74 Facts and One Lie

This piece has brought me a lot of luck. More than any other piece I’ve written, this one represents a major shift in who I was as a writer. Without meaning to do so, without even knowing that I WANTED to do so, I went from casual/private to intentional/public writing, through the writing of this piece. I wrote it over 10 years ago during an extremely dark night of the soul. Just like F. Scott Fitzgerald said, at around 3 a.m. one morning, I said to myself, sternly: “Okay, Sheila, just write down the FACTS. ENOUGH with all the emotion. JUST the facts. No subjectivity. Write just what IS.” This was the result. It came out whole. This is the first draft. I have not touched it since I wrote it. Sometimes writing happens that way. Not often, but sometimes.

I knew when I wrote the piece that it was something different. Since then, I have performed it many times, at fund raisers and small theatres. It’s always a lot of fun. The responses are always so interesting. I suppose the less said about it the better. The facts are meant to speak for themselves. The same is true for the lie.

74 Facts and One Lie

He took “Paul” for his confirmation name. Not because of Saint Paul but because of Paul McCartney.

He was 13 years older than me.

He eagerly awaited the latest book by E.L. Doctorow the way others waited for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

He had a theory about the linguistic phenomenon of two words separated by ” ‘n”. (As in: rock ‘n roll. Shake ‘n bake. Good ‘n plenty.) If the words are two verbs, then the ” ‘n” means “then”. If the words are two nouns, (or two adjectives), then the ” ‘n” means “and”. He explained, “Yes, because think about it. You have to mix and then match. You can’t do both at the same time.”

He once crashed his bike into the back of a parked car because he was staring at a blue heron.

He referred to himself as a “raging leftie”.

His musical passions were:

Gilbert & Sullivan
Brian Eno
The Elvises (Costello, Presley)
The “girl groups” of the 1960s
The Beatles

He did not know who Jon Erik Hexum was. I illuminated him.

He suffered from what I called “instant drunkenness”. No interim period of slosh. He cut to the drunk.

He wore a Swatch: black straps with white newsprint like a ransom note, green-bordered white watch-face with a black line-drawing of a steaming coffee mug. I secretly coveted that watch.

He thought that there should be a Wizard of Oz amusement park.

He was swept away by Riverdance. He lost his mind.

He had an irrational dislike of guys who wore backwards baseball caps.

He used the word “dyspeptic” once. The only person I’ve known (outside of a book) to do such a thing.

He was an atheist.

The first thing he said to me was, “Are you waiting for someone?”

He loved obsessive British music magazines.

He had what he described as “an excellent childhood”.

He commented mournfully re: Dionne Warwick, “Burt Bacharach lost his muse.”

He said to me, “I see a lot of similarities between us.” “Like what?” I asked. He replied, “Conflict avoidance.” We roared with laughter.

He wore black high top sneakers. This was my influence.

He didn’t really like the American musical as an art form.

He was furious with people who didn’t like the movie Titanic. He saw it four times, staying through the half-hour long credit roll each time.

He was a worrier.
Example 1.
Phone conversation.
He: “So what are you gonna do tonight?”
Me: “Take a walk by the lake.”
He: “Do you have your mace??”
Example 2.
On the day I got a wart on my hand burned off, he called me three times. As though I were having open-heart surgery or an emergency C-section.

He did not approve of any of the guys I liked. “They just don’t seem nice.”

He loved the PBS show Ballykissangel even though (as he said) “it’s produced by BBC Northern Ireland and has Brits playing some of the parts.”

He had subscriptions to over fifteen magazines.

The Shipping News reminded him of me. I still don’t know why.

He wasn’t into organized sports.

He loved the word “pussy” but “cunt” made him uneasy.

He was the only person I knew (besides myself) who had read Helter Skelter not once, not twice, but three times. We would toss around the names “Tex Watson”, “Patricia Krenwinkle”, and “Linda Kasabian” as though we knew them personally.

He hated Billy Corgan. Thought he was an egocentric pampered asshole.

He hated Ian Paisley with a passion.

He went to Graceland and had to touch everything. “I touched doorknobs that he touched!”

He hated kids. “It’s fine for other people, and I know some really cool kids. But it’s not for me.”

He thought it was hilarious and “charming” that I would have “salad and a beer” for dinner. He wrote a song about it:

For breakfast I had cheerios
To start my cheery day
For lunch I had an apple
To keep the doctor away
In the afternoon I had a bag of chips and a glass of Pepsi Clear
For dinner I just stuff myself
With salad and a beer
It’s a perfect combination
If I might volunteer
There’s nothing like the gourmet delight
Of salad and a beer.

Walking through the midnight avenues, we came upon Belden Street. He pondered the street sign, and stated matter-of-factly, breaking our silence, “There was once a Trixie Belden.”

He could not stand it when I cried. He would shake me roughly. “Please! Stop crying!”

He had an eye for details, especially when it came to women.
Example 1. I would wear a different shade of lipstick and he would wonder out loud what it all meant.
Example 2. I made an effort to grow my nails. One weekend, I moved to a new apartment. It was physically grueling. I saw him the following day and he immediately glanced at my hands and said, “I see your nails survived the move.”
Example 3. I would randomly (and pointlessly) play hard-to-get with him, acting just slightly unavailable. He would take one look at me, and say straight out: “I see you’re wearing your aloof cloak this evening.”

I ate pita and hummus in his presence once, and years later he was still saying, “Oh, so that was on that day you ate that stuff that time?”

He did not understand how Demi Moore could have married Bruce Willis because “he was a Republican”.

Lesbians scared him a little bit.

He was amazed:

that I went to my prom.
that I loved Huey Lewis.
that I had siblings,
a driver’s license,
plaid flannel sheets.

He and his siblings, as children, would complain to their parents about how they wanted a cooler bike, they wanted this, they wanted that. His father would herd them all into the car and drive them through the poor area of town, not saying a word.

He absolutely flipped out while the Beatles mini-series was going on. He had a week-long manic episode.

He would call me late at night and literally have nothing to say.

He became obsessed with how little I seemed to eat, and interviewed my friends and roommates behind my back. “Does she eat? Have you ever seen her eat?”

He loved the song “Lady Marmalade”. Patti LaBelle’s version, of course.

He gave me money for grad school. He meant for me to spend it on rent or school supplies, so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything my first couple of months in a new city. I instead spent it on a leather biker’s jacket and a boom box. He is still making fun of me for this.

He turned to me once and said, contemplatively, out of the blue, “I wonder what Andrea McArdle is up to right now.”

I told him that his role in my life was as a “dirigible”.

He loved Drew Barrymore, but admitted that this love made him feel “a little bit dirty”.

He hated people who weren’t enthusiastic. Enthusiasm was a philosophy with him.

He called me “Pippi” when I put my red hair in braids. He introduced me to others as “Pippi”. He said to the waitress, “And Pippi here will have a salad and a beer.”

He had long-standing lustful feelings for Jennifer Connelly. Or, as he called her: “the chick in the tank top with the big breasts in that movie poster during the 80s.”

He would yell at me when I got the flu, or even a common cold. He hated it when I got sick. It drove him crazy.

He said to me, “You and I both have that Irish sadness.”

He was a night-owl channel surfer, and a connoisseur of bad TV shows. (Which was why it was completely shocking that he had never heard of Jon Erik Hexum.)

He once was an office temp. He had three blazers.

I ran a 10k and came in 4th to last. He was more moved by that than if I had come in first. “You came in 4th to last!” he breathed in a tone of awe and pride.

Ann-Margret was his ultimate goddess.

He disapproved of my tattoo.

He made me a mix tape. Which I lost. I will never stop wishing that I still had that tape. I only remember two songs from the mix. “1,000 Umbrellas” and “Those Were the Days, My Friend”.

He would fill in the blanks of stories I told him from my own life. Stories that had nothing to do with him. He would also flesh out scenarios that hadn’t even happened yet.
Example 1.
Me: “So this woman was wearing a skintight red dress with a slit up to here-—”
He: “And her breasts were huge, right?”
Example 2.
Me: “I crossed the street. It was snowing really hard–”
He: “And you were really nervous.”
Example 3.
Me: “My school is in the West Village—-”
He: “So you will walk down the sidewalk, wearing a cozy sweater, and you’ll be with a guy who looks vaguely like Bob Dylan.”

He would come up to me and blurt, “I am going to flirt with you shamelessly right now. Is that all right?”

He and I had many moments in alleys accompanied by dramatic weather:
1. Freezing black ice-drenched night. Orange light from the street lamps. Slushy, grey, cold. Scrawny prowling stray cats. We stepped from iceberg to iceberg, suddenly shy with each other in the silence. His soft voice, “Sugar, step this way.”
2. A rainy night. We sat in his parked van. Speckled fogged windshield. We drank beer, played a tape, and sang along. Harmonizing. He said later, “That was the night it started for me.”
3. Downpour. Wooden stairway. Darkness. Our first kiss. Which was actually more like a nature program on the Discovery Channel than a kiss. Biting, scratching, shoving. Each one of us struggling to grab the reins, and dominate. Kissing to kill. His hand clamped round my throat.
4. Heat wave. Muggy hot close air. We rubbed ice cubes over each other’s faces. He lifted me up, placed my feet on top of his feet, and then danced me around the alley, holding me in his arms.
5. Tornado watch. Huddled against the van, huddled against the wind. He was getting married in a week. Not to me. Standing in the massive wind, pressing our cheeks together, not talking. For once, we were not talking. No other body parts touched. My cheeks wet with tears. His cheeks were dry. But when I pulled back, the look in his dry eyes was worse than weeping.

He’s married now.

He has a kid.

He loves the kid. Of course.

He and I are separated by distance and time. But still. He called me on September 12, 2001. To make sure I was all right.

Years after it all ended, years after the tornado-wind alley-scene (#5), I received a small white envelope addressed to me in his handwriting. He had stuffed something inside. I opened it and saw a crumpled-up faded washcloth. No letter, no note. Curious, baffled, I took the washcloth out of the envelope. It unrolled itself and something fell out. The first thing I saw was a line-drawing of a steaming coffee cup. I hadn’t ever asked for the watch. He somehow just knew.

It’s the only tangible thing I have of him.

He said of his wife, simply, “I can’t live without her.”

Something very small, like a twig, snapped inside me when he said that. Snapped for good.

Other than that, I’m fine.

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51 Responses to 74 Facts and One Lie

  1. Kerry says:

    I love this so much it is hard for me to express it in words.

    But, I love it. And I love you.

  2. april says:

    I love this, too, Sheila. Every time you post it, I cry. And I hope you know that it says far more about you than it does about him.

  3. sheila says:

    April – what an interesting observation. I had never thought it that way. I very consciously tried to leave myself out of it as much as possible. Thanks for that.

  4. Cara Ellison says:

    Mmmm. One of my favorites.

  5. Lanette says:

    I’ve read this every time you’ve posted it. Can’t help myself. It’s lovely. And I always hope that the one lie is that he can’t live without his wife…

  6. This is the first time I’ve read it and I really enjoyed it Sheila. Thanks for sharing it again. Beautiful stuff and very powerful. I’m just guessing, but I bet your stage delivery of these lines is impressive.

  7. PaulH says:

    First time I’ve read this. It’s so evocative and very funny. And the punch in the gut at the end? Forgive my insensitivity to your pain, but as one of your readers, I loved that. That’s art, I guess.

  8. Ted says:

    That piece just continues to move me over and over again.

  9. sheila says:

    Paul – oh yeah, it’s all about the sucker punch!

  10. sheila says:

    Kim – thanks! It’s so fun to do as a performance piece. I have a huge easel where I tick off each fact. In general, it’s a hilarious evening – right up until the very end when everyone stops laughing abruptly. I meant the piece to be funny, because he (the guy in question) was hilarious to me. I wanted to keep the editorializing to a bare minimum.

    Humorous anecdote: I did it once at the Irish Arts Center here in New York, and afterwards a bunch of people came up to talk to me about it. One of the things I notice is that people tend to come up to me and tell me about their own lives – rather than talk about the piece – which to me is the greatest compliment. But one shy guy came up to me and said, tentatively, “So I’m just curious. Which one was the lie?”

    I did not even know how to answer him!!

    • hillary says:

      —“Lesbians don’t actually scare him.”

      • sheila says:


        They scared him because he so needed them to like him. Not as a man but just as a person. He needed their approval. It was so funny. One of my lesbian friends was like, “You’re fine. We like you. Relax.”

        • Donna L Thomas says:

          I was hoping his fear of lesbians was the one untruth, but now I’m going with the love of the Titanic movie.

          • Sheila says:

            No. He loved Titanic. Everything I said about him is a fact.

            The lie is the final line.

  11. Marisa says:

    I know I’ve told you this before, but I love this piece.I’m glad you’ve reposted it so that people who may not have discovered it yet get a chance to read this gem. *hug*

  12. Eric the...bald says:

    I was looking for this just the other day; I’m so glad you put it back. Moves me so powerfully every time I read it.

  13. Stacia says:

    But one shy guy came up to me and said, tentatively, “So I’m just curious. Which one was the lie?”

    That’s really kind of wonderful. Clearly the shy guy thought you were fine, and your own well-being transcended the words, at least for him. Such a lovely example of art moving and swaying along a tide of audience reaction rather than remaining static and unchanging.

  14. sheila says:

    Stacia – very sweet. He was so into it, so into the story, and looking for the lie. One of the most interesting responses I got!

  15. Greg says:

    Wow. Gobsmacked. I have never read this before.

    The complexity of relationships – the pathos, the joy – all here.

    I can understand why it is so popular and why people respond in such a personal way.

    The sense memory that this evokes is powerful. Everyone (I hope) has had one of ‘him’ in their life.

    And the oddest part. The one lie doesn’t matter to me.

    I’m just happy it all happened. The memory of the Journey is enough for me… and that you’ve shared it with us.

    Wow. Just WOW.

  16. sheila says:

    Greg – thank you so much! It’s interesting you say: // I’m just happy it all happened. // I like that perspective. I have often wished I never met “him”. Would have saved me a world of trouble – but thanks for your perspective on that. Always good to hear.

  17. Juhi says:

    love this piece. thanks for re-posting it Sheila! :)

  18. Eric h says:

    This is the best thing I’ve read in… I don’t know how long.

  19. Peter F says:

    This is gorgeous.

  20. Melanie says:

    I would love to see you perform this! I agree with April. I love what it says about you and I can’t really care about ‘him’ except that you cared, if that makes sense. I’m also with “shy guy” wanting to know which thing is the lie. The structure suggests it, but I don’t want to accept that so I search for another. Clearly SG doesn’t know how to play the game – you can’t just ask. I was taught this ‘game’, 3 truths and a lie, as a way to get to know people better in a group (was that a 90s thing?). It has always been a very powerful experience for me – not sure why. One of my tricky truths was that I was from Memphis, but had never been to Graceland. I can’t use that one anymore, but you probably would have seen through me just from our online interactions.

    I can vividly picture you on stage!

    • sheila says:

      It seems so obvious to me which one is the lie! I didn’t even realize that would even be a question until I performed it – it was fun to see what people got or didn’t get from it. Or the tension of wondering “wait, is she telling the truth here? Is that the lie?”

      I want to perform it again – it’s been about a decade since I’ve done it. It really works well.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  21. KathyB says:

    Thank you, thank you. This was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed spending the school gift money on a leather jacket and boom box. So believably your choices.

    • sheila says:

      hahahaha!! I look back and can’t believe I not only had the nerve to take his money and spend it on those things but to then TELL him.

      He thought it was hilarious which is the 983rd reason I loved him.

  22. jenn says:

    this is perfect, as you said. and yes, i know that kind of writing. it’s wonderful when it happens, makes you feel like you’re not just playing at it, another wannabe.

    this is perfect. a wonderful gift you’ve given the world. thank you for sharing it.

    • sheila says:

      Jenn – thank you so much!

      // makes you feel like you’re not just playing at it, another wannabe. //

      Exactly. and I hadn’t written it to be shared – it was just an exercise as I tried to “get over” this man. and in the writing of it, it found its own ending. I had no idea where it was going when I started it. I just wanted to make a LIST. That was the initial goal. I wrote it in probably an hour.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  23. hillary says:

    First time I’ve read this, good god, this must be so moving read live. It brought me back to this quote by FSF: “ The loneliest moment in someones life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”

    So moving. So moving. This is everything.

    Thanks for sharing something so personal, I imagine writing this out was a carthartic exploration, both painful and bittersweet. You really earned the beauty that shines here. I’m grateful for the share.

    “—Love is fragile —she was thinking —but perhaps the pieces are saved.”

    • sheila says:

      Hillary – thank you!

      It was a huge catharsis when I wrote it. It didn’t solve anything but at least I could point to it and say “There. That’s what I’m feeling.” And the best part is – I hadn’t written about my feelings at all. Not explicitly anyway!

  24. Hillary says:

    My father was in love with two women when everyone he knew was getting married. He chose my Mother. They had three girls, I am the middle child. My sisters aren’t aware of my Father’s past love, they haven’t heard the stories or watched him cry during The Graduate in an empty movie theater. I sympathize with him, I found it touching. He went to her wedding and watched through glass doors, kept a picture of Katherine Ross in his wallet even after his first child was born. Time has moved on but the feelings remain, or the memory of the feeling at least. It’s not enough to change things — but it affects everything that comes after.

    Just as he has stayed with you, I’m sure you have stayed with him. And I bet his list is longer than 74.

    • sheila says:

      Hillary – WOW.

      // they haven’t heard the stories or watched him cry during The Graduate in an empty movie theater. //

      This is incredible.

      It’s a difficult thing and many do not understand it. I have often wondered if I had found someone else – if I had found a partner in the years after him – my perspective on him would be different. But I didn’t, and so here we are.

      We will always be each others’ What Ifs. It’s not particularly pleasant but it’s better than it used to be, and better than when I wrote this piece – wondering “how am I ever supposed to LET THIS GO??”

      Thank you so much for your comments.

  25. Andy McLenon says:

    I really love this and as I was reading I had so many things I wanted to comment on but but then it just didn’t seem appropriate for some reason, so for once I’ll just let it be, but I’m so glad you posted again.

  26. Krissie says:

    Oddly enough…this is all so beautifully, albeit tragically , relatable

  27. PJ says:

    Wow. just Wow.

  28. Merritt Karl Grantmyre says:

    At least now you know what you are looking for.

    • sheila says:

      I’m not looking anymore.

      Besides it was way too long ago to have any effect like the one you’re describing.

      • sheila says:

        not to mention the fact that our connection was spooky. One of a kind. It can’t be found again because it was just the chemistry between two very specific people.

        There is no “up” side to shi. That’s the breaks.

  29. Gabriel says:

    From a french “He” who wishes a “She” would have written something so genuine and heartfelt about him and a long past “Us”…
    It reminds me of the recent “Sérotonine” novel by french author Michel Houellebecq, where the narrator-protagonist recalls the women with whom he had a significant love affair, and blames himself to death (quite litterally) for screwing up the few ones that might have worked out in the long run.
    And it also reminds me of a great short novel by an almost forgotten french author, Paul Guimard (best known as the author of “Les choses de la vie” which was adapted into a movie by Claude Sautet with Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider – and with a marvelously crafted car accident scene which is said to have inspired John Woo’s cinematographic style !), called “L’ironie du sort”, published in 1961. It tells several “what if” stories based on the outcome of a single fateful event, in 1943 during World War 2, when the main character, Antoine Desvrières, member of the Résistance in occupied France, in the city of Nantes, is tasked with killing a german officer who is closing in on their group – and it all comes down to whether the unreliable car of a german patroller nearby can get started right away that night, or after a few unsuccessful attempts. In the second case, the officer is killed, but Antoine is shot by the patroller, captured, later executed, he is considered a hero along with his father who becomes mayor after the war, Antoine’s fiancée Marie-Anne (who proclaimed that she would die without him) ends up marrying his best friend Jean (who was secretly in love with her) – and turns out to be happy with him, and their son named Antoine ; in the first case, the overzealous patroller takes the officer in the car with him before he goes for his daily stroll, the assassination attempt fails, Jean is later captured and executed along with other members of his group in the Résistance network, Antoine is miraculously spared the same fate and is surreptitiously considered as a coward afterward, at the end of the war he marries Marie-Anne, and they have a son they call Jean to honor Antoine’s friend, but Antoine changes so much in the following years that the marriage gets sour and they end up divorcing. In the last chapters (which suddenly switch to a first-person narration), Antoine, who is about to re-marry with a woman from Switzerland, reconstructs the whole history of her family tree over a century just by describing a few pictures in a picture book left for him by her parents on the first night he stays at their luxury house in Geneva – and, knowing that he will soon appear himself in a picture in this album, he suddenly feels like he’s just a random pawn in a meaningless chain of events, which could transpire in a totally stirred order with different characters playing different parts and make just as little sense. It’s incredible how much life and truth go through in just 150 pages. Just like it’s incredible how much life and truth lie in these 74 facts and one lie.

    (I discovered your writing with the article about Rocky painstakingly rehearsing a joke for Adrian in front of his mirror, it was so endearing despite its length, and despite the fact that I re-watched that movie a few days ago – or perhaps this precisely enhanced the pleasure I had reading it as I could remember quite vividly each and every minute detail of those very subtle scenes – and even though I correctly interpreted that particular moment which makes the gist of the article despite my autistic tendencies – or perhaps precisely because of my own awkwardness, making Rocky’s pathetic obession over finding the perfect wording of a silly joke as well as his clunky delivery so relatable ! –, that I felt compelled to explore some of your other pieces, and managed to actually do so in a timely manner, despite the countless distractions which nowadays so often prevent us from following those uncertain paths glimpsed through the mist, those which can never be found when merely relying on some kind of “smart” device or the oh-so-efficient algorithms of so-called artificial intelligence – which is not meant to emulate human intelligence so much as to deprive us of humanity until we are no longer able to see the difference. Many days go by in recent years where I’m unable to feel any genuinely human interaction with anyone, it’s like I’m surrounded with robots, and yet I am made to feel abnormal for complaining about it. Recently I thought I had a genuine conversation with a young woman who was reading Schopenhauer’s magnum opus “The world as will and representation” in the tramway, who seemed willing and able to reach some sort of depth in words and emotions, beyond the imperatives of normalcy and efficiency foisted upon us in this demented era, yet when I tried to resume the conversation later on through those stupidly short text messages, it quickly came to a harrowing halt when, in her last two messages out of four very short ones, which read as though they were written by a 15 years old stupid spoiled skank, she said that I should cease to write to her altogether, and that I was “just scary”. Apparently I failed to come off as “friendly” and “nonthreatening” like Rocky. Four months later it still haunts me. Obviously rehearsing wouldn’t have helped much since I only had one shot, and the only way to be deemed worthwhile by her would have been to follow an efficient recipe. I’m wondering how someone can read such a bleak author with apparent delight yet be scared by what I can convey in a few words, and how that same someone who reads such a deep author in such an unlilely place can turn out to be so shallow and hollow in her own writings. And so… I guess that what I wanna end up saying through this convoluted rant is that it’s comforting to read something once in a while which reminds me that life can still be like this, can still be layered with enough depth and authenticity to inspire such a piece of text, full of details so peculiar yet so universal, which resonate through time and through space, far beyond the confines of the specific social landscape where they took place. But it was quite long ago, based on some cultural references, and the fact that it was already over by September 2001 – about the time I stopped hoping that I could ever know something approaching happiness in this life, shortly after my first miserable attempts at connecting with someone. So the question remains – are these sorts of things still possible nowadays ? And if not, how come we don’t see more collective suicides on the news ? Or is it me being “just scary” indeed for I’m missing some essential part in my messed-up psyche, making me unable to properly interact with the current breed of “connected” human beings ? Fuck, I’m not even 40 and I’m talking like an old fart… but I’ve been like this since I was about 23 so clearly there’s no cure… it’s just so much more painful now for I’m no longer naive enough to stay ignorant of the mechanics long enough for something genuine to happen by accident once in a while… and it’s so much more painful now that I lost my dear cat, whom I got by accident when I was 23, just as I got hopeless about humanity, and with whom I had by far my longest and deepest connection of any living being ever… That was her – she “went the distance” against breast cancer, she fought for four years until it finally got to her : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwy3sK1b1AM)

    Kind and sympathetic regards.

    P.S. : I wonder what your tatoo is up to right now.
    P.S. (2) : “Pippi” sounds funny in french (“pipi” means “pee”.)
    P.S. (3) : Lesbians are becoming real scary these days !
    P.S. (4) : Let’s end with a Rocky lame pun put in rhymes (I hope it’s not a crime) :
    He seemed like a nice guy,
    but when he praised Mrs. Barrymore
    that’s where I Drew the line,
    I knew I could love him no more.

    • sheila says:

      Gabriel –

      I have no idea how I missed your comment. I do try to reply to every comment that comes here but sometimes I miss ones. I am truly sorry I missed this one because you touched my heart. If you ever visit here again, please know I heard you and your comment has really moved me. I hope you are doing okay.

  30. JM says:

    I was introduced to this by my Literature teacher in 2007. In 2010 I met “the guy” and asked him to read this piece. He asked me what the lie was and I was gobsmacked.
    He became the one that I think about every time I read this piece and recent events that put us in (awkward!) contact again had me coming here for a re-read and started little notebook scribbles of my own “unknown facts and little lies”.
    This time, for some reason, I was in tears at the end of the read. Thank you, every day, for sharing this piece. Time may pass but the little twig that snaps still happens each time. xxx

    • sheila says:

      JM – hello! I’m amazed that this would have made it to a literature class! I had no idea! Could you tell me a little bit more?

      In re: your “guy” not knowing what the lie was – I am so amazed when that happens. It’s happened before – a couple of times when I did the piece as a performance someone would come up to me afterwards and ask what was the lie. Wild to me!! I never knew what to say!

      // started little notebook scribbles of my own “unknown facts and little lies”. //

      I really found that this process helped me CONTAIN the wildness of the experience. My emotions and my feelings were just so huge, I had ZERO perspective. So sticking to the facts just helped. I hope it helps you too.

      In the first months of the pandemic, my guy reached out. we were in contact again. after years of no contact. It was a time of checking in with people, I guess. It felt good in a way but then it stopped feeling good. So I backed off and stopped responding to his texts. Even after all this time. The whole thing was so long ago – and I really am fine now – but you can’t walk down the same path twice.

      I’m very glad this piece has been there for you.

      • JM says:


        Ms Chia was my literature teacher in Junior College when I was 17. She opened up a whole world to me, who had only ever been made to read regimentally. We had a grand total of 4 people taking the subject in our science dominated class so she would pull us out of the classroom, bring us to small little hidey holes around the school and read to us bits of poetry and prose.

        She read aloud 74 facts and 1 lie to us one lazy afternoon in the school treehouse. For some reason, I remember the way she said “Pippi” and “salad and beer”. I loved the piece but only a few years later in my early twenties when things happened the way it did, did I feel the snap of the twig when I re-read it.

        It was more than 12 years since I spoke to him. We were never in a relationship but we clicked. We wrote letters, we shared a dairy. I told him about 74 facts and 1 lie. Perhaps in a way like you and Andrew Wright? We never spoke to each other in/around school, our time spent getting sandfly bites at 5am by the seaside was our own little secret.

        //So sticking to the facts just helped.//

        We are both married to other people now. After our recent interaction – overseas trip when we were forced to make conversation again, I re-read diaries and blog entries and underwent a waterfall of emotions. We had said hello, but not how are you? We were hyper aware, or was it just me? Can I have the diary back please? I wanted to talk about it with someone.

        Then I came here and re-read the piece again. Started writing out my own little facts and was a teary mess by number 9. Somewhere, in my notepad of senseless scribblings, there is now an unfinished list I hope to one day complete. You have touched more souls than you will ever know by sharing this piece.

        // but you can’t walk down the same path twice.//
        this knocked the wind out of me. Just as hard as; other than that, I’m fine.

        xx JM

        • sheila says:

          Ms Chia sounds amazing!

          // She read aloud 74 facts and 1 lie to us one lazy afternoon in the school treehouse. For some reason, I remember the way she said “Pippi” and “salad and beer”. //

          This is just so surreal to me. lol. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m very moved!

          I’ve never gone back to read all the many many diary entries centered on him. I don’t know if I could take it – particularly the parts where Mature Me would want to step in and advise my Younger Self.

          It’s still a huge “what if”. I wonder if it still would be if I were married to someone else? I don’t know. It’s irrelevant since that’s not how it went. I really had to make sense of this as its own singular event – as opposed to the expected narrative of “this one didn’t work out and it sucked but then I met my REAL person” … I really just had to figure it out and make sense of it as an isolated event. i am not sure I did a very good job, lol, but I did my best!

          I really appreciate you sharing so personally. It really means a lot. It never ceases to amaze me how far 74 Facts has traveled – but I am glad it has!

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