Study in Perfect

Study in Perfect by Sarah Gorham Read Free Book Online

Book: Study in Perfect by Sarah Gorham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sarah Gorham
details, motivation. Believable, but simple; I couldn’t imagine myself reciting an elaborate story, sustaining that kind of false energy.
    Liars should have good memories.
    Later, after I was well rested and back in my routine of dropping Bonnie off at school, seeing her safely inside, then leaving for work, Sister Paulette pulled me aside. We sat together under the bronze crucifix and sentimental portrait of Our Savior, the office a whirlwind of bells, buzzers, and flicked ponytails. I wondered if the school was bankrupt and she was breaking the news to each parent individually. Or maybe Bonnie was in trouble of some kind. I was alert and confused. Sister Paulette held my hands in hers and peered directly into my pupils, as if to check for shrinkage. She whispered, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
. My chin dropped. I glanced to the left, hoping to recover my bearings, felt a pilot light catch under my skin and heat climb. I had forgotten all about the long-suffering uncle. My response came after a long pause, during which time I was frantically searching my back-up files. “Sorry for your loss,” I repeated. “Oh, that loss. Well, he was a distant uncle. We were not very close to him.”
    Sister Paulette saw it all. If she hadn’t been 100 percent confident before, she must have noticed my relief when the subject changed, and we began to discuss the “air-conditioned county” in Wisconsin where we relaxed and recreated. If I had been telling the truth, I might have been a bit more eager to return to the theme. A woman who has lost someone wears her grief like a plus-size coat: her skin droops, her shoulders slide. I was refreshed after my two-weeks-and-a-day vacation and rather perky.

    The body never lies
. In its collusion with the truth, it avoids eye contact, limits movement of arms and hands. The liar is not likely to touch her chest, but fidgets a lot, grazing face, throat, hair. She backs up in her chair, sits stiffly, compresses her physical space. Timing and duration of emotional gestures are also slightly off—too short or late. When a liar is faking emotion—delight or grief—her facial expressions can’t really get into it. Eyebrows furrow as if a fly were in the air, a smile’s confined to the lips instead of the whole face.
    Aphasics, who have lost the ability to speak or understand language, quickly develop an acute sensitivity to physical gesture. They are among the best lie detectors, reports Nancy L. Etcoff, and others, in
magazine. They pick up all their clues from watching a liar move rather than listening to her speech.
    My mother too was gifted with an unusually keen social intelligence, or “shit detector,” as she called it. She distrusted Phil Donahue, and G. Gordon Liddy
the Watergate scandal broke. Though Lutheran by baptism, she had a Jewish impatience with niceties, euphemisms, whitewashing, and could see from a mile away whether someone was faking it.
    This made my adolescence difficult. To honor my curfew, I went to my room at eleven, locked my door, climbed onto a chair under the window, cranked the handle, squeezed through, and dropped to the begonias below. Then I’d walk briskly to the bridge by Mohegan and Goldsboro, where my boyfriend stood smoking under haloed streetlights. Night after night after night, our relationship secretly flourished.
    Weeding the side yard one hot afternoon, my mother spottedthe crushed flowers. I blurted out an explanation: “It must have been those dogs. A whole pack of them. Look what they’ve done!” We both knew the real story. To my mother, it wasn’t worth the fight, so nothing surfaced, little changed, except perhaps my avoidance of her begonias when I leapt into the steamy dark.
    In common use from the fourteenth all the way up to the seventeenth century was the adjective
, of Germanic origin, which meant, “yellow or

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