I wrote this piece in response to a friend’s confusion over when to use “lie” and when to use “lay”
I had lain in my bed for two days before my friend Ashley came to see me. She opened the door, laid her bag on the chair and came over to the bed, where she lay down beside me and gave me a big hug.
“How long have you been lying in bed?” she asked.
“Two days,” I replied. “The doctor says I must lie absolutely still, but it is so boring; I don’t think I can bear another day of just lying here.”
“That reminds me of a song,” Ashley said, “that one about the two people who want to lie on a mountain forever.”
“That’s different,” I said, “they were in love so they didn’t mind. My mum hates that song.”
“Why, because it’s not Mozart?”
“No, because of the grammar. The person says ‘I want to lay like this forever’ and my mum says it should be ‘I want to lie like this forever’ so she turns the radio off every time the song plays.”
“That’s funny,” said Ashley. “Here, I’ve brought you some flowers.”
Ashley reached for her bag and pulled out some flowers which she propped up in my coffee cup. They drooped over the edge but at least they brightened the room. The bag lay on the floor where she dropped it and I could see more flowers crumpled inside.
“I got some extra flowers,” said Ashley. “I am going to lay them on Grandpa’s grave later this afternoon. We’re going out to my Uncle Dan’s farm; apparently he has a new hen that only lays brown eggs.”
“Cool,” I said, not really caring that she had lied to me. I know Ashley only goes out to the farm to see her cousin Josh.
“Here, pass me the comb, will you? When my head lies on the pillow for a long time my hair gets all messed up.”
“Doesn’t Ben like it that way?” she waved the comb just out of my reach and grinned at me. “I heard you two are together now.”
“That’s a complete lie, Ashley, and you know it.”
We lay, the two of us, side by side in silence while I struggled with the comb. Then she went off to the farm and I was left alone, laid out as if for a wake, my body lying in state, waiting to be revered by the masses. I giggled at the thought of all my friends parading past, while I lay on the bed, still as a statue, winking occasionally to break the monotony.
Oh, how I hate being ill!