I’m in Florida, on the beach, writing a short story about a cowardly knight and his fearless squire. There’s a blizzard at home that my friends are living in, and I’m drinking water that tastes like chlorine.

Two boys come up to me.

“What are you reading?” they ask. I put on my best English accent.

A Clockwork Orange.

“Is it good?”

“It’s pretty fucked up. But yeah, it’s good.”

“What’s your name?”

“Viola,” I say. “I live in the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam.”

I tell them about my pet cobra and other lies. I tell them that nobody in my family is English, but that my parents faked the accent until I was seven so I’d pick it up.

I had control, and I was changing the worlds of these three teenagers. In their world, the girl on the beach with blue hair was Viola from Vietnam, with hundreds of adventures to tell.

I wasn’t Ruby, a girl on lots of medications who couldn’t handle public school, who’d lost most of her friends, who was bad at riding a bike, who had gained a lot of weight this year, who’d spent much more time in hospitals than in Sapa, Vietnam.

A weight was lifted. Lying is a beautiful art. It is acting and control and writing. It is more than saying you’re someone else. It is becoming whatever you wish to become. ♦