As a child, I was quite gullible. It’s not that I was stupid—I would hope I wasn’t stupid—only that I thought all things were indeed possible, that anything might happen, and who was I to tell someone she didn’t see what she said she saw? This weakness in me was preyed upon on the dreaded April Fools’ Day—a day, each year, that I tended to forget existed until I was well into it and someone told me my shoes were untied and so I bent down to retie them and hahahaha April Fools.
I was gullible on other days, too. I remember specifically an afternoon with the Heathers in junior high school. (This is not an April Fool; in fact I had three friends named Heather. It was a very common name.) The Heathers told me that one of the Heathers saw ghostly demons flying through her house. She hadn’t told anyone else, until now. I was their new friend, and they knew I believed in all things supernatural. So they talked it up—I imagined fat impish creatures chasing Heather down the narrow stairway, hiding beneath the bed, I could picture them when I closed my eyes, fuzzy in the dark and fast-moving. So that weekend, we all went over to Heather’s house. In a room Heather’s mother kept draped all in white lace Heather pointed there! there! don’t you see that! No, I didn’t see the demons, but that didn’t mean I didn’t believe Heather did. I asked questions: Where exactly are they flying? How big? Do they have feet? Do they make sounds? It was only later, when I heard the oldest Heather giggling that I realized it was all a joke. On me.
Maybe it’s that part of me that wants to please people. The part of me praised as being a good listener listens a little too well, perhaps. Someone would tell me an innocuous thing and I would say, Really? And at that they would laugh and say, No! Not really. Did you really believe that?
Um, yeah I did.
And there’s the lesson: People joke. Jokes are not always reality, and you should know that. People find this process funny. In fact, my own mother has been a culprit.
It took me long enough, but I got the hang of it. Now I don’t believe anything anyone tells me. I don’t believe that something is happening until I see it happening. I want proof on paper. I want the day to get here. Everyone is trying to put one over on me, it seems.
One year, on April Fools’ Day, I found out I got into my top-choice MFA program. I spoke with the professor on the phone, it seemed real enough, but I asked him: Is this for real? It’s April Fools’ Day, you know. He assured me that yes, it was real—though I can’t say I truly believed it was happening until the official letter came in the mail. Who knew? It could have been an elaborate April Fools’ hoax set up to mock my aspirations to become a writer. That certainly is possible.
Now, this afternoon on April Fools’ Day, we have our follow-up tax appointment. I wonder how it will go. This is what your refund will be… Ha! April Fools! In fact, you owe the IRS $3,000!
I’ll be looking at people sideways all day.