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Short Story
5622 words
SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

All My Lovers Were Liars, Too

by Timmy Waldron

The water had a bad chop to it from the wind and the boat fell with a slap over every swelling whitecap. Each time I tried to drink I ended up spilling beer on my shirt or knocking the aluminum can into my front teeth. The Golden Gate Bridge, shrinking behind us, looked like an easily breakable model from a Godzilla movie set. I tried to light a cigarette a few times, but the wind and our speed made it just as impossible as drinking. It was late afternoon, but still bright from the sinking sun above and the reflection shining up from the surface of the bay below. Once we were a little past Alcatraz, Bobby cut the engine. Me, him, and JB lit smokes. Bobby lifted a vial of coke from his pocket and tossed it to JB. The boat rose and sank with the swells. I could feel the drop in the pit of my stomach. JB took a bump and handed it off to me. I hit it and gave it back to Bobby. He used this apparatus he called The Bullet. It had a built-in glass straw that filled up with coke when you turned it over. You could take a bump without having to dump the coke out and snort it from another surface. We lit another round of smokes.

I didn’t like Bobby all that much, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t care for me. He was interested in a girl me and JB knew and was being nice to us because of that. He paid for our drinks when we saw him out, and even bought us dinner once. This boat trip was part of his plan to win us over, or at least to get us to owe him something. Barry Bonds was on his way to smashing the all-time home run record for a season and Bobby offered to take us to the park so we could watch the record-breaking run fly into the bay with our own eyes.

JB sank into the starboard seat. He was staring at me and I tried not to notice. We’d known each other since high school, a decade of friendship at that point. We’d also been roommates for two years by then. It was obvious that something was wrong with him. He didn’t look good, like he hadn’t been sleeping much. Lately all of our minor exchanges at the house were elusively uncomfortable. Normally I’d ask him what was wrong, but I had been sleeping with his girlfriend on and off for some time. I was afraid he had caught on.

JB introduced me and Martha a few years back and we went out a couple of times. JB and her both went to the same college and they had a bit of history together. As JB told it, “Almost every time I cheated on my girlfriend, I did it with Martha.” For whatever reason Martha and I didn’t work out and she started seeing JB. It didn’t take more than a few dates before they let it be known that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. I told myself that it didn’t bother me, stuff like that had happened between me and him a bunch of times over the years. We dated the same girls on and off in high school. On more than one occasion we stepped over one another to get with this one or that one. But there was something about what happened with Martha that nagged at me. I tried to set aside the feeling as best I could and eventually it was so muted that I didn’t think it was an issue. A big part of that was Zelda. Martha introduced me to her. She was another college friend that moved out to San Francisco after graduation. We hit it off pretty good and started dating. We were all doing these jobs that we kind of just fell into and there was a weird feeling like these jobs were pretend and our lives outside of work were more real and that this was kind of killing time before life started and everything became awesome all the time. I think we felt famous. And for no other reason than we were young and hadn’t been disappointed enough, yet.

Me and Zelda dated for awhile and fell into a real good relationship. It was nice and easy and I wasn’t anxious or stressed all the time. In those ways it was better than any relationship I’d ever had before. We had similar interests, drinking, fucking, and watching TV. I eventually messed up our good run. We were day drinking on a Sunday at Joxer Daly’s Pub in West Portal. Before dark we headed back to my place to fool around. I was sitting up in the bed and she was lying in my arms looking up at me, I gave her a kiss and said, “You’re dying to marry me.” I was kidding. I liked to tease her sometimes and she liked it too, but sometimes I’d go too far and upset her. We had never talked about marriage before and I was too dumb to realize how serious she’d take it.

“Yes,” she said. “I would love to marry you.” Her cheeks went red and she turned her face into my lap to hide her embarrassment. That night, when we fucked, I told her I never wanted to fuck anyone other than her for the rest of my life. She lit up like I’d never seen before. The next morning was awkward. Zelda told me how much fun she had and how happy she was. I told her I had a great time, but had trouble remembering leaving the bar and asked her how we got home.

“You drink too much,” she said as she dressed. Zelda was a red head with fair skin. She always looked amazing when she was angry. I shrugged, and then she left.


There were so many boats in McCovey Cove that we couldn’t get anywhere close. It didn’t matter. We were high and going to be drunk and it was an exciting place to be. I wasn’t even a Giants fan. Bobby eased the boat into the crowd and dropped anchor. He opened the cooler and passed around beers, then tuned in the pre-game show on the radio. JB was still staring me down. He caught himself doing it and changed his demeanor, but it kept getting uncomfortable. In a strange unselfish moment, Bobby asked JB how Martha was.

“Good,” he said. “She’s home in Chicago for the week.”

“Oh, shit, I bet you’ll be up to no good,” Bobby said. He drank some beer and then turned to me, “And how about Zelda?”

“She’s good,” I said and shrugged. JB rolled his eyes. “We’re talking about getting married.”

“To each other?” JB asked.

“Yeah,” I told him. JB’s posture changed completely. He straightened his back bone and sat up like this was the greatest news he’d ever heard. “I mean we’re not engaged, yet. We just talked about it.”

“But you want to get married?” JB asked. “To her?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think I do.”

“Congrats, man.” Bobby gave me a bear hug and lifted me off my feet. The movement of the boat caused him to lose his footing and we fell into JB and I knocked my head into his pretty good. We cursed and then laughed it off. After that, we were pretty happy. We drank and smoked and did some more coke. It was good to hang out with JB like this again. It seemed like we hadn’t really enjoyed each other’s company for some time. Bobby had kept his ulterior motive to himself as long as the coke and beer would let him and then started talking non-stop about Kelly. Me and JB both knew she wasn’t interested in Bobby, but we listened to him talk while we waited for the game to start. We turned up the radio as a hint and got him to quiet down for the first few innings, but the worse the Giants played the less Bobby paid attention to the game and the more he brought up Kelly. Even though the Dodgers were pretty much in control of the game the whole time, it seemed like the Giants had a chance to overtake them, and secure a spot in the playoffs. Bobby swore up and down that he’d get us tickets if they made it. He also made us promise to help him hook up with Kelly, again and again.

Bonds knocked out his record-breaking home runs seventy-one and seventy-two, neither ball made it to the water, the Giants lost. It wouldn’t have mattered even if he hit them out of the park. It was a night game and none of us were dressed warm enough for the weather on the bay. We left at the bottom of the sixth and didn’t hear about what happened until we got back to the docks. Bobby invited me and JB out for more drinks, he said he’d buy. It was a Friday and he wanted to keep hanging out. We didn’t even bother to come up with an excuse and just told him no. We took the Muni back to West Portal and opted to stop for a few drinks at Joxer’s. We talked shit about Bobby the whole ride back. Ganging up on him always brought the two of us closer together.


The first time I had seen Zelda after she stormed out was fine, at first. We met at a bar in North Beach near all the strip clubs and Italian restaurants. We talked and drank and laughed and I thought the marriage thing was forgotten. When we got back to my place, back in bed, it was like we were right back in that moment.

“Are you going to remember this?” she asked me.

“I’m not that drunk.”

“How do you know?” she asked. “You could be blacked out, right now.”

“I’m not that bad,” I said. “Not even close.”

“Sometimes when you drink you get this look in your eyes, like you’re not even there.” She adjusted under the sheets, took her panties off, and threw them onto the sofa chair where she kept her clothes in a pile when she stayed over. She left the ripped and faded Nevermind t-shirt that she had stolen from me on as a nighty. “You get these shark eyes. It freaks me out.”

“Doll’s eyes,” I said, doing my best imitation of Quint from the movie Jaws. She made a face as I leaned in and kissed her. She tried to squirm away, like we weren’t done talking, but I pulled her close and kissed her harder. Once she relaxed, I let go and slid my hand under the covers and in between her legs. I started to finger her. She moaned and moved a little bit, then she found my rhythm and her hips began to move and collided with my hand. I was hard. We fucked and then slept and didn’t talk any more about marriage that night. The next morning she was awake before me, just sitting up in the bed. I opened my eyes.

“Are we getting married or what?” she asked.


JB bought the first round at Joxer’s. We knocked our pints together and cheered each other. It was a bit past eleven at night and the bar was busy. We drank there a lot and over tipped all the time so we never had a problem getting drinks. Before the first beer was gone it was apparent that throwing Bobby under the bus had lost its appeal.

“Where’s Zelda tonight,” JB asked.

“Working,” I said. She was a nanny and worked for a wealthy couple that paid well and let her live in the apartment over their detached garage, over in Sunset. Zelda liked the job, she said the little guy she took care of was great to be around and her bosses were easy to get along with. The only catch was that they loved to go out on Friday and Saturday nights, so we rarely got together before Sunday.

“I should call Martha,” he said.

“Tell her I said hi,” I said. JB gave me a sour smile and walked outside the bar.


Martha had called me at work. This was the week after Zelda had confronted me about the marriage proposal. She had something she wanted to talk to me about and asked if I could meet her for lunch.

“Don’t tell JB,” she said before hanging up on me. It was strange, but not that strange. Me and Martha spent a lot of time together, but it was always with JB and Zelda. I figured she was planning something for JB’s birthday. We met at an empty restaurant by the bay and had oysters with a lemon shallot sauce and bottle of white wine that she said was good for the price.

“Is JB cheating on me?” she asked, interrupting something I was saying that didn’t really matter much.

“Why would you ask me that?”

“I’ve got a feeling he’s cheating on me,” she said. “But I also think I might be acting crazy.”

“I know what you mean.” I poured the last bit of wine into my glass and thought about how much I didn’t want to go back to work. “Sometimes I get the feeling that Zelda has this whole life going on that I know nothing about.”

“Well,” she said. “Is he?” I shook my head and thought about how a few months back we were out and this girl was talking to me and I was flirting with her and JB jumped in and swooped her away from me. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep with her, but I liked the attention and he couldn’t stand to let me have it. He went back to her place and I went home. In the morning he kicked open my door and threw her soiled thong in my face and laughed. I laughed too, like it was the most awesome thing ever, but it wasn’t. I hated it.

“I don’t know,” I said, nodding my head up and down.

“Don’t lie to protect your friend,” she said.

“It’s not like that,” I told her. “Let’s get some more wine.”

“I’m broke.”

“Me too.”

“I’ve got a few bottles at my place” she said. “Left over from the party.”

I called my boss from a pay phone and told her that I ate some bad oysters and was having sharp intestinal pains. JB and I had come to the conclusion that saying you had diarrhea was the best way to call out of work. It was so embarrassing that the person you were lying to would most likely believe you. At the very least they would be too embarrassed to challenge you. I made sure Martha was out of earshot when I made the call. My boss said fine and hung up on me. Most days I’d feel guilty about ditching out on work, but on that day I was already lost in wine-fueled daydreams of what would happen back at Martha’s place.

I started to get nervous as soon as we got on the Muni. We took the M from Embarcadero and switched to the N at Van Ness and got off at Cole. I kept wiping my brow with my sleeve to stop the sweat from beading up on my forehead. We got to her house and I plopped down on the futon while she opened the wine. Martha handed me a giant glass, filled to the brim with some cheap California white, and sat down next to me. We talked and drank for a little while without bringing up JB or Zelda.

“I think JB lies to me about where he is and who he’s with,” Martha finally said. She sounded sad and broken, not as anxious as she did in the restaurant.

“Zelda lies to me, too,” I’d said and then we started kissing.


I had convinced Martha to get an abortion. I had imagined it was going to be a long difficult conversation between me and her, but it barely took a minute. I think she just wanted someone else to say it first. I told her that I’d be with her after, to take care of her. She was too afraid that it would be suspicious, both of us being out of town on the same weekend. Zelda and JB would both have to know we were gone at the same time and even if they didn’t think we were running away together, they’d have to say something, even if they were joking. She decided to go home to Chicago and have it done. She had close friends that still lived there and they would take care of her after.

“She’s not picking up,” JB said after returning from outside.

“She’s probably just out with friends or whatever.”

“I don’t know.” He took a sip from his pint and shook his head. “She’s been acting weird lately.”

“Girls are weird.”

“No,” he said. “Like cagey or something.”

“I’m sure it’s all in your head.”

“You didn’t tell her I fucked that girl did you?”

“Which one?”

“Fuck you.” He downed the rest of his beer. “Get the next round.” He flashed a baggie of coke that he must have swiped from Bobby and then tucked it back into his jeans. “I’m going to load up two smokes. Meet you out front.”

When we had coke we’d pack our cigarettes as much as we could. We’d slam the pack against our palms for minutes at a time to hollow out the tip of the cigarette. I didn’t bother doing it that day and I guess JB knew that, so he went into the john and stuck the cigarettes into the baggie and sucked the coke into them like a straw. I wasn’t outside too long, before he met me and handed me one. I looked at the tip of the cigarette, full of white powder, and nodded my thanks to him. I handed him a road soda that I picked up inside and took a sip of my own. At Joxer’s, before they got fined for doing this, they would give you beer in a Styrofoam cup and let you drink it while you smoked out front. There were a couple other people smoking, but we lit up anyway. When you freebase through a cigarette it doesn’t really smell noticeably. I smoked the cigarette in a couple big drags and then gulped down half of my road soda. The world had changed.

“Fight,” JB said to me. He pointed up the street to two guys throwing wild punches at each other in the street.

“Let’s go check it out,” I said. We started walking up West Portal towards the Muni tunnel where the street came to a T, that’s where the guys were fighting. They were swinging at each other without aim or control. Every punch was a well telegraphed haymaker, which often missed or landed sloppily. The pair was moving all over the place. One would throw a volley of swings, backing the other across the street, and then the other would hold his ground and push the other back and start to retaliate. There was hardly any sound, no Indiana Jones exploding thuds when they connected. Just the shuffling of feet and maybe something that sounded like the slap of meat. As we got closer to the fight we could see a crowd outside of the Philosopher’s club, the Italian bar in West Portal. We drank there sometimes, it had a nice long bar, and Golden Tee in the back. The bartender was an ex-marine who fought in Granada and saw his best friend gutted right in front of him, if you believe him at his word. He always had rowdy friends in the Phil-Lo club, drinking, other ex-marines, I guessed.

“Fight must have started in the Phi-Lo club,” JB said.

“I don’t think we should get any closer,” I said. “Those guys are kind of all over the place.” The brawl came right at us. I took a few steps back, but JB held his ground. The guy being pushed towards us was bald. His white tee shirt was stretched out around the collar from being pulled on and grabbed at by his opponent with crew-cut black hair. I could hear their grunts and strains as they swatted at each other. Mumbled curses punctuated their deep breaths. The bald man made a stand at the curb and pushed the guy with the crew cut back with both hands and then started his charge. I heard laughter come from the group of onlookers outside the Phi-Lo. I don’t know if they were laughing at the fight or me for flinching. I was embarrassed just the same.

The fight made it to the other side of the intersection. By then, the Phi-Lo patrons had had enough. They circled the two brawlers and broke them apart. In short order the fight was over and the group was filing back into their bar. We walked back to Joxer’s and stood outside the bar smoking and finishing our road soda. JB looked agitated. The mix of booze, the fight, and all the coke were good gas for the angry fire he had inside him.

“I want to fight,” JB said.

“What?” I asked.

“I want to get into a fight.” He put out his smoke. “I’m going to go into the bar and start a fight.”

“You’ll get killed.”

“How do you know?”

“Because, I’d get killed if I did that and I could kick your ass.”

“Then we should fight,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go home first.” I pointed up the street. A police car had arrived. It sat parked, with its lights flashing, on the Phi-Lo side of the intersection.

“I’m going to kick your fat ass.” JB walked towards me and knocked his shoulder into mine as he passed. I’d never been in a fight before, scuffles sure, but nothing like what we saw at the Portal. I followed closely behind JB. He turned a few times to mock me. It was like he was an athlete pumping himself up for a big game. I stayed quiet and seethed. I thought about how he threw those panties in my face. I thought about the night after my first date with Martha. I told JB how much I liked her, I told him that I was really going to try and make a go of it with Martha. Then a few weeks later, he was dating her. I thought about other fights I had seen, how angry and disorganized they were.

Once we got back to the house, JB turned to me. He put his fists up. Normally it would have made me laugh, but I was scared. I mimicked him and put my fists up, too. I scrunched down, pulled into myself as much as I could and moved towards him. JB was a good three inches taller than me and that would give him a better reach. I moved toward him slowly. I started having trouble keeping an eye on him. The street light directly behind him created a blind spot that he disappeared into. His face lost all definition in the silhouette and it was difficult to make out the edges of his body. I squinted, hoping that would help my vision, but it did nothing. I raised my hand to block the light and I guess JB took that for a first punch. He started to swing. One of his punches landed. I took it better than I expected. He’d hit me on my skull, the left side above my temple. It seemed he did more damage to his hand than my head because he shook it after he hit me. I threw my first punch. He was just out of reach, it landed softly on his chest. He let out a laugh. He swung and caught me again, this time in the chest. It took a bit of my air.

When he was in the blind spot I could only guess where his head was. I moved left, nervous that the next punch was going to land square on my nose. I found I could see better, I kept moving clockwise until the light was behind me. Finally, I had good eyes on him. I could see him in sharp focus and knew the light was giving him as much trouble as it gave me. He panicked and started swinging wildly. I took a step back. It was that easy to avoid him. I pulled my right fist back, stepped toward him and put all my weight into the punch. I caught him right in the face, just below his eye. He stutter-stepped backwards and then fell towards me with his hands out. He grabbed onto my shirt as he fell. I was wearing this nine-dollar short-sleeve button-down I bought from Target. For some reason I found myself supremely concerned by the prospect of it being ripped by JB. I decided to just let myself fall with him, in order to save the shirt. I hit the pavement with JB. Instantly something felt wrong. We were face to face on the pavement. He was completely unconscious. I got to my feet. My left arm was pulled close to my body and my forearm was across my chest, as if I was in a sling. There was a sharp pain in my shoulder. I tried to move it, wiggle it around, but the pain grew more severe. I had no say in how my left arm sat on my body. I felt my shoulder with my right hand, a bone protruded out of the socket.

I started to tell myself to be calm and cool. Be cool, be cool, be cool, breathe, I repeated. I needed a doctor. I nudged JB with my foot, just shook him a little. He didn’t wake. I rolled him onto his back and saw that his face was bloody. My be cool mantra changed to I’m fucked, I’m fucked, I’m fucked, breathe. I knelt down to examine him and try to see where the blood was coming from. It didn’t appear to be gushing out, although his hair was pretty wet with the stuff. He must have hit his head on the pavement in the fall, but I couldn’t tell exactly where the cut was. It wasn’t from the punch. That was clear. A little red welt had started to blossom under his eye. I started off towards the staircase that led to our front door, but turned back, realizing I couldn’t leave JB unconscious in the street. With just one good arm, it was difficult to move his body. I grabbed him by the wrist and pulled, but my new knowledge of how easily shoulders could be dislocated made me think I could just pop his arm out. I grabbed a bunched-up fistful of his shirt, no better. Finally I stuck my hand in his pants and grabbed him by the belt and waist band. My panic was growing. I abandoned any attempt to move him gingerly. In a few exhausting heaves I had him over the curb and on the sidewalk. I ran in the house and grabbed a tee shirt that had been left hanging over the back of the couch, and a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts from the freezer and went back out. JB was sitting up when I returned.

“You ok?” I asked. He seemed pretty out of it and smiled when he saw me.

“Do you think my mom is happy?” he asked. I helped him to his feet and held onto him as he got his balance. He grimaced and tentatively touched his head with his hand, and then examined the blood on his fingers. “What the fuck?”

“Let’s make our way to the hospital,” I said. We moved slowly down the sidewalk towards Junipero Serra Boulevard. The Muni had stopped running and I figured that road was our best chance of finding a cab.

“Who won?” JB asked while touching his eye with his bloody hand. His walk steadied and the blank expression on his face had given way to a more focused look of discomfort.

“Draw?” I offered. We took a seat on the bus bench next to the empty boulevard and waited. A few cars sped by after a few empty minutes, no cabs. My shoulder pain became sharper and more pronounced. The beer and the drugs and the adrenalin were wearing off. The shame and regret were kicking in. JB had the bag of Brussels sprouts inside the tee shirt and was holding it to his head. He muttered fuck a couple times and spit.

As I watched him tend to his hurts I knew it was over, all of it. Us as friends, his relationship with Martha, and mine with Zelda. It was just a matter of time. When Martha returned from Chicago, things wouldn’t just go back to normal. You don’t just have an abortion and then never think of it again. Could she look JB in the face every day without turning over the decision time and time again? Would she be able to go a full day without thinking “was it JB’s baby or was it Ethan’s?” And then what? Break it off with JB, shut me out, and Zelda too? Would she try to shove it down and bury it or would she come clean and let everyone know the truth? Martha was a good person, despite all the shitty things she did. She could still mean something to somebody, but not to JB or me or even Zelda. And that meant that I couldn’t mean anything to any of them either.

“A while back, Martha asked me if you cheated on her.” I said. He leaned forward on the bench and hung his head.

“I didn’t say you didn’t.”

“I figured as much,” he said. I felt my mouth fill with words, like vomit. I was about to tell him everything. I wanted him to know I was sorry for being so selfish and petty. I stopped my confession before it poured out of me.

“I’m a bad friend,” I said.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” He stood up and raised his free hand. A cab came to a stop in front of the bus stop bench and we got in.


Kelly couldn’t fly, she was in her last trimester. I had to go to JB and Martha’s wedding alone. I was running late and JB and Martha were already at the altar exchanging vows. Quietly, I took a seat in the last pew. I searched the crowd to see if I spotted any familiar faces. They seemed to be all strangers to me. People started to clap. I looked up and JB and Martha were kissing, married. Everyone stood and I spotted Zelda, a few pews in front of me. She turned with a smile to the man next to her. She touched the small of his back and he leaned over to kiss her on cheek. I was happy to see her happy, after all the shit I put her through. Then that turned to jealousy when I noticed her looking at him with such reverence. I thought of a few things I could say to them at the reception that would cool those stolen glances.

To growing applause JB and Martha walked down the central aisle. They looked happy in that dreamy kind of way that you only see in the photographs that come in picture frames. I lifted my hand to them as they passed by, but neither seemed to register my presence. I stepped into the receiving line and waited anxiously amongst the other attendees. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, just outside of the church. JB shook my hand firmly when I greeted him. Martha smiled. She looked genuinely pleased to see me.

“Congratulations,” I said and gave him a one-armed hug. “Thanks for inviting me and Kelly, she’s real sorry to miss it.”

“Congratulations to you, too,” JB said. “I can’t believe you are going to be a father. That poor kid.”

“I know, right?” I said and looked at Martha. “Congratulations to you, my dear.” I kissed her on the cheek. There was no sign on her face that she was at all uncomfortable with the three of us being together. I wondered if she ever came clean and told him or if it was just something they silently agreed never to speak of. “Well, I’m very happy for you two. And thanks for having me here. It means a lot to me.”

“Let’s knock a few back at the reception, like the old days,” JB said.

“That would be great,” I said and as I turned to step away JB wouldn’t let go of my hand. He pulled me towards him, hugged me again. I patted him on the shoulder and we smiled at each other and it felt like we’d moved on, once again, but better this time. I walked down the front steps of the church, through the crowd, across the street and got into the cab and headed back to the airport.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Timmy Waldron

is the author of World Takes: Stories Designed to Amuse from Word Riot Press (2009), and the Assistant Editor of The Literary Review. His work has been published by Mud Luscious Press, Dogzplot, Necessary Fiction, Sententia, and Monkeybicycle, and is forthcoming in The Word Riot Reader (Spring 2013).

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury