Industry Journal: The Liar (Part V)

As soon as I saw her message, I closed my laptop quietly and slid it quickly into my bag. The chair creaked as I stood. I froze, listening for his voice upstairs. He was still talking. What else had I brought? Just my bag. Laptop, keys, phone. I hadn’t taken off my shoes. My kindle was upstairs. I’d have to leave it. What else? Laptop, bag, phone. Keys trembling in my palm. I silently crossed the kitchen and living room, holding my breath. I gently pulled open the front door, and then closed it soundlessly behind me.


I bolted down the steps and across the lawn and ran to my car. I threw my bag in the front seat and accelerated out of the neighborhood, pushing my earbuds into my ears at the same time. I called the Girlfriend. I gripped the steering wheel to keep my hands from shaking. I had turned right instead of left at the end of his block. I had no idea where I was driving: just away, and fast.


“What is it. Tell me,” I said to the Girlfriend. “What did you find?”
“He didn’t leave her. She left him. He was physically intimidating her and threatening her. It was her house, Tasia. He forced her out. He charged at her when they fought. He was cornering her and grabbing her by the face to make her look at him. Shoving her. It was bad.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
“There’s more,” she said.
I crossed a bridge and passed a run-down dive bar. I realized suddenly that I still had my location shared with him.
“Fuck,” I said, “I have to turn location sharing off.”
“You guys had location shared?” She sounded surprised, and a little jealous. I would have been, too.
“Just me. It was sort of a test. He didn’t share his back. Fuck.”
I pulled off the road into a low yellow curb. With trembling fingers, I revoked his access. I knew this would appear on his phone. He would know something was wrong. I had grabbed my stuff and run, but this spoke to something more serious.


I had driven further north than I normally ventured, but I began to recognize street names. I was in my best friend’s neighborhood. I parked behind his local: a big old dive bar with a sprawling patio. I’d never been in. No one would ever think to look for me here. My best friend had been on a mini-bender; he might already be inside. I phoned him.
“Hi,” I said when he answered, “what are you doing?”
“I just finally got showered and was going to walk over to the bar,” he sighed.
“I’m parked out back.”
“You’re at the bar?”
“Yeah. See you soon.”


I walked straight through the building and out into their backyard and sat down at a table and began to read through the screen captures of the conversation between the Girlfriend and the ex. There was a lot to catch up on and I could focus on exactly none of it. My best friend arrived and gave me a very long hug. I was still shaking.
“I need you to help me deregister my kindle so he doesn’t have access to my account,” I said. “I left it there. I am never fucking going back.”
“That’s easy,” he said. I handed him my laptop and he took care of it.
“I think I need food. I haven’t eaten today.”
He chuckled. “You need to eat. And they have excellent frozen corndogs.”
I laughed. “Fuck yeah. I will have two.” I held up my fingers.


A good dive bar is a thing of unparalleled beauty. The regulars share everything: every conversation is communal property. They are family: they know each other’s names, histories, struggles, drinking habits. My best friend is a good regular. He had been at the bar when the Girlfriend contacted me the day before, and thus, everyone there already knew my own story: they were all up-to-date. Nevermind that I had never met any of them, they were now my people. My best friend introduced me to each of them as they sat down with us.


My phone began to ring. It was the Liar (still my boyfriend, no longer my sweetheart.) I turned off the sound and watched the phone vibrate on the table. It stopped. He called again. He sent a couple of text messages, which I did not read. He called again. Everyone at the table watched my phone light up: his profile picture was a photo of some of his work. I thought about how he had once said to me, “I just want to leave the world a little more beautiful than I found it.” He called a fourth time, and then followed up with more text messages. I ignored it all.


“I’m going to have to reply to him at some point,” I said to my best friend. “It’s not like I can just say, ‘Hey sorry for bolting, but I just found out you’re an abusive piece of shit.’ I’m worried about my safety.”
One of the regulars, who appeared to be in his early 30s and was nursing a beer, yelled from across the patio, “Do you know about this guy’s childhood?”
My best friend leaned toward me. “Oh, yeah, he’s a behavioral specialist.”
He called back to the behaviorist, “I can guarantee you she will know everything about his childhood.” I liked this compliment.
“Yeah, if any of it’s true,” I said.
The behaviorist brought over his beer and sat with us.
I described the Liar. Youngest child. Self-described black sheep. Negative-attention seeker. Early into drugs. Had to pay his own way even though his parents lavished money on his older siblings.
“A narcissist would insist he had done it himself,” said the behaviorist, “Even though the baby of the family would get a ton of attention. He’s the only son? Yeah. I bet his parents are wonderful.”
I told him I had found the Naltrexone, which could be for any or all of the addictions I suspected: alcoholism, drug abuse, sex addiction. I caught them up on how he hadn’t been working overnights or weekends, and how the Girlfriend and I had discovered he was often seeing us on the same days.
“That just seems like so much work,” said my best friend.
“I know,” I said, “I still can’t get over the fact that he was trading out our toothbrushes daily.”
“The pathological lying fits with all of this,” said the behaviorist. “This is textbook sociopathy. Listen, here’s what you need to do when you respond. You need to make him feel like your savior. Make him the hero.”
“Genius,” I said, “Can do. Thank you.”
He started to list off ideas, but my best friend and I waved down his suggestions.
“She’s a writer,” said my best friend, “she’s got this.”


My corndogs arrived in a little basket lined with black and white checked paper. They smelled incredible. The warm, fresh-from-the-fryer aroma of sweet toasted cornmeal, and the faint richness of the beef dog inside. I dunked one in mustard and took a bite.
“Fuck, you were right. This is great,” I said.


Corndog stick in one hand, phone in the other, I typed to the Liar, “I took meds before coming over. I felt a panic attack coming on. You know how day 11 of my cycle is for hormonal anxiety. I was having trouble breathing during my session and thought…” I hesitated, took another bite of my corndog, and deleted the word “thought.”
“This is better,” I said, speaking the words as I typed, “Okay. ‘I was having trouble breathing during my session and was afraid I was going to start screaming. I just didn’t want you to see me that way.’”


You see, I can lie to you, too, asshole. I shook my head with disgust. I hate writing fiction.


I read back the whole thing to the boys.
“It’s day twenty-one, though,” said my best friend.
“My hormonal anxiety?” I said, “Yes. Good memory. We know that, but he doesn’t. Also, since when do I give a shit who sees me having a fucking panic attack. Seriously.”
I turned to the behaviorist, “I’ve had panic disorder and generalized anxiety since I was nine. PTSD stuff.” I shrugged. I sent the message and took another bite of the corndog.
The Liar texted back, “Baby, you know this is when you need to lean on me.”
I rolled my eyes, and read it out loud to the patio. I took a last bite of the first corndog and dropped the stick into the basket.
I spoke the words aloud as I typed my reply: “I know. I’m so sorry. I can’t stop crying.” I hit send and tossed the phone on the table. That was good enough for the night. Damsel in distress, my ass. I ate the second corndog. My best friend was right. They were excellent.

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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