I’ll be right back. I just need to go read all of Brit Mandelo‘s stories.
Hiding in plain sight—that’s a version of the sincerity game.
Or, more accurately, it’s a motif.
The fairy–lights strung over the bar’s patio lit his face in pale blues and reds. I knew the line of the jaw, the abrupt bump of muscle between neck and shoulder that I had mouthed with mute passion two nights before in a cold backyard like a teenager. I threw back the last of the PBR I’d been sipping, ordered another, and watched him. He was alone, tense, leaning against the far end of the bar top, knee jiggling in a jerky pattern that didn’t match the music. His mouth was pressed into a tight line when it wasn’t wrapped around the neck of a bottle—some high–price IPA, I suspected, pegging him by his black–rimmed glasses and unsubtle air of agitation as someone a little more hip than the laughing man I’d fucked around with before.
I could do hip. I could handle that, palm it, pull it in where I wanted it to be.
I went over, half–smiling, holding my beer at waist level with my free thumb tucked through a belt loop. Casual, relaxed, open. Evens to his odds. As I approached his eyes cut over to me. He raised an eyebrow and watched the close of my approach, then said, “Fancy seeing you here.”
“I was about to suggest the same thing,” I said, turning my back to the bar and slouching against it a couple of inches from his perch. “I guess you left the party, the other night?”
“I did,” he said.
There was a moment’s silence. I sipped, he sipped. Our eyes roved. He looked good in the colored lights, lithe and fit, wearing nice slacks and a tight thin sweater. I wondered at the odds of seeing him again, counted them higher than usual—small groups of friends, moving in the same circles, going to the same watering holes. Of course I might run into him.
“I’d ask if you wanted another drink, but I’m cheap,” I said with an edge of a smirk, glancing from under lowered eyelashes. Rolling the dice.
“But you would like me to be drunker,” he said. His voice had taken on the high–tone of a joke, a ruse, a little game of one–upmanship.
I bit. “Oh, certainly. It’ll make me more palatable.”
Self–deprecating humor: the kids love it.
“Good,” he said. His grin flashed incongruously white; his eyes were a silver–grey that stole the breath right out of my chest when I met them stare for stare. His voice dropped, normal and soft and so suddenly unapproachable. “I do need help with that. Otherwise, I might get bored.”
I swallowed a mouthful of razor–cold beer, looked out across the patio.
And all I had to say was, “Touché.”
The sincerity game is a tactic, or so I like to think of it, for revealing significant information but in the process making the truth seem so outlandish, so comedic or harsh or impossible, that the listener skips straight past it without acknowledgement. Tell the truth; it comes out like a lie. Then tell a lie, tell it simple or awkward or stammering; it comes out like the truth. And it’s all a joke. We live in the age of post–postmodern irony—the new sincerity is no sincerity at all, I hear.
In short: I am a liar, but I am also quite sincere.