Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tales of Clyde

Clyde helped inspire my post about liars.
We met in high school. Originally quiet and mild mannered, he blossomed into a flashy blow hard, deeming his schoolmates too uncool for his company (like they cared). I was one of the few he'd associate with. He'd call several times a week to chat, even after I graduated (1986) and moved away.
I appreciated his calls. I'd taken a year off between high school and college. I worked (tropical fish shop) while everyone else my age was at school. There was also nobody my age in the new neighborhood. A friend ghost town. Clyde was it. He never tried to meet up with me, but called nightly to talk about current events, philosophy, and, increasingly, about how cool he was.
I first sensed he wasn't being straight with me when he claimed to have met a teen celebrity (let's call him "Sitcom Star) " at a party. This was plausible. This was Southern California, but I didn't quite buy it.
Soon Clyde boasted of weekly run-ins with Sitcom Star. They didn't get along. Sitcom Star was a jerk! Clyde always got the better of him! I wanted to believe this, but couldn't picture Sitcom Star commuting to Clyde's drab suburb each weekend to party.
Clyde stayed in touch through college, calling once or twice a month. His claims grew wacky. He bragged he was a mastermind of a profitable drug ring, complete with a minion of goons to do his bidding, including shooting up the competition. His day job bagging groceries? Just a ruse, he said.
We met again in 1990. He was in town. We went out to lunch- and his credibility went out the window. He'd been in the army for five months, yet was already doing "top secret missions" in Southeast Asia. "Do you know what an M-8o does do a guy when you shoot him point blank?" he asked, wide eyed. Now he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with all those spies and villages he took out. I changed the subject, pointing out that a local lighthouse was supposed to be haunted.
"Once when I was in New Orleans," he said "This guy got in my face and wanted to fight, but when I swung at him my hand went right through him, and then he disappeared!"
What was I supposed to say?
"That sounds scary!" (in other words, "I'm so dumb I believe this")
"How stupid do you think I am?" ("Liar!")
"Not that I question your military expertise or anything, but an M-80 is a firecracker, not an automatic weapon" (Dumb Liar!)
I didn't say a thing.
It's been decades since I've heard from Clyde. What became of him? What stories does he tell now?


stray g said...

All I can think is how kind you were to humor him so, and how lonely he would have been otherwise. Have you seen "Lars and the Real Girl"? Interesting about delusions....

Namowal said...

Thanks, stray g.
I haven't seen "Lars and the Real Girl," but now I'm curious! I wonder how seriously Clyde took his stories. Were they shameless "this should impress 'em!" lies, or did he really, on some level, believe them?

Namowal said...

Just got back from reading the plot of "Lars and the Real Girl," including the notion of the mind cooking up a delusion to "solve" a problem. I bet that's what happened with that nut from Key West who lived with his mummified "girlfriend" all those years. Minds are weird things!

luci said...

OMG, Clyde is Buckaroo Banzai! :O

booda baby said...

I'm surprised at how I'm surprised by what a sad story this was. Now that you've elaborated, I recognized - oh no! - a few friends, all of them male. Not for one second would I ascribe to men more than women any kind of lying gene or behavior, but there must be something that makes men start embroidering to that degree.

With one friend, I chose to let the lies and exaggerations go (even the ones that I happened to be a character in) and just shift my own idea of myself. Friendships come in all shapes, sizes and colors and I became the kind of friend who gently - always gently - insisted he tell me the truth. I had some sort of whacked idea that it would help him.

Namowal said...

Yep, that's Clyde. His facade, at least. :)

Come to think of it, while I've met liars of both genders, it's always the guys who tell the "I'm powerful and important" stories. Probably for the same reasons peacocks spread their tails: "Look at me! I'm a big shot!"
Female liars tend to give more of a "please like me, please think I'm interesting" vibe. At least in my experience.

Not that I'm running into liars left an right. Just Clyde and a few wackjobs I've ran into over the years.

Linda said...

I liked "Lars and the Real Girl" a lot!
But liars are boring.

sg said...

Sometimes I wonder if some people really have no sense of self, no inner life or awareness, so try one on or make something up.

Namowal said...

Hi Linda,
That's the irony of the chronic liar- he's lying to sound interesting, but instead he sounds ridiculous. Or puts everyone to sleep.

It is odd, isn't it? Did he really think he was an empty shell without his stories? Since the crux of his stories had him as an outlaw of sorts, I suspect he worried about being a wimp and came up with his tales to make himself something out of comic books.