Industry Journal: The Liar (Part II)

My sweetheart telephoned on Sunday afternoon, on his way home from picking up his dog’s ashes. He’d been away all week working in California; since he’d been back, I’d only seen him for a short walk (fingers entwined, embracing often) under blossom-heavy cherry trees. He said he was barely keeping it together. Could I maybe run downstairs and give him a hug if he drove by?


He wept in my arms. He is tall. I stood on the sidewalk in the gentle late-March sunshine; he stood in the street. He wrapped himself around me and I held him.
He said, “Go back up to your girl, and give her a hug for me. I can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you.”
He had not met my daughter, but he had asked to; he was eager to. We had been together for two months, and from the first week he had been all in, declaring exclusivity, beginning to plan our life together.


Upstairs, glowing, I picked up my phone. There was a notification. An Instagram message request. I recognized the name: a female friend of his. We had not met. She sometimes called him very late at night, sometimes two or three times, probably drunk. He took all of his phone calls in the back yard; smoking cigarettes. She had gone through a breakup recently; he said she was a mess. I felt a slash of suspicion.


The message read, “Woman to woman I wanted to reach out. I have been in a relationship with [our sweetheart] for four months and we became exclusive in early February. Today I had plans to meet him at his house and I came across a letter of yours in a book I picked up.” There was more. She gathered we were in a relationship and wanted to know how long we had been dating. She was heartbroken; she was done with him. She was sorry; she thanked me.


I wrote back, “Hi. Wow. Yes.” and then I dialed my sweetheart.


One night he had come in from a phone call and asked me if he “blurred boundaries.” She had crossed a line with him. He went out to his truck— I heard the double-chirp of the fob unlocking the doors— and came back… off. His sentences became senseless, unwound, rambling. But who was this unscrupulous mess of a woman?


He answered the phone. “Hey, what’s up?”
I explained the message.
“Yeah, we dated,” he said. “I understand if you never want to speak to me again.”
I furrowed my brow in confusion and dismay. He’d lied. Also: he’d throw away our relationship just like that?
“You dated? Or you are dating?” I asked, pushing past my own feelings.
“I’ve been trying to break it off with her. You’re the one I want to be with,” he said, “It’s just been hard. I’m so sorry. I should have been truthful. I just hate to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’ll end it with her right now.”
I had no idea what to say. I wanted to believe him. The belief felt very small inside me. We got off the phone.


More Instagram messages. The Girlfriend asked me to call her— she was driving. She sent her number and I dialed.


I have thought back often to this moment; the moment I first heard the Girlfriend’s voice. We introduced ourselves quickly, kindly, and got down to the business of telling each other everything. I told her how long we had been dating, and how often I saw him (every couple of days and every other weekend— whenever I didn’t have my daughter and he wasn’t working long hours.) She was furious with him and sympathetic toward me. She listened attentively. She answered my questions directly and without hesitation. After a while, she said, “I can’t believe you never saw my toothbrush on the edge of the sink.”
I stopped. I said, “I can’t believe you never saw mine.”
We both stopped.
I said, “He was trading out our toothbrushes?”
“What about my heels by the front door?” she asked. “The photo of us together?”
“Never,” I said. “What about my pajamas? My kindle next to the bed?”
“No,” she said. “Ugh, he’s calling me,” she said.
“Answer it,” I urged her gently, “You should talk to him.”
“No fucking way,” she said. “I’m never speaking to him again.”
I already liked her. This made me like her more.


Two minutes later, he texted me a screen capture of his break-up text. It said he was sorry for lying to us both but he wanted to be with me (there was my name: Tasia,) so it was over between them. The top of the screen capture had been cropped out. I couldn’t see to whom it was sent.
She and I were still on the phone. She said, “Ugh, he texted.”
I said, “What did he say?”
She read it to me. It was almost identical to what I had received, except I heard something about how he loved her and always would love her in the message she read to me.
I said, “Did you ever suspect him of cheating before this?”
She said yes. There had been another girl. (We’ll call her “The Third.”) Some chick who had been watching all of her Instagram stories. The Girlfriend asked him if he knew her, and he said that he’d met The Third at a bar and gotten drunk and made out with her once and she had been stalking him online ever since. He told her to block The Third, and she did.
I said, “Did you ever reach out to her?”
I said, “Do you have her Instagram handle?”
“Are you going to contact her?”
“If that’s okay with you.”
“Absolutely,” she said. She forwarded me the profile, and within a minute, I had sent The Third a simple message, asking if she knew him.
The Third replied right away. She wanted to know if everything was okay.
I told her the situation. She told me that she had met him in October and they had dated for five months, until suddenly he ghosted and blocked her three weeks before. Oh, shit. Five months? That overlapped with all of the Girlfriend. I asked her, “Do you know of others?” At the same time, I was reading everything out loud to the Girlfriend on the phone. I asked her, too, “Do you think there are others?”

Now he was calling me. I told her I was taking the call and that I would call her back.
I tried to keep my tone neutral. He told me it was done; he had ended it.
I said, “You told me you hadn’t dated since you broke up with your long-term ex last year. The narcissistic-abusive one who cheated on you?”
He said, “That’s true.”
I said, “You just told me like a week ago that you had never cheated in a relationship. But you were cheating on me.”
He said, “I’ve never cheated before this. I’ve been cheated on in pretty much every other relationship. They all cheated on me… I was trying to end things. I’m sorry. She was making it hard. She was needy and unstable. And then I met you, and you’re the one I want.”
I said, “Okay.” I was watching texts pour in from the Girlfriend. Questions. Answers.
I said, “But you were also dating The Third.”
He said, “No. The Third? That was a one-time thing. Nothing. You can talk to the Girlfriend if you want.”
I said, “I was on the phone with her when you called.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay?” I replied, smarting at the thought of needing his permission, but keeping my tone neutral, “Of course it’s okay.” I hung up.


I called her back. The phone rang. He hadn’t missed a beat when I’d mentioned The Third. It was possible, maybe, that she was lying to me, though I couldn’t imagine why. Maybe there was an explanation for all of this. Some trauma-response. Scarcity mentality. Fear. He had broken up with them, anyway. He wanted me. He was still my boyfriend.
“Hey,” she said. It was strangely reassuring to hear her voice. A relief.
“Hey,” I said back.
“Can I ask you… when was your first date?”
“February fifth,” I said.
“Oh my god,” she said, “did he cook for you?”


We stayed on the phone that night for almost two hours.

Author: `aqaq`

Tasia Bernie is an essayist, and editor of  She enjoys used bookstores, offal, and hard laughter.  She is a very good eater.  She lives with her daughter and two orange cats in Portland, Oregon.


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