“Sometimes,” I say, “I’ll be talking with a girl, and they’ll ask me how old I am, and when I tell them, I see a little hope die in their eyes.”
“It’s like up until that point the future seemed so bright, but then in one clean sweep it’s all, ‘Oh, well, there’s the deal breaker.’”
“You aren’t that old, are you?”
“I didn’t think I was. I feel old sometimes. Probably more than I should.”
“You going to eat that?”
“The chicken? No, help yourself. I even once had a girl say, ‘You look so much younger.’ But there was a twinge of regret to it.” I replay the scene in my head. The slight slump in the shoulders, that half sigh. ”You know, I don’t even know if I was imagining that. I don’t even know anymore.”
“You ever thought about lying?”
“You mean about my age?”
“Sure. Seems simple enough. Pass me those edamame.”
I take one, pass the plate over.
“Thought about it. Never really considered it.”
He holds an edamame up, stares at it.
”Didn’t your dad lie to your mum about his age when they first met? At a disco or something? Was that you?”
“Yeah, that was me. He had a fake name, too.”
I imagine my father with the long hair, the flares, the tight shirt. An overflowing, libido-inspired confidence. Such a far-cry from the kindly monk in his place.
“So let’s play the hypotheticals then. Isn’t it possible that your mum and dad may never have gotten together if he hadn’t lied to her?”
“Er… I suppose so. There’s logic to that.”
“And that in following, if they hadn’t gotten together, you never would have been born?”
“Well, yeah. That goes without saying.”
“Man, lying to women about how old you are is in your blood. It’s essentially a part of what created you. You should be flying the flag for liars worldwide. You should wear that badge with pride… but secretly. You know, lest the truth get out.”
“I uh… I hadn’t thought of that before.”
“Just saying,” he says, looking around. “Hey, what happened to that fish we ordered?”
“You ate it,” I say. “Just order another if you want. But you do realize that my parents are divorced now, right?”
“Yeah, you told me.”
“And that where they stood on the happiness scale when it first happened was vastly tipped in my mother’s favor.”
“I uh… I will admit that I don’t remember that part.”
“Well, while my mother went on to follow passions and dreams she had, my dad quietly wallowed in self-pity and mystery novels, pining for a woman who would never return.”
“And it was a long road he walked to rediscovering happiness, even though he declared then, and still does now, that he would never find another woman.”
I shrug. “I’m just trying to avoid pitfalls, you know? Keep my options open.”
He eyes the remains of the okonomiyaki, and I slide it over.
“Okay, okay. Yeah, I get that – avoiding pitfalls. But did that meltdown have anything to do with the lying part of their first meeting?”
I think for a moment. Shake my head.
“You know, I think that actually brought them closer together. Her having to help him ‘go straight’, so to speak.”
“Well, there you go. Just lie now, lie well, and be sure avoid the horrible years of loneliness later.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
“And pass me those fries.”
A young waitress shuffles to the table and looks us over – my fat friend, the empty plates, the empty glasses of beer, and me.
“Can I take your plates?” she asks.
“I’m 24,” I say.
“Uh, yeah. It’s uh… my birthday tomorrow.”
“Uh… that’s nice. How about those plates then?”
“Do you think I look 24?”
The girl looks at me, then my friend, then shrugs.
“I thought you guys were around 30. Sorry. Can I take the plates now?”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Take them. Thanks.”
Hurriedly, awkwardly, she picks up the plates, and nervously shuffles off. I look over at my friend.
“I uh… I don’t know why I did that,” I say.
And while he chokes on french fries, coughing, laughing, and crying at the same time, I wonder whether to lose myself in a daily routine of long walks, coffee, action movies, and mystery novels, or to see how far this lying thing takes me.
But some decisions, it seems, they simply make themselves.