We didn’t have a TV. We didn’t have many things, but indoor plumbing seemed like minutiae compared to the glories of a polychromatic screen.
My neighbor had a TV. I don’t remember ever meeting my neighbor. I do, however, remember screaming matches between the man and his prostitute of a wife — my dad’s words, not mine — and my parents. In retrospect, this alone should’ve deterred me from pursuing the TV situation. Family pride and all. But, I was four and my neighbor had a TV.
My sister and I heard about this Holy Grail through the grapevine. Naturally, our curiosities were piqued.
We asked Dad to go play at the neighbor’s house, just this one time. He said no. We asked again — pure saccharine oozing from our semi-toothless smiles. He said no again… much less politely this time. We retreated and re-strategized.
We (okay, I was the instigator) devised an ingenious plan: to tell a harmless white lie.
White lies come so easy now… “no, you don’t look fat,” “yeah, this was a totally fun date,” “of course I didn’t eat the entire pizza by myself”… but back then, it felt defiant. It was the first time my sister got sucked into one of my plots. It was also the first time we really lied to Dad.
We told him we were going outside to play. Brilliant, right? He’ll never be the wiser, I thought triumphantly.
Once away from the house, my sister and I maneuvered like Navy Seal trainees. We looped around coconut trees, behind walls of cacti and through various shrubbery as we made our way. Some tripping might have occurred, but otherwise, it was totally incognito.
By the time we got to our neighbor’s house, a crowd had already gathered. Dozens of heads (much, much taller heads) stood before us. It was a wall of bodies that no amount of standing on tippy toes could surmount. I could hear laughter caused by whatever programming was on at the time. But alas, no visual contact.
Unsatisfied, my sister and I walked home. At least we tried, I consoled myself.
Dad was waiting for us at the gate. He wasn’t happy. By “wasn’t happy,” I mean: He set his inner happiness on fire and replaced it with unadulterated rage.
How long were you there?
Did you go into the house?
Did the neighbor touch you?
Did anyone hurt you?
The Spanish Inquisition seemed a bit unnecessary for a TV we didn’t even get to see. But, we just figured Dad was crazy. Silly Daddy.
Years later, my mom told me our neighbor was a rapist. His type: little girls.
I told my first harmless white lie at the age of four. It was the first time I defied my dad. And the first time I saw him vulnerable.