True Untrue

In this novella-length work-in-progress, a fiction, film-maker Paul Treeley makes a documentary featuring brothers from a men’s group, asking them each a question that drives the theme, both of the book and of the film.


From Chapter 4 – Tom

On the drive back to the clinic, I ask Tom, “What’s something that you held to be true in the past that you know now is untrue?”

“Well,” Tom says. “Yeah, let me think about that.” We’re queuing up from Excelsior Boulevard to the two lanes of the Highway 100 South on-ramp, where the rapid-fire traffic lights that only get activated at rush hour are running. I’ve noticed when traveling that not many other states have these, and I’ve since come to regard them as a quintessentially Minnesotan thing. Minnesotans cannot figure out how to merge sensibly—in fact, Minnesota drivers are overly courteous—so we regulate it with equanimous technology. That way, everyone rests assured that they haven’t been rude.

“I guess when I think in terms of learning… it’d have to be the fact of fear. I was telling my therapist about the snake incident, and that’s where I learned that anger is often a response to fear. A reaction to fear. That rings true to me. I don’t know if it always is, because I think there are plenty of times that anger is a direct response, and an appropriate response as well.”

The right light is firing greenyellowred, then the left is firing greenyellowred, super-fast to indicate one car per turn. Cars jump forward and get the green just as they brake. It’s herky-jerky, the freeway below is flooded with racing traffic, the noise of racing tires is in our ears, there’s a truck’s diesel rumbling beside us, and thumping bass from a vintage Monte Carlo ahead of us, the tail lights glare, but Tom is utterly calm; he shows no signs of agitation. He’s completely contemplative and speaking thoughtfully about snakes, while his body expertly tends the wheel, and his foot gases and brakes, gases and brakes.

“Can you give me an example?” I say. I find my own voice very sanguine, even lethargic. I want to be equated with Tom’s Zen. I want to enter his zone of assurance and control, which I imagine as one that a surgeon must enter when the patient is splayed out on the table, guts spilling, the heart-rate monitor pulsing.

“You punch me in the nose for no reason—I’m not afraid of you, because I’m bigger than you. I’m just pissed. What the hell’d you do that for? Right?”

“Right.”

It’s our turn. He guns it, saying more loudly as the Buick’s V8 growls, “I often grew angry with Debra when I was discovered. Which I had no right to be.” On a whim, I move the camera off his face and point it at his brown loafer on the gas pedal, the ankle of his dress pants, his black sock exposed. “But I was afraid of losing her. Afraid of being judged. Afraid of being afraid, even, if that makes sense.”

I shoot his face again as he twists round to check his blind spot, and with his left hand drops the turn signal indicator wand.

The blinker cycles exactly once. Tock Tock.

“Oh, it makes perfect sense,” I say.

The Skylark slipstreams into the lane perfectly, and we are to highway speed, with gaps between us and the car ahead and us and the car behind that I suspect could be measured to within an inch of each other.