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Poem: "A Single Lie Discovered" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Single Lie Discovered"
This poem is spillover from the June 5, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from my_partner_doug and rix_scaedu. It also fills the "trust" square in my 6-4-18 card for the Winteriron Bingo Adventure fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Dace finds out about Damask being a plural person and also a superhera. He does not take it very well. The poem features racism, rough behavior, confusion, revelations, emotionally complex responses, panic attack, references to past trauma, feelings of betrayal, insecurity, loneliness, references to mental issues, identity and attraction disorientation, accusations of lying, hiding problems, consequences of staying in the closet/fusebox, references to family drama, apologies, efforts to make amends, trust issues, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"A Single Lie Discovered"

[Monday, September 8, 2014]


Dace is walking through
the Rangle with Maisie when
a senior bumps into them and
snarls, "Move it, cotton-pickers!"

Not wanting a fight, Dace just
rolls with it, but Maisie makes
one of those bizarre shifts
that she sometimes does.

"Lascialui, buttagots!" she barks,
with a quick twist that dumps
the bigger guy on the grass.

Her whole body language
is different, almost dangerous,
feet spread and hands on hips.

The senior looks up at her,
then scrambles away.

Just as suddenly as
it started, it's over, with
Maisie's body falling back
into its soft familiar lines.

"So now you're Italian?"
Dace says, not sure
how to handle this.

"Not really," she says,
shaking her head.
"My grandfather is."

"I heard you, just now,
speaking Italian," Dace says.
"I swear, sometimes it's like
you're a whole different person!"

Maisie just -- goes blank on him,
standing there like a mannequin.

Dace is starting to feel scared now.

"Maisie?" he says. He doesn't
dare touch her after what happened
to that senior. "Are you okay?"

She shakes herself, then,
shifting into a neutral stance.
"Close enough," she says.

"Uh huh," Dace says.
"You want to tell me what
the hell just happened?"

She takes a deep breath,
then holds out her hand
as if they've just met.
"Hi. I'm Maze."

Dace takes her hand.
It feels warm and familiar,
yet somehow ... not. "You
changed your name?"

"If only it were that simple,"
she says. "No. I'm Maze.
I am literally a different person
than Clement, who just had
a panic attack and locked
himself in his room."

"What the fuuuuuck ...?"
Dace says slowly.

He feels as though
his whole world is
sliding sideways.

"Let's take this to
the Hidden Garden,"
she says diplomatically.

Dace doesn't really want
to have this conversation
in the middle of the Rangle,
and so he follows her.

A narrow brick alley between
the Small Sociology Building
and the Bailey Botany Building
opens into a patch of green grass
covered with scarlet leaves.

Dace plants himself on
a park bench and says,
"Okay, start talking."

"Maisie -- the real Maisie --
died a couple weeks before
you met us," Maze says,
sitting down beside him.
"You never knew her."

"I'm even more confused
than when you started,"
Dace says, frowning.

"Did you hear about
the cape incident here
last year?" Maze says.

"Well yeah, it was all over
the news," Dace says.

"That's when we were
'born,' I suppose you
could say," Maze replies.
"Mindflare attacked Maisie,
murdered her, and made us."

"What do you mean by 'us'
then? How many of you
are there?" Dace says.

"Six," she says quietly.

Dace puts his head
in his hands. "Shit."

"Yeah," she says.
"It's a lot to take in."

"I thought you were
my friend," Dace says,
his voice cracking. "Was
any of this even real?"

"We are friends,"
she says quickly.
"Well, sort of."

"And what is that
supposed to mean?"
Dace says, looking up.

"Keane is actually
the first one you met,
that night on the roof,"
Maze says. "Then he
got our healer Clement
to come take care of you."

"So that's two, or three if I
count you," Dace says. "Who's
the overprotective asshole?"

Maze laughs. "That's Ham,"
she says. "He's the Italian, and
he thinks a bit like a bodyguard."

"Who are the others?" Dace asks.

"You probably haven't met them,"
Maze says. "Mira doesn't come out
much -- she's good at hiding. Clarity
handles our organizational stuff."

They don't sound familiar.

Then again, nothing really
seems familiar right now.

Dace thought that he had
one good friend on campus,
and now it's all melting away
like sidewalk chalk in the rain.

"This is crazy," he says.

Maze nods. "I thought I was
going crazy for a while," she says.
"I went to the Student Health Center,
but they couldn't help. Later on, we
discovered ways to communicate
with each other, and eventually
we found a therapist we like."

"How is that not crazy?"
Dace mutters, looking away.

Or maybe he's the crazy one.

"Dr. G says that superpowers
can do some seriously weird stuff,
on top of the usual trauma from
any attack, and that we are
handling this about as well
as anyone could," Maze says.

Dace feels like everything is
sliding out of his grasp again.
So he grabs for the first thing
that pops into his mind.

"Can I ... can I talk with
the person I usually do?"
Dace asks, voice shaking.

"I'll see if Clement has
calmed down enough that
we can drag him back
to front," Maze says.

Drag him back.

Dace realizes that
he's been hanging out
with another guy, sort of,
which explains a few things
but makes others more confusing.

Maybe he's more warped than he thought.

There is that pause again, and then
Dace recognizes the dipping chin and
the arms crossed over the chest.
His maybe-friend is back.

"Hi," Dace says. "What's up?"

"Maze says she told you."
Amber curls hide the face.

"Yeah, she tried to explain, but
I don't really get it," Dace says.
"It sounds like ... you share
a body, like a house?"

"Almost exactly like that,"
Clement says with a grin. "We
call it 'headspace' and each of us
has a private room, along with
some common space."

Dace is confused and also
vaguely jealous. He's not sure
whether he feels like he has been
cheating on someone, or cheated.

"This is not what I signed up for
when I started hanging out with you,"
he says. "I thought we were friends."

"We are friends," Clement says.

"Not if you lied to me about
something this important,"
Dace says, shaking his head.
"Are you hiding the truth from
everyone, or just from me?"

"I never hide the truth,"
Clement protests.
"I just don’t tell them."

Dace heaves a sigh.
"The worst part about
being lied to is knowing
you weren’t worth the truth."

Clement cringes. "I'm sorry."

"So am I," Dace says.
"Sorry that I trusted you
with some pretty heavy stuff
in my life, when clearly you
didn't feel the same about me."

Clement reaches out to Dace,
his fingers halfway curled.

"When we first started talking,
I didn't know what was going on,"
he says. "We met you on the roof
just a couple weeks after the attack.
It's the first time I can remember
switching front on purpose."

"Huh?" Dace says, frowning.

"The person talking is 'front' or
'in front' for now," Clement explains.
"Everyone else is 'in back' and they
might or might not know what's going on.
We used to switch instinctively, when
things happened that related to
each of our skills. Now we're
learning to control it more."

"That sounds so creepy,"
Dace says. "Like a dogpile."

Clement grimaces. "We try
really hard not to do that to
each other," he says. "It has
happened several times over
disclosures like this, though."

"Why?" Dace wonders.

"We didn't tell anyone about us,
at first," Clement says. "Maze
fronted almost all of the time,
and she got everyone thinking
that she was still Maisie."

"That doesn't sound
too healthy," Dace says.

"Probably not, but it was all
we could think of back then,"
Clement says, looking away.
"We were afraid that if anyone
found out, they'd lock us up in
a mental institution, or worse.
So we just didn't tell them."

Dace can't help but think of
the stuff that he hasn't told
anyone but Clement, and some
that he hasn't told anyone at all.

His parents still think that college
is going perfectly smooth for him.

"I guess I can see that," Dace says.
"It still makes me uncomfortable, but
I can't blame you for being scared.
It sounds like you had a hard time."

"Yeah," Clement says. "I'm not a girl,
neither are Ham and Keane, so that
has been pretty rough for us. It's
a big reason for coming out,
at least to a few people."

Dace can't picture it.

He thought his friend
was a girl, with lush curves
and tinted skin and amber curls.

It's hard enough for him to relate
to people without them changing
out from under him like this.

A single red leaf flutters
down to land in his lap.

Dace twirls it in his fingers.

"So what do you look like,
really?" Dace says. "I'm
guessing it's not like ... that."
He waggles his fingers at
the softly feminine body.

Clement looks at him,
then looks away again.

"I have pale skin with freckles,
hazel eyes, and wavy red hair
down to my shoulders," he says.
"I'm sturdy with a little padding."

Dace thinks he can see that,
almost, in his mind's eye.

It fits better than Maisie's body.
No wonder poor Clement has been
wrapping arms around himself, trying
to hide boobs that don't belong.

"That suits you," he says quietly.

"Thanks," Clement says.
"So, are we smooth now?"

"No, I'm afraid not," Dace says.
"I trusted you, and you lied to me,
and that hurts. It's not something
that I can get over just like that."

"I didn't lie," Clement says.
"I just ... left out some stuff."

"You told me that your name
was Maisie," Dace points out.

Clement hangs his head.
"I had to," he says. "It was
how we got by. I couldn't
afford to blow our cover."

"That's still a lie," Dace says.

"Yeah, I guess so," Clement says.
"At first it felt safe, or at least, safer
than the alternatives. After a while,
though, it started eating at us, me
and Ham especially. So then we
began telling a few people."

"But not me," Dace says.
"That one really stings."

"We told you today,"
Clement said. "So
now that barrier isn't
between us anymore."

Dace shakes his head.
"A single lie discovered
is enough to create doubt
in every truth expressed."

He's been burned before.
He doesn't want to risk it again.

Clement flinches. "I'm sorry!
I'd take it back if I could," he says.
"My headmates and I didn't know
about each other for a while, and then,
we didn't know how to tell people
about us or if that was safe."

"And how is that working
for you?" Dace asks.

"Some people found out
by accident, and that has
turned out mostly okay,"
Clement says. "We had
to tell our family this summer,
at least some of them, and
that kind of ... blew up."

Clement looks lost
and miserable, huddling
into a corner of the bench.

"I'm sorry to hear that,"
Dace says. A twinge of guilt
pricks at him. He still hasn't
told his own family a lot of things.

"I don't want things to go sour
between us," Clement says,
looking at Dace through
a curtain of honeyed curls.
"Is there anything that
I can do to make it right?"

Dace breathes in, breathes out.

"Play it straight with me," he says.
"No more lying and hiding stuff from me.
After all, what's the point if you're always
walking on eggshells? That's not friendship.
We gotta be ourselves. I want to know
the real you ... whoever that is."

Clement is shaking like the leaves
shivering down from the trees, and
suddenly Dace feels like a shit.

Putting a hand on Clement's knee,
he says, "Sorry if I pushed too hard.
I don't want to hurt you, or scare you.
I'm just ... kinda freaked, still."

"Me too," Clement whispers.
"I'll try to be more honest. I want
to be honest. It's just hard to be myself,
when I'm a lot more complicated
than everyone around me."

"What, there's nobody else
like you?" Dace says. "That
must be pretty lonesome."

"There are other multiples,
not a lot, but I've gotten to talk
with some of them a little,"
Clement says. "It helps."

"That's good," Dace says.

"It's just so ... it's such a mess,"
Clement says, groping at the air.
"I'm part of a plural system, which
makes me kind of transgender, but
not the same way as most trans people.
I'm homoromantic asexual, which is
confusing to a lot of folks, including me,
and that makes it harder to connect."

"Yeah, I get that," Dace says. "I like
people, different kinds of people, and
it's hard to pin down if I have a type,
you know? Which just makes
dating all kinds of awkward."

"I know," Clement says. "I'm
trying to reach out more, but it's
exhausting and sometimes scary.
The soup thing scares people too ...
you did know we're a superhera?"

His rises to a squeak, almost as if
he's pushing the words off a cliff
just to get them out in the open.

"Breathe, dude," says Dace.
"All I know is that ... Maze?
mentioned a healer."

Clement lifts his fingers in
a tentative wave. "That's me."

"Wow," Dace says. He's
never met a soup before.
It's scary and a little exciting.

The hand opens a bit more
and Clement reaches toward him.
"I could show you?" he offers.

Suddenly Dace remembers
the SPOON shows on flickering
and realizes that he is definitely
being a dick about this part.

"You don't have to share
your superpowers if you don't
want to," he says hastily. "I mean,
I'd love to know, but that's prying.
It was the personal stuff I was
getting at, like who you are."

"This is who I am," Clement says.
"Literally. When Mindflare attacked
Maisie, his power cut her mind apart,
and a piece of it broke off. That's what
created us -- and each one of us has
different abilities and skills that helped
us to survive what happened then.
It's why I'm a healer, why I exist."

"I sooo don't know enough
EFA for this," Dace breathed.

"You don't need to," Clement says.
"I have a therapist for that stuff.
From you I just need a friend.
If you even still want to ..."

He starts to pull his hand back,
and Dace catches it. "I don't
want to act like a fork, dude.
I'm just ... rattled, is all."

"Yeah, me too," Clement says.
"I could damp it down for you,
if you want a demonstration?"

Dace is curious as a cat with
a bottlecap under the fridge.

"Show me," he says, rubbing
a thumb over Clement's hand.

Energy wraps around him,
warm and fuzzy as a blanket,
and the knots of tension untie.

"Wow," he says. "That's amazing."

It's also eerily familiar. He has
felt something like it before.

They had a friendship made of
soft touches and hidden energy
and promises to be there for
each other when college got
too hard to handle on their own.

It was an unexpected relationship,
but still, it worked for them.
Or at least it had been.

"It's just biochemical suggestion,"
Clement says, pulling away. "Stop
the body's stress reaction, and
the emotions tend to follow."

Whatever it is, it's working,
and it's not fading even when
they're no longer in contact.

"Thank you," Dace says.

"Welcome," Clement replies.
He still looks nervous, though,
watching the autumn trees
more than Dace himself.

"Don't push yourself
too hard," Dace says.
"I want you to be okay.
I want us to be okay."

"I want that too," Clement says.
"But I guess that's up to you."

Dace thinks about that.

He thinks about being lonely,
and the way Clement fills up
an empty space inside him.

He thinks about the stuff
he hasn't said and maybe
should talk about with someone.

He thinks about the times when
he shared some of his worries,
and the deep sense of comfort
that he got from Clement then.

He thinks about that awful night
on the roof, remembering a kind voice
and gentle hands and a warm energy
pulling him back from the edge.

Dace admits that he wants it back.

"From here on out, Clement,
trusting you is my decision,"
Dace says as he reaches out
to clasp hands. "Proving me
right is your responsibility."

Clement licks his lips.
"I'll do my best to live up
to it, Dace," he promises.

* * *

Notes:

Dace Graham -- He is a student at Urbanburg University, majoring in Cultural Studies, minoring in Art. He sketches with charcoals, among other techniques. Dace is black with chocolate skin, full pink lips, and a wide nose. He has short, tightly curled black hair and brown eyes. He is average height and slender. He has a low voice that roughens when he gets upset. Dace constantly overestimates his ability to do things like take a beating or hold his liquor. He can be cynical, and he's not the best student. He doesn't make friends easily, although he's a nice guy once you get to know him. Dace is a friend of Damask, primarily Keane and Clement.
Qualities: Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Generous, Good (+2) Meticulous
Poor (-2) Constitution

* * *

"A single lie discovered is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed."
-- Trust Quotes

"I never hide the truth; I just don’t tell them."
-- Trust Quotes

"The worst part about being lied to is knowing that you weren’t worth the truth."
Mishaela

"Trusting you is my decision. Proving me right is your choice."
-- Trust Quotes

lascialui! – leave him alone! (lascilo!) [laa-shaa-LOO-ee]
-- American Italian

buttagots/butta’ gazz’ – annoying idiot (buttana u’ cazzo) [boo-taa-GAATS]
-- American Italian

Ham tends to show dominant and aggressive body language. Clement tends to show submissive and trustworthy body language. The difference can be dramatic, especially when they switch from one to the other without anyone else in between.

The Hidden Garden is tucked between the Small Sociology Building (which is actually the larger of the two in that department) and the Bailey Botany Building, and it connects with the pocket park behind the Bailey Botany Building. You can't see the Hidden Garden itself from the Rangle, only a narrow brick alley that leads to it.

Keeping secrets is a complex issue. Disclosure has benefits, but also risks which explain why people keep secrets in the first place. Secrets and lies have their own advantages, but can be hazardous to health. Understand whether to tell, when to tell, and how to tell a secret. It's also important to know how to keep a secret.

Disclosure is especially fraught for transfolk. People argue over whether or not there is a duty to disclose, and if so when. In Terramagne, superpowers fall into a similar category of debate.

Betrayal is a disruption of trust which entails relational transgression and expectancy violation. Understand how to heal from betrayal.

Trust building is an important part of growing up and forming relationships. Rebuilding trust is necessary for sustainable relationships, because everyone makes mistakes sometimes and you need ways of regaining trust in each other. Here Dace and Damask are struggling to work through tangles created by Mindflare's attack. That's not the same as someone choosing to lie in order ot cover up misbehavior, but it has a lot of the same effects.

Apologies need several parts to be effective. Clement is missing a few, but that's because this whole mess began with a situation that nobody -- not even Mindflare -- really understood. Things will inevitably go wrong between people, and you need to understand how to repair your relationships. Here is an example from the kink community. Clement and Dace are groping their way in this direction. Follow the steps to earn back broken trust.

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