I never thought I’d become a liar. I’m not sure if I’m any good at it. I ought to be. I’ve had so much practice. At night I listen to your sleep breath. Steady. Enviable. You never seem to lose sleep over anything. I didn’t think I would ever lie to you. I should have known better. We’re trained to lie in this world. I don’t think a single culture is exempt from that. That said, I still don’t know if I’m any good at it.

There’ve been so many times I was bubbly and happy, until I told you whatever it was that made me sing. You have this way of smoothing, nay smothering, the fire out of the enthusiasm. Then I feel like a little girl asking for attention, being reminded it’s not good to be too boisterous in public. Not good indeed. Subdued is more acceptable. Though then I feel like the middle-aged woman I am. Only more so. I still want to be a breathtaking princess. Instead, I feel like Edith Bunker on a dreary winter day.

I don’t remember exactly when I started lying to you. The other lying started way back when. Must never say what you see when you look at your father. Unless it’s something wonderful. If necessary, lie and make him feel good. Your brothers? You could get away with the truth, but it’s not recommended. And God? Well, He’s in a category all of His own. And, no, God is never mean, not even when He allows children to be killed in war or famine and then won’t even admit them to paradise unless they are baptized, which often they aren’t because nobody where they lived even knows about that rule.

Like most couples, we’ve been through so many variations of, “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Sure?” “Yeah.” And the problem is, if I do open up, I’m in danger of getting a platter of platitudes. And who wants that? So, no excessive exuberance. Wasn’t there a line in a movie about that? And no whining about anything, getting another shared sunset off the to-do list, for instance, or endlessly cheery dinner conversations, not enough roses, too many unnecessary chores, no illusions of being important, this lackluster limping along side by side, while still unsuccessfully nursing the wish to be your dream woman. On occasion you tell me how happy I am, and I don’t know what you are talking about.

Sometimes I wish I were back in a time when I didn’t have to lie, when my love for you was a sparkling fountain of devotion. A time when we could tell each other everything. Well, I don’t know about you. I could tell you everything, without fear of being judged. I was that breathtaking then. I really was, wasn’t I?

Anyway, fairy tales are always more profitable than exact reality. Priests. Ministers. Politicians. All with their preferred fairy tales. Even the medical profession. Do this and that, and all will be well. And then that awful New Age insinuation that you bring physical trauma on yourself by not having the proper attitude. So, where did I go wrong here, God, universe, spirit, whoever you are? I went to the doctor today at lunch to discuss the results. She estimates I have two to fifteen months left, and the pain will likely increase in short order, so I won’t be able to keep it under wraps much longer. I mean, with all that lying and secret-keeping and so forth, how am I supposed to tell you that I’ll likely not be here—at least not in my physical manifestation—fifteen months from now, maybe sooner?

There, I hear your key in the door.

“Howdy, Mel.” I hear you plunk your daypack on the hall table. “How was your day?”

“Fine. Yours?”

“Good. Anything happening?” You breeze into the kitchen, fresh autumn air from your brisk walk home still clings to your jacket.

“No. Just the usual.” In a way that’s almost even the truth. I’ve been lying for so long. Then one more lie qualifies as usual, doesn’t it?

“Something smells good,” you say.

Beate Sigriddaughter, www.sigriddaughter.net, lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), where she was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. Recent publications include a poetry collection, Wild Flowers and a novel, Soleil Madera. In her blog Writing in a Woman’s Voice, she publishes other women’s voices.