The Escape

Amused when she asks, is your wife Jewish? and,
because it's easier, because I don't
want to think, I answer yes. It's the first time.
Later, a pushy man wants to know my
son's birthday. Confused, I make him younger
and the shift of dates feels so natural

I let it stand. Then it's happening with family
names, with where I work, how long, with
whom--minor changes in my vita, small alterations,
other lives, one variant for this person,
another for that, as though I were picking out
ballpoint pens or books, rummaging for

keep-sakes to give away, a different self to
each, each time. Months pass before I
catch on too and admit I've done what I did out of
caution, an attempt to screen the self,
erase the scent, obscure the trail with a series
of dead-ends until no one could thread

a way ahead through those dense thickets back to
me, reeking of fear. what did I think I
had worth hiding and who was I trying to deceive?
Tell me: surrounded by those casual lies
fabricating with disarming aplomb, why didn't I ask
whose escape I imagined I was fashioning?

by Mark Halperin

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