This is a true story.
Last night I met a girl who lied.
I was at a mediocre gallery opening somewhere in Dublin. There were big framed photographs. An image of a statue projected on a white wall. Some pebbles placed meaningfully on the floor. A huge almost blank canvas. The sound of a recorded deaf choir not quite loud enough to hear over the chatter of people giving up pretending to look at the art and leaning towards conversation and free bottles of tiger beer. And one quite beautifully simply piece about a lost and forgotten novel that sat enticingly on a shelf just out of reach.
I wandered around with guilty disinterest, successfully distracted by a girl dressed to look conspicuous – an enormous purple bow on one shoe and a black hat on her bleached blonde hair. She had movie-red lipstick and a thick caking of eyeliner. She looked like a first year art student or someone who really wanted to be mistaken for a first year art student. This was what I was thinking when completely unprompted she came up and asked us if we could explain what all the art meant.
In the next thirty minutes she told us (in no particular order):
That she was Romanian and had lived there for the first 14 years of her life
That she was 19
That she had just flown in to Dublin
That she would be here for 6 months
That she was a musician
That she was friends with Damien Rice
That he was like the older brother she never wanted
That she wrote most of the songs on his previous album
That she wrote his top 5 hit Canonball
That she met him on a train while she was playing the banjo and he asked her to play on his next album
That she was recording his next album
That she was demanding that it be in both their names
That the taxi driver who brought her from the airport had recognised her
That she had won a music scholarship to a school in Edinburgh and escaped the poverty of Romania
That Borat was filmed in her home town and now they were trying to sue the film company over it
That her adoptive mother was Russian
That in Russia in the winter they rounded up the poor and placed them in Churches so they wouldn’t die of the cold
That Hunter Square in Edinburgh is a really up and coming area
That she now lived in London in a house about an hour from Gatwick
That she had to take two expensive busses to get into the centre of London
That she didn’t yet know her address in London
That she’d just come back from Costa Rica
That she had toured to Berlin
That another of her adoptive parents was German
That Berlin used to be called Bon and that at some point in the recent past they had changed the name
That she didn’t like conceptual art
That she played the piano and that was what her scholarship had been in
That she had just completed university
That her name was Cara but that her Romanian first name was something long beginning with Maria and ending with –escu
That she had learnt her fluent, Scottish-accented English in the five years she had been here
That she was staying with a journalist friend of hers Called Ben in a large house in Sandycove
These and some other things.
I don’t know how much of this is true. Some of it I’m sure.
I do know that if she had written seminal background music must-have Canonball she would have done so at the age of no more than 14 whilst still living in a remote part of Romania, speaking no English. I know that Berlin was not called Bon in recent memory. I’m also pretty sure from my (admittedly) meagre knowledge of Romanian names (drawn exclusively from the Romanian football team with particular reference to those member’s of it who have played for Chelsea) that it is Romanian surnames that end –escu, not first names. But this is by the by.
Point being that the major crux of her conversation – the thing she kept nonchalantly yet doggedly returning to, like a seagull circling an abandoned packed of chips on a busy street – her association with lovelorn MOR singer-songwriter Damien Rice, was almost entirely bollocks.
Yet she kept going. She gave us her email address – said to look up her myspace. There is no myspace.
I was drawn in by her persistence alone, unwilling to confront her, goading her on with my credulity, at times definitely very much a believer.
Outside in the chilly evening light, away from the gallery and the girl, we were quickly hit by how spectacularly preposterous it all was. We assessed the possibilities:
1) That the whole thing had been a pointless and slightly bizarre experiment to see how much we would swallow. The kind of game you might play if you were bored and alone at an art gallery and confronted by two tired, credulous 20-somethings willing to listen to you and nod in all the right places. That maybe she disappeared home with a wonderful new anecdote made entirely out of our gullibility.
I think I’d prefer this. I hate looking like a prick. I’m sure most people do. My Dad more than most, it tortures him. And yet, this is still the better option.
2) She is by no means as knowing about her make-believe. I think they call it Narcisstic Personality Disorder. Building yourself a fictional armour to disguise any number of paralysing insecurities. I remember a story told to me by a friend about a boy at her expensive school in Liverpool who would steal his Dad’s credit card to lavish expensive gifts on his friends, convincing them that they came from his winnings as one of the country’s top young Tennis players. When his parents eventually discovered this and confronted him he killed them both and took his girlfriend on a trip to New York. When faced with the choice between this and confronting all the things he’d locked away behind his made-up story, double-murder felt like the easier option. That is not a healthy state of affairs.
At primary school I was a compulsive liar. I remember making up an entire holiday to Austria in order to conceal the fact we’d just been to Cornwall. I remember telling people about the big Lego model I had in the attic. I remember Lee McIntire, who at the age of 8 tried to convince everyone that his dad was a luxury car dealer and would ask people to choose a car from his deck of top trumps that he would get for them. I remember when he and Sarah Goodyear tried to convince everyone they’d found a gun by the old railway line. Sarah even drew a picture. I drew a picture of the holiday in Austria. It had cable cars hanging from a thin line between two mountains.
When the Coen brother’s put the line ‘Based on a true story’ in front of their (entirely fictional) movie Fargo, there was a story about a Japanese girl who travelled all the way to Fargo to find the places in the film. She died in the snow. Except it wasn’t as simple as that; she knew it was a lie. She had gone to Fargo to die in the snow.