19 February 2020

My one brief foray into acting

When I was a university student, I lived in a small apartment in a rather ramshackle building a few blocks from the campus.  Most of the other tenants there were also students, but my next-door neighbor was an older guy I'll call "NN" who lived there because he was poor and simply couldn't afford anything better.  He was around 45 and what some people would call "a bit of a character" -- rather frenetic and excitable and prone to talking without thinking things through first.  He had some of the same intellectual interests as I did and we quickly became friends.  NN was also homosexual, the first openly-gay person I had ever met.  (No, there was never a hint of anything sexual in his relationship with me.  He was just a friend.)

One day NN came by and said he'd come to ask for my help with something.  He had a sister living on the east coast, whom he thoroughly detested, and she was traveling to California for a few days.  She had asked him to let her stay in his apartment while she was there so she wouldn't have to pay for a hotel.  He had told her he couldn't accommodate her because he had a live-in boyfriend, and she had accepted that and gotten a hotel room.  However, now she was actually in town and wanted to come visit him for a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon, and he didn't want her to realize he'd been lying about having a live-in boyfriend.  Would I, he asked, be willing to hang out at his place just while she was visiting and pretend I lived there with him?

It was the oddest thing I had ever been asked to do up to that point, but I was still at the stage of relishing the independence of being away from home and trying new things, and it sounded like it could be fun, so I agreed. The next day I went over to NN's apartment a little while before his sister was due to get there.  When she arrived, she wasn't surprised to see me since he had told her he had someone living with him.  I don't remember much of what they talked about during her visit -- family stuff, mostly.

Deception takes more concentration than one might think.  I had to constantly watch what I said to avoid letting some tell-tale phrase slip out that would have betrayed the fact that I didn't actually live there.  But I managed it, and she never suspected anything.  People interpret what they see according to their expectations.  As it happened, a few weeks later I was visiting NN and the phone rang when he was busy in the kitchen, and he asked me to answer it and see who it was.  It was his sister, so the fact that I answered his phone added to the verisimilitude of the original ploy.

In all the decades since then, I've never had occasion to attempt such a deception again.  I was right at the time, though.  It was fun.

[Image at top:  Photo of the campus clock tower, taken by me around that time.  It's a scan of a physical photo, since this was long before digital cameras.]


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

That's a fascinating story. It makes me think that sometimes the lies people tell are the reality others live. Take for example the people who believe everything IMPOTUS says: it's true to them because one, it fits their worldview and two, because they come from an authority figure that's supposed to tell the truth. Like the sister in your anecdote, she had no reason to suspect that it was not true what what presented to her by her brother. The fact that you answered the phone that day only cemented that belief.
After all, they say if we repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth, no?


P.S. Yay college life!

19 February, 2020 03:50  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Ha ha, that was a real reverse-image of the usual gay scenario -- where the boyfriend is hidden when family comes over, the apartment "de-gayed," and speech is constantly monitored not to let it slip about anything gay!

19 February, 2020 04:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: She probably went on believing it for the rest of her life, unless NN stumbled out with some remark about it years later.

It's strange to think of him again after all this time. I lost touch with him after leaving the university. I suppose it's unlikely he's still alive -- he was at least 45 back then and this was almost 40 years ago.

Debra: Whatever works for the situation, I guess:-) He was sort what in those days they called "flamboyant" -- he couldn't have "de-gayed" if his life depended on it. His sister had always known and was a bit freaked out by it -- so this was a good scenario to serve his purpose of making her leave him alone as much as possible.

19 February, 2020 05:01  
Blogger Mary said...

You did a good thing and helped out a friend in need.

19 February, 2020 05:33  
Blogger RO said...

As you know, I'm practical joker, and I've seen scenarios like this on television too, so I'm smiling with glee that it worked.(lol) Great acting skills for you, and yes, I'm impressed. Hugs, RO

19 February, 2020 06:58  
Blogger jono said...

That is really interesting! Don't know if I could pull that off just because of the concentration it would take and the consistency. Even just for a few hours. Besides all that it was a nice thing to do.

19 February, 2020 07:47  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I'm sure he appreciated what you did for him. That's what friends are for.

19 February, 2020 08:53  
Blogger Lady M said...

I hope you remembered to leave an extra toothbrush on the sink - just for appearances.

19 February, 2020 09:39  
Blogger Mike said...

I also had gay friends from days gone by. Most of them are gone now. Lots of stories popped into my head reading this.

19 February, 2020 11:53  
Blogger Nan said...

Fun story! :-)

19 February, 2020 12:34  
Blogger jenny_o said...

What a great story!

20 February, 2020 19:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Yes, it was a good thing to have done. Yes, it did take a lot of concentration, and no, we never thought about the toothbrush thing (most visitors aren't too observant about stuff like that, though). And it's been a fond memory ever since.

21 February, 2020 02:21  
Anonymous Sam240 said...

I'm curious. What was your major in college?

21 February, 2020 11:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Middle East history & culture.

21 February, 2020 16:20  
Anonymous Steve K said...

I recognize that tower. See it every day! Great story. Good for you being such a mensch

22 February, 2020 13:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks! Glad if it still looks basically the same. I haven't been back to Berkeley in decades.

22 February, 2020 22:37  

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