I’m a fabulist.
I pretend this is my confession, but I’m saying these words to someone who doesn’t even know the word, if the blank look on her face is anything to go by. She’s smiling in a sort of vague way, as if unsure whether she ought to be complimenting or scorning me, and I’m half-tempted to explain the word properly to her. No, I decide against it swiftly, there’s no need. She’ll only use it to fuel something that she wants to believe.
Story-teller, I clarify. Sip my coffee and leave it at that.
There’s no use telling her that this word would be more suited to someone who creates wild, fantastic stories and embellishes them almost past the point of belief.
It’s only a fool who would believe some of what I tell them; I consider it a kind of litmus test to throw in details that hover on the edge of being ridiculous, and a test of confrontation to see if they’d call me out on it. Most of the time, they never do pick up on it and that makes it even rarer when they do say something.
Somewhere along the way I took to biting back the truth, crushing it like a bitter tablet between sharp teeth and drawing breath to create a story I could get lost in. A standard supermarket trip became a shopping expedition, preferably in rough weather conditions and usually involving some interesting encounter with some dull person; weaving the details together just so came together easily, slipping from lipsticked-mouth and accompanied by heavily-made-up eyes playing the twin parts of accentuation and emphasis.
Maybe that’s what drew people to me: the fact that there was never a short conversation because sitting down with me inevitably meant sitting down to story-time, something where the mundane became slightly less so and they didn’t have to think about their own worries for ten minutes. Over time, I became an actress, learning to stay totally deadpan to deliver a punchline or how the slightest flutter of my eyes could be a yes or no, confirming or negating the littlest detail.
I told stories with my body too, unable to simply sit still while I chattered on. I learned to mirror someone’s body language, learned to read them and talk with my hands while I shifted around as though restless, as though I could take or leave the story at will.
(I never could, of course; stories were meant to be finished)
So I held back the plain truths and dressed them up in half-truths and outright falsehood, much like decorating a canvas in paints and jewels and ribbons.
(Later, I taught myself to do the same with myself, adorning myself with various cosmetics and unusual new clothes, a facade hiding all the dullness I perceived to need to be hidden. It became ritual to apply the makeup and decoration in the morning before I even walked out the door, so that I would be a series of falsehoods telling a series of falsehoods;)
and this is how I became a fabulist and a fable.
They spoke of me in low tones, side-glancing at me alone on a tall cafe-style stool and bedecked in the day’s costume, no doubt some new dress that was picked for its ability to both display and hide.
I wore cowardice like a secret-society badge, pinned to lapels and hooked into necklaces and strung on chains haphazardly looped around a wrist, pretended to be brave and bold. They all bought it, because it was a far prettier picture than the messy shyness-awkwardness-clumsiness, and they liked pretty.
I got used to being a fable, and then it escalated to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was real or not. I spent too long being fictional and not enough time being clinical, too little time spent in the real world and too much in the thousands of worlds I was creating. My stories were no longer a selling point for others; they stopped wanting to join me in my fictional worlds when they saw glazed eyes and the occasional silent lip-movement, as though there was a conversation inside of my head that only I could hear.
(Sometimes, it was music)
I drank too much coffee and read too many books, but the plotlines began to twist into a dozen familiar other sculptures before I could think what else I needed to do. Every day I worked, nine hours of decently-paid labour for the sake of rent and bills – every night there was a nagging in my head that I needed to do something.
The first weekend, the pen fit naturally in my hand. The pad of paper was thick, brand-new especially for the purpose, and I drank honey-sweetened tea while visualizing the words on the page. I had whole paragraphs laid out, it was just a matter of beginning.
I switched to coffee and turned the music down so low I could only pick up occasional words or instruments, never troubling to focus too long. There were a dozen stories immediately in my mind, ready for telling to a new audience; I rifled through and discarded each one like they were made of thin paper, dyed blue with words and bleeding ink. Picked up the pen, twirled it between my fingers thinking of a joke someone had made the other day.
I’m a fabulist, I wrote on the page. Underlined it twice, three times for an emphasis I couldn’t justify needing. Wrote it again just because I liked the way it looked. Maybe someone’d confuse it with fabulous.
The paper didn’t need my pretenses, didn’t need to see me all dressed up and half-hidden under cosmetics.
I began to write.