappearing act.
“He is possibly the best Englishman I’ve ever encountered” Hyperbole is a common side effect of MDMA thought Sebastian to himself. He definitely wasn’t going to correct him though for this Audrey had the look of someone he definitely wanted to know better.
“Je croyais que tu détestait les anglais ! “She continued, still ignoring V’s request.
“Yes well not this one” V looked at Sebastian reproachfully.
Sebastian, who didn’t understand anything but remedial French read between the lines and understood completely – he had no nationalist illusion that the majority of his compatriots (along with most humans) weren’t at best devastatingly tedious and at worst thoroughly abominable. He gave V a knowing look then with his best self deprecating humility stammered
“Audrey” she looked him up and down as she spoke
“Bien” she replied looking straight at Sebastian with her piercing black eyes. “This is my brother Xavier” V while clearly off his face was not unaware of the function of this statement and he chuckled to himself as he watched his sister set about Sebastian. Dressed in a vintage print dress with black tights Audrey was French, slender, stylish and definitely to Sebastian’s taste.”Thank you for looking after him” she said to Sebastian before turning to her brother and uttering something in French that made him say his goodbyes and depart their little group. V departed smiling and having found that his faculties had returned to him, made his way briskly through the swelling smoking area and taking care to stand on the feet of the twat collective that were now lighting their third and fourth cigarettes. So that was how Sebastian met Audrey and it was only a couple of minutes later when she had started a fresh cigarette and she asked him his age and that he gave the response that would start the web of lies that would eventually cause their relationship’s demise, with her in a mist of confusion, him in a fog of regret.
The problem was that lying about your age, particularly when your lie requires you to account for 7 years of life you haven’t lived, is that it demands a lot of serious thought and planning to come up with a back story of lies that cannot be investigated. Sebastian, relatively new to this game, did not make life easy for himself. “I’m currently doing a masters” He replied upon her questioning him on his current life.
“Where are you doing it and what are you doing it in”
“LSE and the title of my thesis is “Why Economists and Politicians Don’t Get On; Heterodox Economics, Hyper inflation and Brazil’s political economy in the 1980’s”. It sounded winning but was actually the title of his 1st year’s coursework assignment. Nonetheless she looked impressed
“You don’t look like an economist” she said observing Sebastian’s long hair and dilating pupils. “I’ll take that as a complement”
“That you should” she said visibly warming to him
“you don’t look English either”
“That’s definitely a complement from a French woman” She laughed and a few moments later on the dubious pretext that she was feeling tired she invited him to share a spliff with her at her flat in Russell Square. Sebastian who was normally a strictly class A man happily accepted. That was the start. Nobody will ever know if Sebastian’s lie was necessary. Girls have a natural prejudice against younger men. That is an unarguable fact. Would Audrey have invited Sebastian home if she’d known his age – Sebastian will never know. What is certain though is that his initial mistruths would cause endless problems and eventually kill dead what was a promising romance. When is the right time to tell a girl that you lied to her and you’re not 26 but 19 and that you’re not a Masters student but in your first year.
Furthermore that everything you told her about your history in those phantom years was fabricated. Whatever, what is sure, and Sebastian can testify to this is that the longer you perpetuate the lies and the more your conversation consists of lies the harder it becomes to come clean. Sebastian accelerated past the line when as he was concerned it became impossible to turn back about 2 weeks in. On each meeting he told anecdotes stolen from friends, of holidays he’d never been on, on problems with university he had never had but knew of and perhaps worst of relationships spanning years he’d never been in. This was a serious operation and Sebastian began to keep a diary of what he had said in order to keep up with the exponentially expanding fictitious life he hadn’t lived. It worked mostly but Audrey was sharp and occasionally she would ask things like – “I thought you were working as a barman in Hackney that summer?” and Sebastian would have to hastily adjust his story. These slip ups were few and far between and as Audrey was only innocently inquiring on these occasions not investigating they were had no long term consequences.
Sebastian and Audrey enjoyed good sex, discovered they had a lot in common, even allowing for the fiction on Sebastian’s part. Sebastian’s knowledge of French cinema particularly endeared him to her and while her extensive DVD collection had no English sub titles Sebastian’s DVD collection did. They shared jokes at each others nations expense. Audrey explained how the national perception of Englishmen was of rapists and intellectual philistines and Sebastian would counter with talk of deep French cultural insecurity that their language was being corrupted by the English. Audrey tried to refute this but when she discovered that her DVDs had subtitles in everything but English she couldn’t muster a riposte of any substance. Early on in their relationship they watched The Beat That My Heart Skipped together and Sebastian taught Audrey how to play the piano and in exchange she gave him French lessons. She was equally as inept at it as he was at French but nonetheless they were in the midst of what Sebastian believed was the best beginning to a relationship he had ever experienced.
Though at this point in his life, in spite of what Audrey believed, he had only been in 2 other relationships so it was not so great a feat. However Sebastian would still feel the same when he turned 30 which given his promiscuity was some feat. Audrey was amazing, she had exceptional taste in everything – films music and books, made an effort with Sebastian’s friends (he introduced only his friends with facial hair) and was happy to dance until sunrise on any given night regardless of any commitments the next day. She was perfect. They never argued but equally Sebastian’s lies never ended. The problem remained therefore that Sebastian was writing a fictitious dissertation and Audrey wanted to read it. For the first 4 months Sebastian claimed that he couldn’t let anyone read anything that was unfinished. Four months earlier, in the midst of the first week of their tryst when he hadn’t been thinking about their future, he had stupidly given Audrey a false deadline to his imaginary thesis. June.
It was in June when he was in the midst of his first years exams pretending to be finishing his thesis that she brought tickets to the Rapture at the Astoria on July the first.
“Wooh alright yeah” Replied Sebastian upon hearing the news
I love Echoes but the second album is going to be an epoch for disco” I concur”
“You’ll have finished your dissertation by then as well”
“Hmm – yeah” Sebastian hated the topic of his dissertation.
“We can celebrate. And you can bring your masterpiece for me to read” Audrey was now not at all skeptical regarding Sebastian’s age nor his occupation. She had been to the LSE library and he had made sure to have The South American Masters course paraphernalia that LSE did run (but that he wasn’t on) lying all around where he was sitting along with extensive notes he’d made on the subject. He had done more work on his fictitious dissertation than on anything else he was actually supposed to be studying in his first year. In a backwards way that might have even counted in his favor should he have ever conceded to her that he had lied. But he never did. Instead later that month, on the day before the Rapture gig he called her up. “I can’t come, I think we should end”. Sebastian didn’t want to end and neither did she but admitting to his lies seemed impossible and would have to Sebastian’s mind have had the same consequence. Best to save face like a coward. Audrey didn’t understand so Sebastian half heartedly ran through a laundry list untrue clichés that made no sense and only served to confuse her further “I think the language barrier is too much” She spoke perfect English “its not you it’s me” it wasn’t him it was his lie, a lie he deems was forced upon him. Audrey, who was now crying on the phone, said that she couldn’t understand and then after that Sebastian couldn’t find the words to fill she hung up. They never spoke again and Audrey never did find out the truth.
As for Sebastian, he can still be found from time to time ranting drunkenly against the injustice at the prejudices inherent in our society in which women are so openly prejudiced against younger men. He does not blame himself.
Authors note: This was before Sebastian had succumbed to Facebook. He had resisted it for the duration of his university life – “a tool for unsociable narcissists” he had called it. Audrey was of the same opinion and though it never entered into conversation (facebook was not quite so omnipotent in 2004 as it is now)) if it had – the debacle that was their relationship’s beginning and end would in all probability never have happened. Authors note part 2: Sebastian hadn’t met Tobermory and while he would surely have suggested that Sebastian was on a hiding to nothing from the outset, Sebastian would certainly have carried on regardless so essentially this note is irrelevant.