he said things

Late one September night, as they stood together on a subway platform waiting for uptown trains, a man said to a woman,

“You know, I entertain the idea of us getting married.”

A passerby wouldn’t have overheard her reply, for the sound of rattling subway cars and the hush in her voice. She might not have said anything more than, Hmmm. Really. She might have wanted to believe him. But he was drunk and when he was drunk, he said things. The same way he said things over breakfast – with fleeting conviction and a boyish sincerity meant only for the moment.

“You’re such a beautiful girl,” he’d say over omelets and juice. Then in the evening, fill her with lies about where he’d lost his wallet or why he didn’t call. Breakfast was easily forgotten.

Only an hour earlier, in a bar some blocks away, he’d stuck a camera up her short black skirt, in front of an audience of friends. The shutter had clicked and she’d clawed to press the delete button – but not before he’d eyed it and grinned.

“How could you?” She had cringed. Humiliation was a digital image of her bare thighs, imperfect and blazing white with the camera’s flash.

“What? I wouldn’t show it to anyone. It’s only for me.”

Later they stood in the heat, him wearing a ratty sweatband on his wrist and her, a vacant pout of an expression. If she was angry, she did not say as much, only withdrew into herself, half-listening as he talked. The man let his eyes rest on her chest, his thumb and forefinger lightly squeezing the top button of her shirt.

“Which train are you going to get on?”

He meant, would she be sharing his bed that night.

“The AC is on. But not because I assumed you’d be staying…” he smiled when he said this.

Just then a train roared into the station, a brightly lit number two shining on its sides. The woman kissed the man on the cheek and said,

“Your train is here.”

A few weeks later, they’d be surprised to learn that a girl they knew was in the family way. His family way. The woman would listen as the man, in his breakfast sincerity, explained his obligation to marry the mother of the child. To do right by the unborn. They would raise their voices and point fingers and spill drinks and he would say that he was sorry.

And she would want to believe him. But he would be drunk, and when he was drunk, he said things.

72 comments to he said things

  • Tara

    That makes me sad but also glad she didn’t have a reason to stay with him.

  • Wow. I just hope she doesn’t continue sleeping with him anyway, as so many do.

  • This Fish

    I have it on good authority that she did not. Ever again.

  • little b

    that was extremely well-written. i once experienced something quite similar. it was once a painful memory but i’m proud to say it’s not painful anymore. thanks for such a great piece.

  • Ok, this totally broke my heart. I feel her pain.

  • Ari

    and I bet that gave him diarrhea.

  • Ouch…brutal post. Hang in there.


  • Good for her. It takes a strong woman to break away from that kind of manipulation.

  • I’m not even going to touch this one because I think it’s perfectly clear…

    You need someone who doesn’t say things when he’s drunk and is a fixture not a necessity and yes. This is the Pot callin the kettle, well, you know.

  • jkrunning

    Sounds like “she” got the better end of the deal. Someday she will realize it.

  • Liz

    It’s a tough lesson, and one that many single women have had to suffer with.

    In one of those cases, it was me who was the pregnant woman. He left when I was six months pregnant for another woman. He fed her the same lie he fed me, “I can see myself with her for the rest of my life.” My son is now a beautiful toddler, and the ‘donor’ saw his son once, at court, where he admitted paternity and waived all custody rights.

    I recently found out that ‘she’ is now pregnant with his child. They’re getting married.

    As much as it hurts, I’d rather be single than settle. I hope you feel the same way, Fish. Don’t settle.

  • Drunken proclamations have been taken to heart by way too many of us…I want to believe that the one who says the things usually FEELS it at the time they say it. Maybe they just don’t attach those momentary feelings. I can’t believe they are just plain mean and evil. Nonetheless, let them take that train the other way. Great post.

  • Great Post fish and so well written. I could picture each moment in my mind. I was with a man like that for almost 4 years. At the time I didn’t have the self confidence to realize that those “breakkfast times” were just words and were meaningless and used more to get what he wanted from me. I recently was “talking” with another guy who was very good at saying just the right things. Only this time I was smart enough to recognize their emptiness and put him on his train. I’m glad she made the right choice for herself. She deserves someone says those words and means them.

  • wow, I love your writing. And I agree with Liz up above… settling for a guy like this would be such a shame. Thanks for sharing.

  • lucy

    i met someone that could not be mine. but he used to call me at 1am and tell me things that broke my heart. “do you know that you are the closest person in the world to me?” “i can’t stop thinking about you.” and in the moment, it all felt real. you know? like- really, really… real. i’m still not sure if it was, but i am sure of this; it wasn’t enough. not by a long shot.

  • Hm. I think I know that guy. I think I dated him a couple of years ago. You’re lucky to be rid of him. Great post, btw.

  • Megan

    Jesus, that explains a lot. I’m not going to speculate, but pretty sure I can guess who that is about.

  • M

    oh wow, I thought the “woman” was you!

  • This Fish

    Um, it was.

  • Floridagal

    i am proud of you

  • excellent excellent post. you are a phenomenal writer. too many of us have hung on to the breakfast talk, and ignored the drunk talk, for wayyy too long.

  • Honestly, I’m happy that he’s out of the picture–or, at least, I sincerely hope that took him out of the picture. Because it sounded like something had to. I’m only sorry that it meant that another woman and her innocent child had to have him. He sounded like such a jerk.

  • Storey

    I knew a girl in the same situation and she kept right on “seeing” him. And all her friends lost faith in her. Please don’t let this happen to your friend.

  • Nikki

    It is bitter sweet, but when your heart is broken your writting is most beautiful.

  • This Fish

    It happened almost two years ago now. I guess it just took a while to let out.

  • Wow! Never get married out of obligation or desperation.

    My heart breaks for you.

    I hope you know you did the right thing.

  • emily

    this is completely and totally one of the most beautiful things i’ve ever read, despite being not such a beautiful situation.

  • tah

    Loved the story

  • Neilpuck

    Very well written Fish. I became very aware of the pronouns, helping to define the relationship at each stage.

  • How heartbreaking…but better to find out sooner than later! Such a great post!

  • Ken

    It’s too bad this girl didn’t know me then, because I could have told her the early warning sign. It wasn’t the booze. We all drink. It wasn’t him saying things while drunk. We all do that.

    But a sweatband? A F-CKING SWEATBAND?!?! Any man over the age of 21 wearing a sweatband is either a hipster (or, worse, wants to be a hipster). Maybe, MAYBE I’d give him a pass if he was in the middle of running an ultramarathon, but dear lord in heaven. A sweatband?!?!

  • M

    Oh sorry. I guess I’m not good with subtleties.

  • LeAnne

    This is VERY VERY well written… you have talent.

  • tali

    oof. i could certainly feel that one. You write so well…

  • jenmiwri

    Loved the post. And the comments too – it’s really helpful to know that the crazy/sad/pathetic/stupid stuff that happens to me (that I let happen to me?) happens to other people too. It makes it a little less crazy/sad/pathetic/stupid somehow.

  • tallglassofvino

    The Girl oughta be counting her blessings!

    (spoken from the position of having been this girl a couple of years ago, myself…)

  • c-monkey

    Your writing style is so powerful and visual.I loved this post in that chest tight – hard to breath kind of way. You should add this one to the Favorite Posts list…

  • Sue

    outstanding!! I’m so amazed at your writing.

    Sorry you had to experience this but glad that you’ve gotten to the point that you could let it go.

  • loretta

    awesome post. powerful writing. I, too, have believed what I wanted to hear only to come crashing down later. I didn’t think I’d survive that pain. Six years later, I’m so grateful he got on his train without me. I’d rather be alone than in that kind of sickness. I haven’t given up on men, just more cautious…

  • Susan

    Fish – I have read your posts every day religiously and none have hit harder to the core than this one. It brought tears to my eyes.

    I too was blinded by his words and the great moments we were together. For the last six months, I would listen with both ears as he told me how wonderful I was and then would dissapear with another “obligation”. I turned my head not wanting to see or hear, but have come to the conclusion that I deserve better than what I have settled for! I deserve the truth and the honest passion that comes from a person who loves you unconditionally and fully…so do you Fish!

    Thank you for the wonderful post…I could see it play out in my mind word by word with familiar faces attached.

  • Julie

    This column, so beautifully written, broke my heart for both women involved, and made me feel sad for all of us in the dating world. After years of dating and observation, I have come to the following conclusion (which I truly hope doesn’t sound smug, judgmental, or like someone’s mother):

    The combination of drinking and sleeping together, in an uncommitted relationship, is too emotionally risky for most women (there may be exceptions but I don’t know a real-life Samantha Jones). Not to mention physically risky – my heart also breaks for the poor girl he impregnated while he was dating you.

    Fish, I am so glad you got out when you did, relatively unscathed and smarter – stay strong!!

  • wow, something very similar happened to my friend’s sister. who are these guys?!

  • jen

    Wow, great post. I love reading this blog – you are such a talented writer.

  • Kaelyn

    Wow. Super writing. I think all the more powerful because so many of us have been involved with this guy….

  • brittany

    wow…this was so…wow…i can connect to that…it wasnt drunken words though…they were just fake…he just said them to get what he wanted…he found my weaknesses…and he uses them all the time…and i just cant let him go, no matter how hard i try…but this helps A LOT…thanks

  • I just have to say that you are a really gifted writer and this post was very heart-wrenching. I’ve been reading for awhile now, but I’m a first time commenter. I love your style!

  • Simon


    I definitely feel your pain. I hadn’t read your blog in awhile but read it just now and definitely identified with what you were going through. Yeah, being manipulated really does take it’s toll – psychologically, emotionally. The hardest part is not forgiving yourself for not ‘recognizing’ the signs sooner and also not projecting those experiences onto other ppl. I also wanted to apologize for writing mean comments to your earlier posts. I think I am learning that the human mind and heart is so fragile. An emotionally traumatic experience can leave ppl awfully cynical. It takes so much effort to build character, which is why most people don’t have any. A really cool quote I found says “Far too many people are looking for the right person instead of trying to be the right person..”. So, until you find your dream guy, you can always be focusing on making yourself the perfect woman. I think you’ll get there before you’re an old lady living with her cats :) :)

  • Awesome. One of the best posts I’ve ever read.

  • Niki

    His name was B……that could have been my B. Sadly, it can still be him. Oh, why do I cater?

  • Mike

    These kinds of stories break my heart. Fish you are so beautiful. Please search for love. Nobody seems to know what love is anymore. It isn’t just a feeling. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self – seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record or wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…. And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Bible 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

  • PP

    This is the first time I write a comment….this is so well writen. I’ve been that girl…he told me all those lies…and never felt what he said…Everyday I work on getting over it. This help…Thanks

  • Tara

    Wow, lets just say my first time on the site and am hooked. I was that girl or i still am?? He said things to me too while drunk…theres a child. The future looked bright then only am now in the future and its four years since we last saw each other!!

  • Kristin


    I have lurked on your website for quite awhile now and have read this post in the past and loved it for any number of unspoken reasons. This past weekend, I received my own dose of reality as “he said things” – I only hope in the future I have learned the lesson and can characterize it as elegantly as you have here.

  • Dee

    Beautiful. I’ve also dated “him” only he didn’t drink, he just lied and cheated. Wish he did have that excuse….Thankfully, we don’t have a child in the mix.

  • N

    Are they all like that? or am i looking in the wrong places?

  • Ann

    Love this post. True story?

  • jenny

    unbeleiveable. it’s sad but comforting to know we all go through this. mine, was recent- and he manipulated me i think because of his own fears…but i’m the one with the better hand, and you are too.

  • sarah

    Sometimes, u don’t realize how lucky u r to figure out his true personality in time. At one point, u focus on how unlucky u r in love, end up crying for almost a year, and spend most of the time wondering if u will ever find the perfect person- if there is such a person.

  • Lol

    Next time one of you ladies come into contact with this complete arse, perhaps you should just push him onto the tracks – although suffering needlessly in a cell might not actually worth removing such a sub-standard specimen of the species.

    Looks like Darwin was wrong, sometimes the weak and stupid do survive, and miraculously even manage to breed. Count yourself lucky Fish. You wont be the next one to spawn for his obviously inferior gene pool.

  • Gosh, not only that this story breaks my heart… I can also totally relate to it. I know guys like this, I met and was involved with two of them. I dumped one, and the other one is in the process of being dumped. Love is just hard.

    Thank you for this post. It’s a sad one, but it cheered me up cos I now know there’s someone having same problems.

  • Debi

    i met this same guy after separating from my husband of 22 years (plus 5 years of dating before that). started “seeing him” 6 weeks after separating, CERTAIN that my marriage was over. this guy said all the right things…in the dark, while making love. then spent a week pushing me away and denying he said anything…until he’d call again in a week. this went on for 8 months til he moved on and I found out..then he’s “confused”…i haven’t been with him since, moved back to my ever-waiting husband, and can’t get him out of my mind…you’d think i’d know better at 47 years old!! dated players in my 20s and thought i knew the score…beautiful post. helps me feel a little less stupid.

  • Kay

    This was me at 21. Except we were at a

    golf championship and he sent me to the

    car to get something for him and I had

    never snooped on him before. Something

    told me, “Look in the glovebox”. There

    it was, some woman begging him to come

    back to him and their baby in a letter.

    He had her pregnant the whole time he

    was with me and never said a word. This

    was a man who started talking marriage a

    few weeks after I met him. Turns out

    he also had an ex-wife and two boys he

    never told me about. Who knows, maybe

    he likes getting women pregnant. He

    certainly tried hard enough to knock me

    up. We were in the Army and I think

    maybe he needed all those extra monetary

    perks the Army gives married people.

    After all, all that child support was

    going to have to come from somewhere.

    Thank you God, my tour of duty ended and

    I was sent back to the states. A few

    months after I left, he married not the

    mother of that baby, but some 18-year-old German girl. He was 38. On, the surface he seemed so perfect.

  • kay

    Welcome to the world I let myself fall

    prey to. Words of marriage and babies

    after dating only a few weeks. He was

    GOOD. Turns out, thanks to a hunch, I

    snooped and found out he had some poor

    girl pregnant and begging him to her and

    their baby. Also, he had an ex-wife and

    two kids he never told me about. I was

    21 and he knew I was too freedom-loving

    to be tied down with children I had no

    ties to. I guess that’s why he would

    never told me about any of it. After

    I left, he married some 18-year-old girl

    who was not the mother of any of his

    children. He married her really fast

    after I left. He had absolutely no rea-

    son to be desperate. Except that maybe

    he needed the extra monetary benefits

    that the military gives married people.

    His had to come up with child support I

    guess. It didn’t stop him from driving

    a brand new beautiful Buick. Selfish

    and self-serving. Thank you God. You

    don’t always let us have what we want.

  • joni


    thank you. You just gave me the warning

    I so desperatly need right now.

  • shy

    I can tottally relate. At first I thought ‘I’ was the one who had expected too much. Slowly but surely I am learning that I deserve someone who can give me what I can give them, ‘honesty’. It’s been a year and I’m still coping. He’s moved on, but is full of guilt or atleast he says he his when he’s drunk. I am single and he is not, it’s hard to deal with but I wouldn’t want to be the current girl….I do consider myself lucky to be out of it….but it’s hard at times to deal with it all when you’re solo and he is not. Thank you for sharing it helps to know that I won’t feel this way forever.

  • Jacque

    wow I dont know why we fall into this trap but clearly from everyones comments too many of us have (yes that includes me) luckily I too learned that what was said in the wee hrs, over alcohol, or any other number of random “magical” places was only something pretty he felt like saying because he couldn’t think of anything truly honest. The good thing is if we have the right things going on in our lives we can learn to let go of the pretty things that are said and look to the honest circumstances. Thank you for writing this and to anyone who hasnt learned this lesson yet… its a hard one but we’re better on the otherside.

  • It is so sad that we hang on the words spoken by a drunk because often they fill our empty vessel……. for the split moment…..their words roll off their tongues and are forever forgotten….by them. We, we tend to remember each of them and remember where we hung them…….and how they hung us.

    Life is so much better for me now……. no longer do drunken words fall on ears that are searching for love.

    Sadly, it took me decades to “get it”.

  • carrie

    your writing is poignant, entertaining, and beautifully rhythmic. you could easily be a best-selling author… or are you already?? do tell…

  • josie

    “Better to arrive alone, then badly accompanied”!!! great post by the way:)