Industry Journal: The Liar (Part VII)

Tuesday night, sitting on the edge of my bed, I called the Girlfriend.

“I’m going to end things with the Liar in the morning, now that he’s back in Sacramento,” I said.
“Really?!” She said. “Wow. Good.”
“There’s no point in dragging this out any longer. I feel disgusting. It’s unhealthy.”
“I get it,” she said. “He’s the worst. The absolute worst.”
“Yes, he is.” We said goodnight.

I brushed my teeth, filled the kettle for my morning coffee, and began switching off the lights. I needed to sleep. My phone pinged. The Girlfriend had texted me.

She wrote, “Sleep well, sweet girl, when you rest your lovely head.”
She made a string of black hearts and kissy-face emojis, just like the Liar had written every night, when he had sent that exact message to me.
To her, I typed the other thing he always wrote: “Sweetest of dreams, my love. Sleep well.” Followed by the same pattern of emojis.

I burst into laughter. Seeing the things he had texted us, with that stupid stilted phrasing, felt refreshing.
The Girlfriend texted, “I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.”
“Me either. And you know the thing, though? I can’t even tell you how good it feels to read those words and know they are coming from someone who actually truly cares about me,” I said.
“Same,” she said.
“Hey,” I typed, “I love you. I hope you’re okay. I’m really grateful for you.”
“I love you too,” she wrote, “Same, so much. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without you.”

I telephoned him at nine the next morning.
“Hey,” I said, “Can you talk?”
“Yeah, let me go outside.”
I heard the noisy beeping of a large vehicle. Power tools. A table-saw. Construction sounds faded behind him as he walked.
He said, “Okay.”

I knew my opening lines.
I said, “First of all, I’d like to commend you on your exceptional taste in women.”
He chuckled. “Thank you.”
The fucking audacity.
“No.” I said. “Second, maybe next time, don’t pick women who keep impeccably-organized calendars and are compulsive journalers.”

The Girlfriend and I had agreed. Everyone I had spoken to had agreed. Tell him everything we knew. Let him have it.

I continued. “Yesterday morning? When you called and told me ‘the whole truth?’ I knew you were lying the whole time. You know, I’d really hoped you’d be able be honest with me.”
“I was honest,” he said.
“No, you weren’t. The Girlfriend and I cross-referenced every single day from the first time I met you until last week. Down to the hour. We’d both kept track of your excuses, it turns out. Your storytelling is abysmal. You said yesterday we only overlapped on one day? That’s a lie. You did that all the time. It’s no wonder you’re living paycheck to paycheck— the cost of the gas to get back and forth across town to fuck us must have been astronomical. We know you were doing that on the same day, too. I knew, by the way. I tasted her on you once and tried to convince myself I was imagining things. Thanks.”

I let that sink in. “You weren’t trying to distance yourself from her. You guys were going to Mexico next month. You told us both we were on the guest list for the VIP thing in two weeks. And you told her you were in love with her right after you met me. What was that, insurance, in case she noticed you acting funny— she did, by the way— after our first date? And then you asked her to move in. Two weeks ago now? Distancing. Right.”

I paced from one end of my loft to the other. “You invited her to Sacramento this weekend. Obviously she had those tickets refunded. Man. You’ve known what you were doing all along. She wanted me to tell you that she’s pissed, by the way, that you used Courtney’s death as a cover for our first date. That was low. And that ‘little sous chef,’ bullshit? Using my kid? Disgusting. Thank god she never met you. I can’t imagine anyone letting you near their kids.” I was building up momentum, and not breaking long enough for him to interrupt me.

“We know you weren’t working nights or weekends. You bailed on me on my birthday after you made me that inedible dinner to go home to her. That was another thing— you lied about the cooking. You didn’t work the day after our first date. You went to the coast with the Girlfriend, but you were trying to figure out how to get the ex back at the same time— that’s where you found the stone that you gave her with the letters. And you were still seeing the Third back then. You lied to all of us. You lied to your friends— you know, I really liked your best friend— how could you do that to him?”
“He didn’t know,” said the Liar.
I shook my head, and went on.
“And then there’s the alcoholism. Clearly you know you have a problem, but Naltrexone doesn’t work unless you’re actually doing serious behavioral therapy and have the will and insight to change those habits. And it’s not just the alcohol— I mean— take your pick on which addiction the Naltrexone was actually for, right? I know you’re doing other drugs. All the times you went to your truck? At least once a night if not more, and first thing in the morning? We both noticed how you’d get loopy some nights about forty-five minutes after you came back, or you’d start slurring… if I had to guess I’d say it’s either muscle relaxants or some kind of opioid. But then other times you’d come back sharp. Quick. Focused. That? That would be blow.”
“I haven’t done cocaine in over a decade, and I’ve only taken pills when they were prescribed to me. I don’t do drugs.”
“Except for the mushrooms you did with the Girlfriend at the Crystal last month. Or the Molly you were on when you asked the ex to marry her. She didn’t ask you. And you were high. Classy.”
“You talked to the ex,” he said.
“Of course I talked to her. We talked to everyone. And you’re lying about the drugs. I can’t get into your truck, so you can say whatever you want; but you’re lying.”
“The only thing in my truck is a bottle of whiskey,” he said.
That’s not how whiskey works,” I replied.

I had already had it with him, and we’d barely started.

“I know about all of the debt you racked up on your ex’s credit cards. I know you weren’t paying rent. For god’s sake, forty-thousand dollars in back child support payments? All this time, you painted your kid’s mom like she was insane. Toxic. A total mess. For all I know, you could have been lying about that.”

“She’s a good person,” he said.
This nearly stopped me.
“What? Well.” I said, “I’m sure she is.” I felt genuinely sad for her, and for his daughter.
“You forced the ex out of her own home. She told me about your fights. About your rage. Why do you think I ran from your house the other night? I didn’t have a panic attack. I was eating a corndog when I texted you.”
“Huh,” he said.
“You manipulated her and preyed on her insecurities. You bullied her into doing what you wanted. And you’re still pursuing her.”
“She was the one I wanted to spend my life with.”
“Yeah, save it. You know what she was? Trusting. We’re all disposable. You said it to me on the phone as soon as I found out about the Girlfriend— you’d understand if I never spoke to you again? You didn’t break up with the Girlfriend and decide you wanted to be with me because you loved me more— god, you never even told me you loved me. I wasn’t superior in any way— I just knew less than the Girlfriend did. She already had you on probation after the Third. She wasn’t going to stick around for more.
“You’re not invested in any of us. We’re all expendable. There is an inexhaustible supply of pussy out there for you. And we know you were fucking other women.”
“I wasn’t.” He said.
“You’re not listening. When I say, ‘we know,’ I mean ‘we have confirmed.’ When I say I know you are lying, I don’t mean I think you are.”
“I can tell the truth.”
I closed my eyes. “No, you can’t. You haven’t yet. I honestly don’t believe you even know what the truth is, at this point. You’ve been telling yourself these stories for so long that I’m sure you believe them. I don’t think you could tell me the truth if your life depended on it. I mean, there’s nothing motivating you to, anyway, and no reason for you to stop lying at this point. You’re getting exactly what you want.”
“I’m not,” he said.
“Yeah, you are,” I said. “I get that you probably want to stop, because being addicted to anything is a lot of work. It’s hard work, and a lot of it doesn’t feel especially good. But you’re the one making all the choices. When you lie, nobody gets to choose except you, because no one else knows what’s actually going on. You project the most attractive story for each person, so everyone keeps saying yes to you. You know, I’ve thought a lot about the function of this in my own life this week. Honestly, it was a total mind-fuck and not entirely a bad thing,”
“Oh?” He said.
“Sure. It all comes down to integrity. While I value integrity, and wish I could claim it as a character trait, I haven’t been practicing it fully. I mean, in most ways, yes. But then there was the issue of high-functioning addiction, and what it meant to be hiding that. I hadn’t told my sober friends I was drinking again. I rationalized it by telling myself I was protecting them. It’s one of the pitfalls of being smart: you can rationalize anything a half-dozen different ways. I didn’t want them to have to see me struggle. Or potentially get triggered. Or question their own sobriety. But that’s all bullshit. For two reasons. First, I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to see what was really going on— relapse or whatever you want to call it— and decide for themselves if they wanted to be around me still. Completely unfair. Totally destructive to trust in a relationship. I was depriving them of choice because, selfishly, I didn’t want to lose them. I felt ashamed of myself, and so I hid it. I rationalized it by thinking I was keeping them from suffering, when I was being a coward about my own vulnerability and addiction. I was controlling instead of communicating. And the other reason it was stupid is because it ran completely counter to my core beliefs about community and connection. Nobody can do anything alone. I should have allowed others to help me and support me. But that’s my work to do, and I’ll sort it out.
“It takes a lot of high-level cognitive functioning to hide so much addiction, and to juggle so many lies. No wonder you’re so tired. It’s exhausting. But you can’t stop. You can’t stop because it is a pathology. You are a pathological liar. You are a narcissist. You are an addict. You are a sociopath. You need real help. Serious help. Help you are definitely not getting. None of us believes you are actually in therapy, and if you are, your therapist is terrible at her job. The stuff you’ve said she’s said to you? Completely unbelievable. And that nonsense you told the Girlfriend about how you were going to therapy every day on recommendation of your therapist to unpack whatever you said was going on with the Third? There’s no way. Who was supposedly paying for that? Insurance certainly wouldn’t cover it. I’m sure it was just another lie to buy you an extra hour to fuck one of the others.”
“There weren’t others.”
“Yes, there were.”
“It was only you and the Girlfriend.”
I thought about the women on Instagram. The lists of names. The ones who had replied. The ones who had not.
“What about the one in the hotel downtown, while you were seeing the Girlfriend? She found the key card. What was her name?”

And then he told me her name.

“I used to hook up with her when I was traveling,” he said.
“Like you did with Shasta in Redding?”
“No,” he said, “She wasn’t there.”
“You were in Redding. Your admin booked you that room. You didn’t drive all night.”
“Yes,” he said. “That was always the plan.”
“I know it was always the plan. The ex read me the email you sent her. And the other letters, for that matter. You lied to me. You lied to the Girlfriend. Because we couldn’t know where you actually were, because you were fucking someone else.”
“That’s not true. I was alone.”
“I don’t believe you. You don’t know how to be alone. And it really doesn’t matter. I remember you lecturing me at the beginning about what an introvert you were, and how much you needed time to yourself. And then you spent every free minute with one of us or the other. Classic narcissistic bait and switch. You told me you never shared and you were never abusive, and then all you did was cheat and abuse. You told me your exes were all narcissistic-abusive, and none of them were. It was you. You are. Who else were you fucking.”
“There was no one else.”
“Who else did you fuck.”
“There was only one other girl. One time, before I met you.”

He told me her name, too.

“When? Never mind. It doesn’t matter.” I said.

My voice had become so much more intense, so unforgiving. Firm. He was telling me things now that I was angry. I thought about my quiet deference during the conversation the day before. How much more would I have found out had I been confrontational then? This was a pointless thing to think about: I didn’t have to make this ugly in order to win. There was no winning; except to exit, and to exit with grace. And nothing I could do would prevent further lies. This would not stop with me.

“You know,” I said, “I don’t even know how much you’re working. I don’t know if you’re responsible for any of the beauty or creativity you were sharing with me. That’s sad. I don’t know your role in the company, even. For all I know, you could have lied about all of it. And boy did you exploit what you knew about my boundaries and relationships with the people you work with. You know, I had no idea who you worked for when I met you. When I found out, I actually used the fact that leadership trusted you enough to work with them as a character reference for dating you. That was erroneous. Probably in more ways than one, honestly.

“But the worst part for me was not what you did to me, or how you used me; it’s been seeing the amount of damage you have done to the other women. How you abused their trust, broke their hearts, wasted their time. I really liked talking to the ex. I trust her. She’s sweet.”
He said, “The ex has a lot of darkness in her, too.”
“She must if she put up with your ass for three years,” I said.
“Wow,” he said. His voice was dark, bitter.

That was when I lost it.

“Don’t you dare take that tone with me,” I roared at him. “Don’t for one second insinuate that you are the victim here. I have been nothing but patient, compassionate, understanding, and kind through this. I have said absolutely nothing untrue, or remotely unfair. You did all of this. You are the only one at fault. You are responsible for everything that has happened. All of the suffering, all of the pain. This is all your fault.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, sounding chastened.
“You don’t even know what that means,” I said. “You don’t have empathy. You don’t have remorse. Just be quiet.”

He said, “What do you want?”
“I never want to see you again. If you see me walking down the street, you turn around and walk the other way. Do not contact me. Stay away from my home, my family, my work, my friends. There are no second chances. If you violate this even once, I will contact the police. I will be merciless. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” he said.
“Stay the fuck away from me,” I said, and hung up on him.

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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