I was only in first grade and my mom had enrolled me in an after school English tutoring center. You may have guessed it from reading my posts but English is not my first language. My mom, eager to give me the best education possible, had inquired around and heard that this particular center was highly esteemed among parents.
The director of the center was a middle-aged woman who would always speak slowly and deliberately. Never one to raise her voice, she always appeared calm and composed. She would walk slowly too in her loose top and wide legged pants, making meaning of each step, as if radiating the aura of a sage. She was the recipient of the first memorable lie I ever told.
It is true that revisiting that time in my life is like finding my way through a foggy street but I vividly remember being asked to sit with the director, one on one, in her semi-dark room rather frequently. Her curtains often drawn almost entirely, she would ask me to sit across from her on a cushion. She would be sitting with her legs crossed, in a meditation pose, her eyes closed. She would ask me to sit cross legged, as well, and close my eyes.
The first time we sat together with our eyes closed, she had asked me if I saw anything. Confused by the whole thing, I told her no, I didn’t. In my mind, I had my eyes closed, what could I possibly see but black? She asked me to look deeper. I was even more confused. What was I expected to do? After a few more minutes, she told me to leave the room and rejoin my class.
The next few times we sat together, she would ask me the same question. She would ask me if I saw rays of colors. I had become rather perplexed and I could feel from the tone of her voice that she was starting to feel disappointed in me. I remember opening my eyes ever so slightly to look at her. Where a little sliver of light touched her face, I saw her eyebrows knitted in impatience. Despite the calmness in her voice, her mouth was taut in agitation. I shut my eyes quickly and weaved my first fantastical story.
I told her that I had seen a little butterfly, pink and purple (my favorite colors then and now), shiny and sparkly. I told her the butterfly was fluttering about quickly and happily. She was quiet for a few minutes before prodding me to tell her more. Did I see rays of colors around the butterfly? I continued to lie and said yes. I told her that I saw this multi-color rays of light surrounding the butterfly. I opened my eyes to find her smiling contentedly to herself. After leaving her room though, I felt ripples of guilt undulating inside me. I shouldn’t have lied like that. I should have just told her I didn’t see anything. I was going to turn back and tell her that I lied but I was too afraid. I ran and rejoined my class.
After that day, I was fearful to return to the center and coincidentally, my mom had decided that she had found a better place for me to learn English. Fortunately for me, my mom had noticed I wasn’t learning anything from that center. I was deeply relieved because I was afraid to face the director again. In my young mind, she was kind but she was also scary in an unsettling way. Until today, I still can’t understand what the director was trying to accomplish. Was she a cult leader who tried to brainwash me? Was she mentally unstable? Did she make other kids do the same? I also wonder why I never mentioned anything to my mom.
Telling lies is never right and I would never encourage it but I think that pink and purple butterfly lie might very well have saved me from whatever unpleasantness she was waiting to unleash on me.
Do you remember the first lie you ever told?
*Featured image by Andrew Shiau on Unsplash