In honour of my 40,000th hit on the site, here is a short story I wrote for Soap Zine a few years ago.
“Truth or dare?”
“No, for serious. Truth or dare?”
We don’t talk for a while.
“Truth, dare or promise,” he says.
“Truth, dare or promise. Is how we used to play it.”
I consider this.
“What the fuck is a promise?”
“I have absolutely no idea.” He lights another smoke and frowns at the shop window. “Used to annoy the shit out of me.”
“Truth, dare, promise. Hmmm. I mean, can you give me an example?”
“I dunno. Um. It’d be like, promise to come to school with no underwear on next week or something.”
I shake my head slowly. “That’s a fucking dare.”
He nods. “I know. Time-bomb dare. Time delay.”
“Annoyed the shit out of me,” he says again.
“Look at that girl,” I say.
“She’ll be fine,” he says.
“You don’t think we should”“?”
“Okay, okay.” I steal a smoke from the pack between us on the bench.
“Truth is a promise,” says he.
“Promise is a dare, sure, agreed. But truth, you’re promising… You promise at the start to tell the truth. When you’re asked.”
“Okay,” I concede. “But someone’s daring you to tell the truth.”
He hadn’t thought of this. He’s impressed.
“Truth’s a dare. Right. Truth’s a dare.” Impressed tones. Like I said. Impressed.
I’m looking over at the girl again, who’s still there, still the same.
“But!” he says. “But, you’re… you’re supposed to be telling the truth at the start that you’ll do a dare.”
“When you play. You say you’ll do the dares you’re dared to do.”
“And?” I’m not sure he’s making sense.
“What if you’re not telling the truth!” He stares at me as if he’s, like, a 14-year-old stoner who’s just asked me how I know I’m not in the Matrix.
“I’ll blow your fucking mind for a second, if you’ll let me.” I pause for dramatic effect. “You’re actually fucking promising to do the dares.”
“Shit.” He’s opening another bottle and he says: “Dare’s a truth’s a promise.”
“Yep. Whole game should just be called, ‘Well?!’ That’s the name of the game. Sit down in a circle and spin the bottle or whatever and whoever it points at, you look at them and say, WELL?! and just stare at them expectantly until they say or do something, and whatever they say or do will just have to be good enough, because there’s no really solid foundation to the game, you know.”
He nods sagely. I indicate the girl. He shakes his head.
“I’d play that game,” he says.
I don’t say, “We’re all playing that game,” because there’s bullshit drunken sagely wisdom and there’s seriously just talking shit, and I tend to swerve across that line a bit too much as it is.
“Who was it?” I ask.
“Who promised to come to school without their underwear.”
He shrugs. “I dunno. Some girl.”
I start to ask something, but he interrupts, sort of jerks his head. “There, see?”
I look where he’s raising his eyebrows at. Someone’s helping her. She seems grateful. Must know them. I nod. More silence.
People walk past and they’re living in different worlds, really. Aliens. And there’s the little beacons of unending commerce there, and over there. Taxis drive past and there’s gum on the seat. The older buildings are nicer and it’ll be dawn soon and it’s vertigo I feel. It’s vertigo.
After a while, I turn to him. “Well?!”
He smiles. “Fuck off.”