We all tell lies. Sometimes we fib, useless lies like “I will look for you soon we sit for a drink’’. Other times we tell ugly lies that stick to us like a stench; ‘I’m not married’ or ‘I’m married a little.’ Some lies are a maze, like Inception, the more you tell them the more you find yourself lost in them. Other lies are a cobweb; you get stuck to them, helplessly waiting for the hammer to drop. Then there are lies that define us. You become the lie. Nobody will ever remember anything else about you but that lie. Some lies are a stain while others are a dye. But then there are people who live to lie. They have a nose for lies, seeking them out, spinning them into intricate tales, thriving in this fictitious web of lies; and worst of all, they believe their lies.
The beauty of this tragedy is that lies have a way of catching up with us. Sooner rather than later, mostly. A lie found me in bed on Tuesday night. It wasn’t my lie, it was someone else’s lie. A guy who attended my writing masterclass many moons ago WhatsApped me and said, “Biko, that chap you interviewed sounds exactly like my sister’s ex husband.”
“The soldier guy?”
“What’s your sister’s ex-husband called?”
He said the right name.
I said, “Well, damn. It’s him. Your sister did him bad, bro.”
“My sister didn’t do shit to him. He’s a liar. A master manipulator.”
I said, “Is it? Can your sister talk to me about it?”
He said he didn’t know that she was done with that nightmare, “but hang on a second, let me buzz her and see.”
Shortly, my phone rings. It’s his sister. She says, “Biko I read that story,” then she chuckled. I could hear her shake her head through the phone. “I don’t want any mud-slinging but what the guy told you about our marriage is not true.”
Then we talked for a whole hour. It was unbelievable what she was telling me. I felt like Solomon, with those two women each claiming the baby was hers. I couldn’t reconcile the man she was telling me about and the one I had met, how aggrieved he was, how detailed his story was, how he looked vulnerable and stricken. How he fought back tears.
But his ex-wife had a long tale too, full of different details and recollections. She spoke of his erratic ways, conning everybody around her, her friends, her church-mates, her family. She told of lies piled upon more lies, his long disappearing spells and the fables that followed when he reappeared. His stint in Buyer Beware after he took off with funeral money. She never took a restraining order on him barring him from seeing his kids. On the contrary, I saw screenshots (that went unanswered) where she tells him to at least try to be present to his children. He stopped seeing his children of his own accord. He never broke any of her cousin’s bones. She never burned his certificates. He doesn’t have a degree in engineering even though on LinkedIn it says he does.
When I hung up I was confused. I lay in bed thinking, what-the-frrk? This guy couldn’t be acting; the tears and all, the effusive politeness. I’m embarrassed to say that I was so sold on his story I gave him money when we were parting and again the following day because, come on, you would have too. I wanted to cover his nakedness, to place a cloth on his exposed manhood.
Was it all a ruse? How did I not see it?
I looked at the time; it was coming to 10pm. So I called a friend of mine in Meru called Don. You must know Don, from Engage Talks? Yeah, that Don. He always has an interesting perspective on things. He’s the kind of guy who will say something and you’ll think, hmm, why didn’t I think of that? His phone was busy. His daughter has just won a prestigious Queen’s Commonwealth Essay competition so I figured he was on the phone with the Kisii nation in the village, getting patted on the back for raising the Kisii flag high on the high hill of the Commonwealth.
When he called me back I asked him, “Did you read the story I posted today?”
“The Special Forces guy who quit his job for his wife?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think he’s a fraud.”
So I told him what the wife had told me and when I was done, he was quiet for a minute and then he said, “damn.”
“Can you believe it?”
“The ex-wife certainly has no reason to lie.”
“Exactly, she has no cock in this fight,” I said.
I slept. When I woke up I remembered thinking, was that all a terrible dream? I wore my trainers and went to work out. Later, I reached out to our guy and asked for his service number, which he sent me. I then reached out to someone I know in the armed forces. I gave them this number and asked them to run a check on him. Granted, they were skeptical. They wanted to know why I wanted that information. What was it for? This is sensitive stuff, they said, someone could get their head on a pike. I crossed my heart and hoped to die. Moments later I was sent his condensed record. Turns out that yes he was in the military for five years but he was never in the Special Forces. Maybe he was in all those places he described, and in those combat, but maybe he wasn’t. He deserted the army in 2016.
I asked the ex-wife why such a narcissistic person would offer to donate his kidney. She laughed and said he’s incapable of selfless acts or acts of compassion. “How can he donate a kidney when he can’t show any love for his own children?” She posed. “He won’t donate his kidney, it’s a long game he’s playing. There has to be something in it.”
They say ladies have a sixth sense, that they can pick subtle nuances about people. When I was conducting the interview a lady friend had walked in and briefly joined us and listened to half of this fairy tale. I reached out and asked her if she found anything odd or disingenuous about the man. She said she saw nothing. I said he lied about a whole bunch of things. She said, “No way that guy was lying. There is just no way.”
So I called him yesterday afternoon. He picked up the phone and said, “Hello sir,” with the utmost humility. I wanted to laugh. I said, ‘do you know, K*” He stuttered a bit, K-who? I spelled out the name for him. He said, ‘K…” as if thinking. I told him that he was his ex-wife’s brother, your brother-in-law, surely you must remember him? He said, Oh yeah. I do. I do. Yeah, K. I said, well he called me. Small world, he was in my writing class once. But you know who else called me to tell me your story? Your ex-wife.
He hung up.
I called again. I told him his story and what his wife told me were worlds apart. I said what has happened has happened but I just have one question, “What was your motivation? What drives you to lie like that?” He said, “There has been a misunderstanding, let’s meet.” I said, “We already met. There is no need to meet again, just tell me what motivates you to waste both of our time with those stories.” He didn’t have an answer. That’s the last we spoke.
We come here to hear and tell stories and hopefully learn from these stories. Granted, there could be a bit of embellishing here and there and that’s okay. What’s a story without some spice? But changing the fundamental heart of a story with lies is simply astonishing and disrespectful to the community here. Maybe a few might have gotten away with it but every single person who has lied here has been found out in one way or the other. It’s hard to tell your story and imagine that if you lie, that someone who knows you and your situation will not read this story and flag it. We are just six introductions away from knowing someone you wouldn’t imagine you could know. They call it six degrees of separation, I believe. There is an American quote from the southern parts of that land that says, “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” Lies shall surface.
It’s heartbreaking when this happens. I wonder if I could have averted it in any way. I never imagined that one could blatantly lie about their story. I thought telling one’s story, anonymously, is driven by the need for absolution, a catharsis. This man’s story has been “cancerised” for me. Tainted. Rotten in its very heart. I had put an email address at the end of that story. We have since deleted it. The story will remain up but under fiction.
If by any chance you had contacted him, please DO NOt get into any form of transaction with this person, financial or otherwise. It will end in tears. Yours.
I’m sorry that we are here, guys. We learn and we do better. I will leave you with an African proverb, “No matter how far you urinate, the last drop will always fall at your feet.”
Gang, see you on Tuesday. I’m off to have a very strong drink.