1st August 2000
   Deep breath.
   OK. That’s better. Now just write the words.
   I am a compulsive and habitual liar.
    There, that wasn’t so difficult. The truth, in black and white.
    No, blue and white, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue … a cheap blue biro. This is impossible. I can’t stop to worry about every word. Besides, it’s only an expression.
   That’s what lies are – expressions. Fantastic expressions that fall from the tongue more readily than truths. Fifty-odd years down the track, and I am finally confessing, owning up to the hollow heart of me, that lies fly from my lips like tiny birds in a blur of fluttering wings, blue, green, yellow. They always have done, and I suspect they always will do. Like budgerigars, they chatter and hop and dazzle. There is no contradiction about admitting this truth. I’m quite capable of candour, when it suits me. Indeed, I suspect most people who know me would agree: I am entirely to be trusted, what you see is what you get, honest as the day is long. Although much of the time, it isn’t, is it?
    Goodness, I feel light-headed. The burden of a lifetime, dropped with relative ease. What a strange sensation. Why did I go on carrying the load for so long? Why did I chicken out last week in front of …?
   I must have spent half a century telling lies.
   Of course, I’m not talking about the everyday fib, as in “Do you like my new hairdo?” “Smashing, really suits you”, which my mother used to call a white lie. Tactful, polite. Something bad spookily become good, like white witchcraft. No. It’s more the elaborate misdirection, to confuse the credulous and put them off the scent. You have to ask yourself how best to offer to others the opportunity to believe you. That is, after all, what they want, to trust rather than distrust.
   As a teenager, I used to feel schizophrenic trying to maintain two identities, both of which were completely me but were often at odds with one another. People thought I was such a good girl, too. The words made me cringe. But I worked hard to preserve the illusion, until it became a self-fulfilling prophesy, so that as far as family, teachers, friends and neighbours were concerned, I really was a good girl. I appeared to conform, I epitomised the stereotype with which they were all so anxious to cloak me. After a lifetime of wearing that cloak, I wonder now if I possess an identity beyond the story-board construct. I wonder sometimes who I might have been, had not the shadow become the substance.
    To be a good liar, you have to think fast, to think on your feet. You always look the enemy in the eye, without blinking, never missing a second or a heartbeat, just seamless, nonchalant continuity. One hesitation and you’re done for. Literally. I’ve since thought I should have been an actress. Professionally, that is. At least I could have been paid for what I do so well. And I’d have made a damned-sight better actress than Gloria Le …
   Another linguistic problem occurs to me, and I’ve barely started. Despite my quest for the truth, I have set up a logical paradox. If it is true that I always tell lies, then can I believe a word I say? I don’t know the answer to that one.


The Placebo Effect
Chapter One