You Can’t Handle the Truth

Nine months into the pandemic, and everyone is lying about where they were, what they did and who they saw last night. And everyone is lying because everyone doesn’t want everyone else to know that they are doing the things they need to do to survive—things that society frowns upon. Things that society sees as reckless behavior. So, basically, now everyone knows what it feels like to be in the closet. Welcome.

LIE

FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: What did you do last night?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: Oh, nothing. Stayed home. Watched TV. 

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: What did you do last night?
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: Nothing. Stayed home. Watched TV. 

TRUTH 

FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: What did you do last night?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: I put on my baseball cap, pulled it down over my eyes and walked past a gay bar for about an hour and a half until—finally, a stranger came out, looked at me and we went back to his apartment and had sex.

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: What did you do last night?
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: I invited three friends—who’ve also been living like shut-ins—over for a drink on my patio and we wore masks for three whole minutes before we took them off and then sat, sort of, six feet apart from each other and made jokes that we were all going to die for a cocktail. 

LIE

FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: Did I see you walking past a bar on Amsterdam Avenue last night?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: No—yes. What time? Wait—yes. I was going to the CVS to get Chapstick. This winter is bullshit, right?

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: Did I see you getting your hair done on Instagram? 
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: No—yes. What day? Wait—yes. We were outside and I made the stylist get a rapid test the day before. Not that I had to make him—they get tested there everyday.

TRUTH

FRIEND OF CLOSTED GAY MAN: Did I see you walking past a bar on Amsterdam Avenue last night?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: Yes. Do you hate me now? 

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: Did I see you getting your hair done on Instagram?
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: Yes. I would 
rather risk being on a ventilator than look at myself with this hair one more day. 

LIE 

ANOTHER FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: Hey, did I see you walking back and forth past that gay bar on Amsterdam Avenue last night for, like, about a half an hour?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: No—yes. What time? Wait—Is that a gay bar? Had no idea. I was looking for my dog… that I just rescued. Lily—is the dog’s name. He—I mean she got off the leash on my way back from CVS to get Chapstick. This winter is bullshit, right? 

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: I was talking to Cheryl and she said you had a wonderful Thanksgiving together.
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: She’s lying. Who? Oh, Cheryl—yes. Yes, she came up to my back fence and we looked at each other as we ate some turkey sandwiches—six feet apart—through our masks. Eating sandwiches with a mask on is so messy, right? Not the most “wonderful” Thanksgiving I can think of… I don’t know what kind of Thanksgivings she’s had in the past but my idea of “wonderful” is not wiping mashed potatoes out of my hair because of the mask. Oh, and we had potatoes too – but they were cold and not wonderful. That’s the thing I love about Cheryl, she makes the best of a bad situation. Like this pandemic Thanksgiving we all just had.

TRUTH

ANOTHER FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: Hey, did I see you walking back and forth past that gay bar on Amsterdam Avenue last night for, like, about a half an hour? 
CLOSETED GAY MAN: Yes. I couldn’t bring myself to go inside. It would make me face my truth and I’m not strong enough for that yet.
SAME FRIEND OF CLOSETED GAY MAN: Hmm. Did you watch The Undoing on HBO?
CLOSETED GAY MAN: Yes. The Undoing is bullshit, right? 

FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: I was talking to Cheryl and she said you had a wonderful Thanksgiving together.
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: Yes! And we also had over Bret and Kevin and Shana and Elise and Craig and me! Yes, I know that’s above the six people limit and fuck you for judging me! I wanted to eat pie with my friends! I wanted to remind myself that I have things to be thankful for! I wanted to enjoy some faces not on Zoom! I wanted to eat so much that I was ashamed of myself even in front of these people who love and accept me! I wanted to feel like me again! I don’t care! I’m sick of it all! If the Pilgrims could survive that harsh a winter and come together, I think we can survive a meal inside! And if you tell anyone, anyone else that I ate with people INSIDE I will take the carving knife, come to your place, violate the six feet rule and carve you up like I did that delicious, crispy turkey! You heard me, Brian—ANYONE! 
FRIEND OF ANYONE NOW: Um… Did you watch The Undoing on HBO?
PERSON IN PANDEMIC: Hate the story, love her coats. ❏

Michael Patrick King is a writer and director. His latest work, A.J. and the Queen, can be seen on Netflix.   

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