10 Minute Read
This is a story about my friend, Jen. I use the term, friend, loosely (you’ll see why later). She was a legend in our school. Something wild was always happening to her. We went to different elementary schools, but I heard kids at my school talk about her. How so many kids from my school knew about her, I’ll never know. I heard so many wild things about her. I heard she was an extra in the movie Spy Kids. I heard she had a new outfit every day for the first 100 days of 5th grade, and I heard John Stamos told her she was pretty. No, I’m kidding about the last one. That’s from Mean Girls, but honestly she had big Regina George vibes, before Regina George was a thing.
I finally met her in 6th grade English class. She sat behind me, and to the left. I remember being excited when I found out I was going to be sitting so close to her. Maybe she would want to be friends with me, and I could be popular like her. Maybe she could get me a part in Spy Kids 2! However, I quickly changed my mind. I thought she was the worst! She wouldn’t shut up! Everyone in class seemed to really like her, and I was having a hard time understanding why. I thought she was absolutely full of it. She had these really wild stories! One of the first ones I ever heard her tell was about a ghost that lives in her house. A ghost! She said he lived in the walls, and only came out when she was sleeping. She said every night they would talk, and his name was Fred, but she called him Freddy. He was only around for a short time after they moved into the house, so she thought maybe her family scared him off. I couldn’t believe it, but the other kids were eating it up. Did they really think she was friends with Casper, or were they just being nice? I mean, when a kid tells you something like that, it’s hard to believe anything else they say. It bothered me so much that she was getting away with it! So, when she would go off on one of her stories I would question her to see if she would get confused, or mixed up. I would poke holes in her stories to try and get her to admit she was lying to us. She had the memory of an elephant, and had an answer for everything. It was so frustrating! I was starting to believe that maybe this 11 year old really did have a wild life.
Then, I thought maybe she was an embellisher, or an exaggerator. That maybe her stories were mostly true, but she adds lots of fluff to make the story seem really impressive. Like, maybe she was an extra on Spy Kids, but just because her mom knew someone, who knew someone else, who got her on set for the day. She knew exactly how much detail to add to make the story crazy, yet still seem believable. Everyone knows a person like this. You may call them, Pathological Liars, or Habitual Liars, but I call them Fancy Liars. Fancy Liars aren’t always bad people. In fact, most are harmless. They don’t lie so they can get something out of you. They lie so they can impress you. A lot of people get fooled by Fancy Liars. You hear them tell these wild stories that you want to be a part of, but when you go along, you end up on the couch at some strangers house watching Ratatouille while everyone around you is doing Whip Its, and passing out. You have a terrible time, but end up going out with the Fancy Liar another time, because maybe, just maybe something wild will happen. But no, just more strangers, and more Whip Its.
The first time I encountered one, I was in 2nd grade. I was standing in the lunch line when a girl (not Jen), turned around and told me that when she went to the bathroom earlier, it was all blood. My jaw literally dropped. I could not believe what I had just heard. She didn’t seem scared at all! At the time, I was 7, and I didn’t know what a woman’s period was, so bleeding from that area was a thought that shook me to my core. And I honestly don’t think that’s what was happening to her because she was even younger than me. I think I said something like, wow that’s bad, you should tell the teacher. Then she shrugged at me, and walked off. She shrugged at me like she didn’t just tell me the scariest thing I had ever heard. She walked right over to the salad bar, and started making a salad. Why wasn’t she telling the teacher? I was so confused and scared for her! I thought about it for the entire day. I wasn’t about to do her any favors, and tell the teacher for her. I was that kind of kid. I could have witnessed a murder, and never said a thing to anyone about it. Not my murder, not my problem. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Even though I was scared she was going to give me more details, I just had to ask. The next day at lunch I tapped her on the shoulder, and asked her if she remembered what she told me yesterday. She said she remembers that she told me her pee was red. My jaw dropped again. That’s NOT what she told me. She specifically said BLOOD. Then, she told me that she takes medicine sometimes that turns her pee red. That’s how I coined the term, Fancy Liar. I thought she was kind of a liar, but I also thought she was fancy because she liked salads. I’ve met many Fancy Liars since.
Two days after meeting Jen, she was no longer just Jen to me. In my head, she was Fancy Liar Jen. And I needed to get to the bottom of all of Fancy Liar Jen’s lies. Side note: I was obviously very jealous of Jen, but at the time I couldn’t see that. I don’t know what I thought I would get out of “exposing” her, but I wanted it so bad. I spent a whole Saturday watching Spy Kids over and over again, trying to find her in the background. When I called her out on not being able to see her in the movie, she said that it was just a rumor. She wasn’t in the movie, but she did audition for it, and made it to the final rounds. I learned how to roll my eyes that year.
A few months into the school year, she invited me to her birthday party at the skating rink. I know, I said I couldn’t stand Jen, so I bet you’re wondering why I went to her party? It’s because I was a preteen, and I would have rather died, than let anyone know I didn’t like the popular girl (don’t you dare judge me!). It was October so the place was decorated for Halloween. Spider webs everywhere, skeletons posed to look like they are skating, and ghosts hanging down from the ceiling. That’s when it happened. That’s when I got the idea. I was going to ask Jen to tell the story about her ghost friend in front of everyone, everyone including her mother. Since it was Jen’s party, her mom was there to be the adult. I figured she wouldn’t want to tell the story in front of her mom because it was a big, fat, LIE! It wasn’t a great plan, but I was 11, cut me some slack.
When we sat down to open presents and eat cake, I sat next to Jen at the head of the table. Her mom was standing next to her cutting, and passing down slices of cake. The time had come. I picked up the ghost centerpiece that was on the table, and did the whole “Booo!” thing to Jen. She laughed and played along. So that’s when I decided to ask her.
“Wasn’t your house haunted by a ghost?” And then Jen said,
“No, it wasn’t haunted. We had Freddy, the nice, friendly ghost! Do you remember him, Mom?”
I want to pause here to repeat myself. I don’t know what my end game was in catching Jen in a lie. All I knew, was that I had one thing I wanted to say to her when it finally happened. It was, “How can we believe anything you say?” I liked it because it sounded really dramatic, and it would make people think twice about the stories Jen told. I didn’t hate Jen, and want to ruin her life. I just didn’t want her to be the coolest girl in school anymore. What happened next still haunts my dreams. And it’s not because of a ghost.
Jen’s mom gives her a strange look and says,
“Freddy? Do you mean Fred Boyle? He wasn’t a ghost, he was that man we found living in our crawlspace!” She says it so matter of factly that I nearly choked on my cake. I wasn’t alone. Everyone stopped eating, and looked over at us. Jen immediately turned red. I turned red. What did she just say? A man, living in the crawlspace, talking to Jen every night through the wall? She looked completely drenched in fear. Just like I did when that girl told me that she peed blood. We all begged to hear the whole story.
So, Jen’s mom tells us that Fred was a homeless man that wandering into the neighborhood, and saw that their house was empty. It was right before Jen’s family moved in so technically, it was empty. He snuck into the house, but when they started moving in, he made camp in the crawlspace that shares a wall with Jen’s room. One night, Jen heard him moving around, and knocked on the wall. Fred didn’t know what to do, so he pretended to be a ghost. He said he was a nice, friendly ghost, so there was nothing to worry about. What he meant by nothing to worry about was, nothing to tell your parents about. He thought he had a good thing going, especially when she started leaving out cookies for him. One night, while Jen and her siblings were spending the night at their grandma’s house, her dad heard strange sounds coming from Jen’s room. He eventually finds Fred in the crawlspace and calls the cops to have him arrested. She said it was in all the papers. By then, Jen is totally embarrassed, and she’s crying. At that moment, Jen did stop being the coolest girl in school. All the boys started calling her Ghost Lover (which honestly, doesn’t make sense, but kids are mean).
It’s pretty clear to me that Jen had no idea Fred was a real man. Her mom swears up and down that they told her, but then lands on the idea that, maybe, because she was so young, they did let her keep believing he was just a ghost.
Jen may have been a Fancy Liar, but I’m a Real Jerk.