Some years ago, a childhood friend was in town with his daughter, so I invited another friend, Vicki, and her daughter over to meet them and have dinner with us.
Milton was a good guy, and still is—solid, kindly, an old-fashioned Christian sort and one of my oldest friends. I looked forward to seeing him.
I don’t remember what I cooked, but I was in my stir-fry phase, and the main course was definitely from a wok. Everything was sufficiently tasty, and something about the meal struck Milton as odd. He asked Vicki if she had made it.
She said, “No. Anthony made it.”
“Hey, Milt,” I said. “Why’d you ask Vicki if she’d made dinner?”
“I figured she had,” he said.
“Why?” I asked. “I invited you to dinner. I was in the kitchen when you got here. Vicki doesn’t live here. Why would you think she had made the dinner?”
“I didn’t think you could cook that good.”
“But Milton, I told you I was cooking dinner for you. I said that.”
Milt said, “You could have been lying.”
Did I say I’d known Milt a long time? I had, from before the Cub Scouts through a marriage for each of us.
“Milt, how long have you known me? Forty years, give or take a couple?”
“Yeah,” Milt said.
“In all that time, since you were maybe 2, through grammar school and high school and the quarter-century since then, have I ever, under any circumstances, lied to you? Now, don’t answer right away; I want you to think about it. You remember all the shit we did when we were teenagers. Did I ever tell you anything that wasn’t the truth?”
He thought, or seemed to be thinking anyway. “No, not as far as I know,” he said.
“So, you’ve known me 40-odd years. In all that time—and with plenty of opportunity—I’ve never lied to you or deceived you in any way …”
“As far as I know,” Milt said.
“ … and although I said I was going to make dinner, and have since said that I actually did and produced the dinner as evidence, you thought I was lying to you. Why?”
“Because you might start any time. You could be lying now.” He smiled, as though pleased that he’d thought of a way to justify his belief.
Damn. With some people it doesn’t matter what you say or do. Somehow Milton had acquired a mindset that included people lying to him. I hadn’t had anything to do with it, but I was caught up in it just the same.
He expected people to lie to him. My guess is they usually did. I saw him last fall, and he’s the same. There are certainly enough liars to go around, and I suppose they know who to talk to.