JESUS, TUPAC, OLD BOYFRIENDS

JESUS, TUPAC, OLD BOYFRIENDS

Some things are known to rise from the dead.

I got a really strange email this morning. It was a response to an online dating profile of mine. The strange thing was that I took down all my profiles ages ago. Or at least I thought I did. Insecure Jerry immediately imagined the worst: “Oh, my God. My profile’s been up all this time. I’m just such a loser that no one was interested in me! I’m an Average Joe! An Average Joe!!!!!”

But Insecure Jerry gave way to Detective Jerry, who went to the site to check it out. Sure enough, my profile was not only deactivated, it was so far gone that the site had deleted it altogether. If I wanted to put a profile up now, I’d have to start from scratch. Then I remembered something else. This site had stopped allowing people to post their email addresses over a year ago. Even if someone had discovered my profile through some cached memory or other internet magic, they couldn’t have used it to contact me directly.

So I took another look at the email. The guy used an obvious pseudonym, gave very little personal information about himself and mostly wanted to know what I was up to. Whether I’m in a relationship. How my personal ad has worked out for me. What kind of relationships I’m looking for.

Looks like a ghost from the past has come back. And he underestimated Detective Jerry’s detective skills.

I’m still trying to figure out how best to jerk this jerk around.

CONGRATULATIONS FAGGOT FAMILY

CONGRATULATIONS FAGGOT FAMILY

No time to blog today, but for a larf, I recommend you check out Chrisafer‘s latest entry, where he brings you this tasty treat.

Best wishes to the Doodys, the biggest faggot fanatics in all of Great Britain. Yes, those Doodys really love to wrap their mouths around Mr. Brain’s big meaty balls.

Go on! Make your own joke about England’s official Faggot Family. It’s easy and fun!

HOME ALONE WEEKEND

HOME ALONE WEEKEND

Drew had to work all weekend, which meant I reverted back to my swinging bachelor days of several months ago. Our usual Saturday morning breakfast at our second-favorite breakfast restaurant would be just about the only time all weekend we’d spend together. As I ate my chocolate chip pancakes, I had a melody stuck in my head, and I couldn’t place it. I knew it was from a movie, and I suspected it was from a Christmas-themed movie, which meant I probably started thinking of it after seeing “Elf” the previous night. (One-word review: “Delightful!”)

So I hummed it for Drew. “Do you know what this is from? Dum-dum dah-dah DUM-dum! Dum-de-dum-diddy-duuuuum!” Drew placed it immediately. The song I couldn’t get out of my head turned out to be the theme to “Home Alone”. Eerily appropriate.

As much as I’d like to say that I used my Jerry Time to throw some wild swinging party with all my boytoys, toyboys and homeboys (okay, I don’t really have any homeboys), I mostly stayed at my apartment and cleaned and packed, getting ready to move at the end of the month. On Saturday afternoon, I made a trip to Office Max to buy boxes, which of course, also meant browsing and impulse buying. It’s not easy to impulse shop at an office supply store, but I’m gifted that way. I quickly found a display of cheapo Christmas CDs that looked like it had been set up about ten minutes ago, and I was immediately tempted to buy “The LaFace Family Christmas”. But that wasn’t the only CD that caught my eye. Among the knockoff Nat King Cole and Christmas Samba! compilations, I spotted the face of Kevin McCallister slapping his cheeks and wailing.

It was the “Home Alone” Christmas CD.

Just another lame compilation of songs everyone owns on a thousand other Christmas CDs (including TLC’s “Sleigh Ride”, which was also on the LaFace album), but it included that John Williams theme music that I had stuck in my head.

I bought the CD. I listened to it. It wasn’t enough. On Sunday, I bought a “Home Alone” DVD, too, and I sat and watched it while I did some more packing.

For all the serendipity involved, and because — let’s be honest — “Home Alone” is one of the best movies ever made — ever, ever, EVER — I’m calling this “Home Alone Weekend”.

Also this weekend:

I talked some more to my friend Greg, the one who recently came out to me. The recap: before he came out to me two weeks ago, he had come out to no one. The update: by now, he has come out to just about everyone. His mother, his sister. On Saturday night, a bunch of his friends were taking him out for his birthday, and he planned to tell them all at dinner. He didn’t think he should tell his father at the Nets game, so the next time he sees him at a non-sporting event, he’s going to tell him, too. I couldn’t be happier for him, though it makes my twelve-year-plus coming out process seem a bit stretched out. I previously avoided mentioning his name in this blog out of respect for his closetedness, but now, who cares. Greg is gay everyone! Well, whatever. You probably already knew that.

On Saturday night, I saw “Love, Actually” with my film school friends at Century City mall. I had long ago vowed never again to see a movie at Century City because it’s way too crowded, and it’s too difficult to park there. But I figured with the all the newer, nicer theaters like the Grove and Arclight sucking away all the customers, Century City was probably a ghost town. Wrong! Everything was sold out, the theater was jammed, and worst of all, the audience roared at the “Along Came Polly trailer”, which I can say objectively is simply not funny. That’s another thing I hate about Century City: lousy audiences.

Afterwards, we hung around outside the theater yakking about the movie like the film school geeks we are, and a security guard came up to us and asked us to move and keep the area clear. “If you need somewhere you can sit down and talk,” she said, “you can go see Guest Relations.” Oh, it was so tempting to go to Guest Relations and ask them to seat us, but we just left. I didn’t have much to say about the movie anyway.

Getting out of the garage at Century City was a nightmare. Every exit was closed except one. (It was after midnight, but when every movie is selling out, it stands to reason that multiple exits might be necessary. I’m talking to you, Century City Management!) I sat in my car and waited and waited. It took 37 minutes from the time I first got angry until I finally got to the cashier, and there’s nothing to make you feel more powerless than trying to get out of a garage when only one exit is open. All you can do is stay in line and wait. And plan what you’re going to say to the cashier when you finally get there. And then not say it because you know he’s only making about five dollars an hour and doesn’t need the aggravation, and besides, he doesn’t make the policy and everyone else has been yelling at him all night long and at this moment, he’s either pondering his other career options anyway or plotting to come back tomorrow with a semi-automatic and try to become the evening’s top news story. So I just went home and vowed to write a really angry letter to the jerks in Guest Relations.

And I didn’t do that either. Screw them.

ANGER. MY DAMN ANGER.

ANGER. MY DAMN ANGER.

“One tribe hosts a ‘Survivor’ first….a wedding!”

Okay, Mark Burnett. I was quite intrigued by that teaser for last night’s episode. I mean, there hadn’t been any hint of romantic feelings from any of the castaways this season. A wedding was sure to be a dramatic development. Who was getting married? Ryno and Pelican Pete?

I watched your damn show last night. Guess what? No wedding. I mean, there wasn’t even anything close to a wedding. Sure, the tribes merged. Maybe you think a merge is like a wedding. But it’s not. And if it were, that would hardly make it a “‘Survivor’ first”. Besides, the merge involved two tribes, not one. And nobody “hosted” anything. Don’t play it off like the wedding took place. A wedding means vows and singing and a bouquet made from clamshells. We got none of those things.

Somebody call 911, because I know a TV producer whose pants are on fire.

What’s up with the new Tony Hawk game? Why has my second-favorite game series (this being the favorite) become just another ripoff of Grand Theft Auto? I mean, how sad. The game that launched a thousand shameless imitations has become a shameless imitation itself. You know what, Neversoft, makers of Tony Hawk Underground (Ooh, T.H.U.G., get it?)? Only losers rip people off. You guys used to be cool. If I wanted to play Grand Theft Auto, I’d play Grand Theft Auto. But I wanted to play Tony Hawk, and now I can’t because you guys stunk it up. Why do I have to steal a drug dealer’s car and drive it into the river? It’s a damn skating game! I’m going to make my feelings clear in a bitter, one-star review on Amazon.com. That’ll show ’em!

Where does Steve Martin get off writing 163 lousy pages and calling it a novel? I mean, did he write the entire thing on the ride to the set of Looney Tunes: Back in Action? Way to capitalize on your literary cred, you sell-out con artist. Sorry, but I have better things to spend my $19.95 on. Like a DVD of Roxanne. Remember the guy who starred in that? Yeah, he was pretty cool.

How did I end up back in the lousy BMG music club again? I swear, I didn’t commit to anything on the phone. Now I’m stuck mailing back their dumb reply cards to make sure I don’t get CDs I didn’t want in the first place? Plus, I’m probably on some telemarketer sucker list. That’s it, BMG. You’re getting a nasty letter from me.

This is war!

HONK

HONK

I’m a major honker. When another driver pisses me off, I don’t yell or give them the finger. They usually can’t hear you yell, and they often won’t notice the finger. Those things just help you vent your anger. I want to share my anger with others. Honking not only pisses off the person who pissed you off, it pisses off other people who weren’t involved until then. It gets them to notice the injustice you have just suffered. That makes me happy.

I’m not a honking anarchist, though. There are rules to honking:

  • Only honk at people who deserve it.
  • Never honk in residential areas, especially at night.
  • Never honk at a police officer.

But last week, I broke the biggest, trickiest rule of all:

  • Never honk at someone you know.

Like most people, I don’t even look at who I’m honking at until after I’ve leaned on the horn for a good five seconds or so. Sometimes not even then. Other drivers are faceless and anonymous, especially if they’re seated way up high in an SUV. I don’t have time to crane my neck. Fuck you, end of story.

So, to the mailroom lady who’s been glaring at me and giving me the silent treatment all week: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was you, but that’s no excuse. I thought you were stopping outside the garage because you were finishing a cell phone call. I hate when people do that. It blocks a whole lane of traffic and forces me to wait until traffic is clear so I can swerve around you. I’m not the one who’s making the call. Why should I have to wait, right? You see why that upsets me.

Okay, so your husband was just dropping you off outside the building. Well, golly, there’s nothing wrong with that. And I know he doesn’t usually do this. I’m sure it’s been hard for you to get to work these last few weeks with the bus strike stretching on and on as it has. It must be a major hassle. And you don’t need another driver hassling you because you were taking ten seconds to stop to get out of your car after a hellish two-hour commute that’s making your husband late to work, too, and costing your entire family a lot of money. Ten lousy seconds. I mean, really, what’s that guy’s problem?

I know it seems like the appropriate response to that is to ostracize the honker, to turn the other mailroom employees against him, to curse him out in Spanish whenever he comes in to drop off a letter. (I know more Spanish than you think I do.) But please, let’s be civil here. We’re not out on the mean streets now. There’s no honking in this office. I’m nice here. I’m quiet here.

I’m sorry.

Can I please have my shipment from Amazon.com now?

CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF

CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF

JERRY (three weeks ago): Hmmm… so I can order CDs from Amazon.co.uk and find stuff that’s not available in the US? And without paying outrageous import prices? Wowee, a new way to satisfy my boy band addiction! Finally, Westlife will be mine!

JERRY (last Thursday): Hooray! Westlife, you finally made it across the Atlantic! Wait a second… I Have a Dream? Against All Odds? Uptown Girl?!?!?!?!? How many lame covers did they do? I’m not even going to listen to this garbage! Boo, Westlife! Boo, boy bands! Boo, Amazon.co.uk!!!!

JERRY (driving to work this morning, singing): You’re the only one who really knew me at allllllllll… I love how he accents “really” on the first syllable, not the lame way Phil Collins did it! Against All Odds is the best song ever! Oooh, Brian, Kian, Mark, Nicky and Shane, I love you all! Westlife rules!

JERRY (three weeks from now): Boyzone, you’re here! At last we can be together!!!

TWO CRAZY LADIES

TWO CRAZY LADIES

Chloe Sevigny and my landlady are both very complicated people.

I want to like them both, but liking them means ignoring a lot of stuff that makes me feel icky. Chloe is a great actress, and I’ve liked her in everything I’ve seen her in. She seems really humble and low-maintenance for an actress of her caliber, and she takes lots of roles in independent films. She doesn’t complain when people put her umlaut in the wrong place (and she probably wouldn’t mind that I’ve just left it off altogether). She was so good in “Shattered Glass” that it got me thinking again about how talented she is.

So why does she have such a thing for untalented losers? Quick, who are the two worst independent filmmakers working today? Did you say Harmony Korine and Vincent Gallo? Well, Chloe has dated them both. I don’t care if she goes out with lousy directors. If she hooks up with Brett Ratner, you won’t hear me complaining. But Korine and Gallo are really awful human beings. Korine is the nicer one, only because he never told Roger Ebert to get cancer or took credit once he did. It’s not my place to judge somebody’s taste in men, unless it’s Vincent Gallo. Chloe, what were you thinking?

And Chloe not only dated Gallo, but she gave him a bl*w j*b on camera in his unreleased Cannes bomb “Brown Bunny”. Not a simulated bl*w j*b. A bl* j*. (My #1 google for the last several weeks has been people looking for pictures of this act, due to some mention I made of it on this blog ages ago. Let’s see how many “Chloe Sevigny acting” googles I get off this post.)

My landlady, on the other hand, is a shrinking old lady in her 80s with a strong Polish accent and squeaky voice. She’s about four feet tall, and five years ago, she was probably four foot six. She speaks in mildly broken English and does adorable foreign old lady things like refer to Drano as “medicine” and a refrigerator as a “frigidare”. In her fifty years in this country, she’s picked up a few Americanisms, like dropping the word “whatever” into almost every sentence. (i.e., “I receive you rent check whatever.”) As far as I know, she’s never blown Vincent Gallo, but who knows what he’s planning for his next movie.

Last week, I gave my landlady my one month’s notice that I was moving out, and she insisted that I come over to her house “to talk about you future”. I had been to her house before, so when I went over last night, I knew exactly what I was in for. Talking about my future actually meant talking about her past. She told me about how her husband bought the apartment building in 1962, then left it to her when he died. She told me about how, as a young woman, she worked in a “sanitorium” for “people with the lung problems – you know?”. (Yeah, I know. Whatever.) And she also told me about Auschwitz.

My landlady is an Auschwitz survivor. As far as I’m concerned, if you were in Auschwitz, you get to talk about Auschwitz as much as you want, and the rest of us have to listen for as long as you choose to talk. Still talking about Auschwitz? Okay, fine. I’ve got nowhere to be. You get to talk about Auschwitz for the rest of your life. You can bring it up in the checkout line at the supermarket. You can remind your great-grandchildren of it on their birthday cards. You can write a TV miniseries about your experience and all the networks should fight over who gets to make it a sweeps event. I’m still listening. You’ve earned it. And if an Auchwitz survivor doesn’t want to talk about Auschwitz, that’s their prerogative as well, and anyone who brings it up in their presence should go to prison for exactly one year. If you went to Auschwitz, the floor is yours. Do with it what you will.

So, as much as I respect and admire my landlady for what she’s been through, I knew I was in for a long night of talking about my future. Auschwitz first came up when we were discussing whether the “last month’s rent” I paid when I moved in actually covered my last month’s rent. My landlady reminded me of how good she’s always been to me. How she operated as if I were under rent control, even though the rent control laws in West Hollywood were lifted just before I moved in. How she didn’t raise my rent at all the first year I was there. It’s true that she’s been good to me, although it means a little less when she’s using her kindness as a tool to get something out of me.

Then she explained her theory of goodness. With all she’s been through in her life – her husband’s death, the sanitorium, Auschwitz – she’s often struggled with the issue of why she’s been allowed to live such a long life. Why was she spared when others weren’t? The obvious answer, she says, is that she’s a good person. “If you do good,” she told me, “God is good to you.” I was stunned that an Auschwitz survivor couldn’t see the idiocy of this logic. I was pretty sure that of the millions of people who died at the hands of the Nazis, at least a few of them were good people. But she actually knew some of those people. She talked to them, lived with them, suffered with them. Hearing my landlady imply that everyone she knew who died at Auschwitz must’ve been receiving God’s punishment really disturbed me, but I reminded myself of my feeling about letting Auschwitz survivors talk. I decided that the rule still applied even if they were nuts.

Later — I think it was when she was asking me if I could move out earlier so she could come in and paint — she brought up the war in Iraq. She softly told me how strongly opposed to it she was. I was so relieved to be on the same side of an issue with her that I told her I agreed. Bad war; good landlady; happy Jerry. She nodded and leaned in. “We can talk about this because Bush is not here right now,” she said. She turned up her nose when she said the name “Bush” and then looked over her shoulder, as if to make sure that Bush wasn’t hiding behind the stove, taking notes on her every word. “Nobody ever wins a war,” she said. “You know this?” I kinda half-shrugged. “Nobody!” She said this was true even of World War II – “my war”, as she called it. Millions of people died, and what was accomplished? (Well for one thing, you got to leave Auschwitz.) She’s an Auschwitz survivor, Jerry. Say nothing. Say nothing…

My landlady really is a good person. She kept asking if she could make me some dinner. When I was a kid, I always had to drink sour milk at my grandmother’s house to keep from upsetting her, so now, I always politely decline old lady food. After about fifteen dinner refusals, she offered to order me Chinese food. Nice, right? So why does there have to be a part of her that’s so unpleasant? I like my Auschwitz survivors to be humble and inspiring, just like I’d prefer that Chloe Sevigny wasn’t consorting with scummy poseurs.

But every story can’t be perfect. Everyone we admire can’t be flawless. I let my landlady talk and didn’t challenge her crazy opinions. And likewise, I’ll continue to see Chloe Sevigny’s movies even if she starts dating – I don’t know – Ted Bundy next.

Why?

Because I’m a good person.

JOE LIES

JOE LIES

I’m going to see “Shattered Glass” tonight, and I couldn’t be more excited. People like Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair fascinate me, because in my life, I’ve been friends with two different people who’ve turned out to be compulsive liars. Each time, it took me months or years to unravel all their bullshit, and to this day, I still don’t understand why either of them did it.

The first time it happened to me was in High School. In my little Scooby group, Joe was the quiet, shy one. And then, in Senior year, he was the first one of us to have a girlfriend. (For the record, Joe is not the friend who just came out to me, who was obviously girl-shy for his own reasons.) Once Joe was dating, he underwent a complete social transformation. He was outgoing, self-confident, and he wouldn’t shut up about Ann. Ann did the funniest thing yesterday… Ann got him the nicest birthday gift… Ann’s favorite movie was “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Be excellent to each other, party on, dudes! Ann totally transformed Joe, and we couldn’t wait to meet her. But she was extremely hard to pin down.

See, Ann lived about fifteen minutes away. She went to a different school. She didn’t know anyone we knew or hang out anywhere we hung out. She was a year younger than us and didn’t yet have a driver’s license. Every time we wanted to meet Ann, there was always something preventing her from getting together with us. She was out of town for a family wedding. She was on vacation. She was hospitalized with a chronic knee injury. (And never at a nearby hospital. She needed to go to a hospital about an hour away in northern Jersey… you know, where they had specialists for her kind of ailment).

Every excuse was always meticulously detailed. The wedding was a Greek wedding, and Joe went as her guest. He described the food, the dancing, the plate-breaking exuberance of each of Ann’s colorful relatives. He knew specifics about her knee problem – how it happened in the first place, what she was doing when it started acting up again. Joe told very elaborate stories about Ann. He told us about all five of Ann’s younger sisters, the youngest being “the twins”. He knew all their names and ages, and he told us how her parents had desperately wanted a son. Ann’s mom was pregnant again, but this baby was also going to be a girl. Every weekend, Joe spent time at Ann’s house helping her parents decorate the nursery for the baby’s arrival. Joe told us about Ann’s friends, about how she wanted to study psychology in college, hopefully Princeton, and about how he was teaching her to drive.

This went on for most of senior year. We suspected early on that maybe there was no Ann, and we debated it endlessly when Joe wasn’t around. Something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just Ann’s constant unavailability – or the fact that Joe still seemed to have plenty of free time to hang out with us. We couldn’t be sure, but we all suspected that a girlfriend would take up at least a small amount of a guy’s time. But given how often Joe was hanging out with us, we weren’t sure just when he and Ann were having all the adventures he was constantly talking about.

From time to time, we’d catch a small inconsistency in Joe’s story. He’d say that he went with Ann’s parents to pick up the new baby’s crib, and one of us would remember him saying something about picking up a crib a month earlier. He’d tell a story about Ann’s sister Erin, and one of us would vaguely recall that Ann’s sisters included an Emily, but no Erin – maybe. (With so many sisters, it was hard for us to keep their names straight, a fact which could only have worked in Joe’s favor.) Then he accepted another girl’s invitation to go to the prom. Ann couldn’t make it because she was going to… yes, another Greek wedding. Was he getting lazy? Was he reusing lies?

The case for or against Ann was entirely circumstantial, so when questioning her existence, my friends and I tended to rely mostly on pure logic. Again and again, we kept returning to the same agrugments:

ARGUMENT #1: There had to be an Ann, because Joe was incapable of keeping such an elaborate lie going for so long. The idea that somebody could make up so much and keep all their inventions straight in their head for such a long period of time just seemed too far-fetched. It would take some kind of demented mastermind.

ARGUMENT #2: There had to be an Ann, because lying was not in Joe’s character. He was no demented mastermind. He was a nice, shy kid who published his own personal newspaper and had a monogrammed bowling ball. He didn’t even curse.

ARGUMENT #3: There had to be an Ann, because what kind of an asshole lies to his friends like that?

ARGUMENT #4: There had to be an Ann, because the change in Joe’s demeanor was undeniable. There was no mistaking it: our meek, sullen friend was happy. Really happy, in a way we’d never seen him before.

ARGUMENT #5: There had to be an Ann, because what motive would Joe have to make one up? None of us had girlfriends, so there was no reason being single should make Joe insecure. (Yes, my friends in high school were all nerds. We knew it then, and I won’t deny it now.)

But as time stretched on, still with no concrete proof of Ann, we started to see the counterargument to each argument. Maybe Joe was a demented mastermind. Maybe he was an asshole. Maybe the change in his character wasn’t due to sweet, adorable puppy love. Maybe he was getting off on jerking his friends around.

The more complicated the Ann story got, the more complicated our discussions became. Someone would argue that there was no Ann because Joe didn’t have a picture of her. Who doesn’t have a picture of his own girlfriend? But then someone else would point out how easy it would be for Joe to dig up a phony picture if he wanted to. He could cut something out of a magazine or fish out a photo of a cousin from a family album. If Joe was going to such lengths to lie to us, why would he stop at producing a fake picture? In our twisted adolescent logic, Joe’s refusal to present a picture was testament to his honesty, making it less likely that he was lying.

Gradually, Joe got wind of our suspicions. But rather than retreat, he just got bolder. He would taunt us with our own doubts. “I don’t think Marcus exists,” he’d say, when Marcus was sitting directly across the table from him. Or he’d argue his case with a mixture of impatience and condescension. “So if there’s no Ann, then where was I last weekend?”

We became more skeptical as time went on, and one day, Joe told us that Ann’s family was moving. With the baby due any day, they had found a bigger house about two hours away. It was going to be rough driving up there all the time to see her – Ann still didn’t have her license, so there was no chance of her coming down our way – but Joe was happy for Ann’s family, and he described their new home, of course, in exquisite detail.

When I heard the news, I had an immediate question for Joe. “Did they just decide to move very suddenly?” I asked.

“No, they’ve been planning to move since Ann’s mom got pregnant. Their old house just wasn’t big enough.”

“Then how come a couple of months ago you were over at their old house decorating the nursery?”

Joe assured me I had misunderstood him. I don’t remember exactly what detail he claimed I had wrong — he was fixing up the nursery in the new house, not the old one, or he was merely shopping for nursery decorations, or I was completely wrong and he had never mentioned a nursery at all. What I do remember was the way he said it. Confidently, casually, emphatically. He didn’t behave at all as if someone had just caught him in a monumental lie, as I clearly had. He didn’t even flinch.

As far as I was concerned, I had my smoking gun. Our friend Dave remained unconvinced. Dave had been Joe’s best friend for the last five or six years, which was an eternity at that age, and he knew Joe better than anyone. He kept referring to Arguments #1-5, as well as what I’ll call “the Mikey Factor”. Mikey was Joe’s little brother, a twelve-year-old asshole who farted out loud and threw worms at people. His idea of a killer joke was to depants Joe when we went bowling. (I know, I know. I’m inviting the depantsing googles back again.) If there was an opportunity to humiliate Joe, Mikey would pounce. But Mikey backed Joe up on the Ann thing, insisting that he had met her. We all agreed there was no way Mikey would cover for his brother’s lie.

Now that I was convinced there was no Ann, all I had left to do was punch a hole in the Mikey Factor. I needed to get Mikey alone to grill him on the subject. This would not be easy, since we never saw Mikey without Joe at his side. One day, by fate, I got my chance. I was driving the gang around, and Joe needed to stop at home to pick something up. We parked in his driveway while he ran inside, and as my car idled in the driveway, Mikey ran up from the backyard to throw dirt at my car. See, wasn’t he a little punk? But instead of yelling at him or chasing at him like I normally would’ve, I just rolled down my window and told him I wanted to talk to him.

Mikey was skeptical of my intentions. He cautiously approach the passenger seat. “Yeah?”

I spoke softly and urgently, knowing we probably had less than a minute before Joe came back. “Have you really met Ann?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re not just covering for Joe?” Dave said from the back seat.

“No.”

“See?” Dave said, smirking at me. That was all the evidence he needed.

“Wait a second,” I said. “Ann, Joe’s girlfriend? Ann Kay.”

“Who?” Mikey asked. “You mean Ann Murphy?”

Dave stopped smirking. Ann Murphy was a girl in our bowling league. (That’s right. Bowling league. I said we were nerds, didn’t I?) We had seen Ann Murphy earlier that day, and she and Joe were definitely not dating. She probably didn’t even know Joe’s name. “No,” Dave said. “His girlfriend’s name is Ann Kay.”

“He told me it was Ann Murphy,” Mikey said. We were all speechless, including Mikey. Even he knew what was going on. Joe had duped Mikey into assisting him. He told Mikey he was dating the girl from bowling league. Mikey had met that before because he used to be in the league himself. So when anyone asked questions, Mikey could answer truthfully while helping Joe lie. Ingenious.

Before any of us could respond, the front door of the house opened and Joe came jogging out. He was smiling and joking, in a great mood. He had no idea what we were all thinking. We hung out the rest of the day, and Joe continued to talk about Ann, about her new baby sister, and about how she was studying for the SATs – she had to do better next time if she wanted to get into Princeton. Her studying meant she wouldn’t be able to hang out with Joe next weekend, which meant he was free to go to a movie if we wanted. Did we want to go to a movie? We played along, not encouraging him, but not confronting him. We didn’t know what to say. It all just seemed so sad.

That was the last time Joe ever mentioned Ann. Mikey must’ve said something to him, because none of the rest of us did. After almost a year of deception, it was a little anticlimactic. Joe never told us a story about how Ann broke up with him, or how she moved to Zimbabwe, or how she died in a horrible fire or a freak tractor accident. The lie just went away, as if it had never happened. I try not to be mad at Joe for lying. I still don’t understand what motivated him to do it, but it has to be some kind of sickness. If I’m mad at Joe for any reason, it’s because he didn’t give Ann a proper farewell. Like with any great fictional character, I felt like I knew Ann. I’d come to care about her. I knew she wasn’t real, but part of me was still hoping she’d get into Princeton. I wish Joe had allowed Ann to have some closure. She deserved better.

The next year at college, Joe had a new girlfriend. Dave assured me this one was real, because Joe had a picture this time. Looking back, it makes me think of Homer Simpson’s line on lying: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.” I think what keeps people like Stephen Glass and my friend Joe going is that it’s never hard to find someone to listen.

A few years later, Joe married a woman he met in a chat room. I love the thought of Joe meeting a woman on the internet, where everyone lies. I wonder what their first meeting was like, when she noticed that the guy she had been talking to didn’t actually resemble Antonio Banderas or stand eight feet tall. Maybe she was a liar, too, and that’s why they fell in love.

I couldn’t make it to Joe’s wedding, but I heard from my friend Greg that it was a really nice ceremony. A lot of Joe’s family was there, along with a real-life, flesh-and-blood bride who was a lot like Joe had described her and who definitely existed. Greg also met a lot of Joe’s college friends, who he said were really friendly and really happy for Joe. And without exception, each of Joe’s college friends had a question they desperately wanted to ask Greg:

“So… Joe doesn’t really have a sister, does he?”