Bistline was in disbelief. There had to be a mistake.
She took a screenshot and forwarded it to her boyfriend. He saw the message, she said, but he didn’t reply.
The inquiry came in late August from a woman who said her friend and co-worker, Emely Ortiz, was also his girlfriend.
Soon, Bistline got a text from Ortiz introducing herself and saying she’d been dating the guy for nearly a year, and believed they were exclusive.
“I just want to know how long you guys have been dating for,” Ortiz, 22, said. “Did he ever mention me to you or you had no clue,” she asked.
Bistline answered: “I had no idea. This is sorta freaking me out. We’ve been dating almost a year and a half. I’m trying to give him the opportunity to explain himself to me but he’s not responding to me right now.”
The boyfriend, who is 33, and his two unsuspecting girlfriends all work in health care and live in Las Vegas.
He wasn’t responding to Ortiz that day either. But the women continued to text each other. They sent each other photos of him to be sure he was the same guy, they talked about where they left their toothbrushes in his bathroom when they slept over, the gray fuzzy robe he wore around the apartment. How he met their families.
Over the next few days, they dumped the boyfriend and began to console each other.
“He played us,” Ortiz wrote.
The Washington Post is not naming the boyfriend for privacy reasons. A reporter tried to contact him several times by text and phone, and in a phone conversation on Tuesday, set up a time to talk to him on Thursday. On Thursday, he did not answer his phone and could not be reached.
As the two women commiserated about their heartbreak, Bistline told Ortiz about her birthday trip to Costa Rica. She had paid for it all, but she was not about to take her cheating ex as she had planned, she said. So she asked Ortiz to go with her.
“If you’re serious about costa rica let me know. I’m dead serious about bringing you instead of him lol,” Bistline wrote.
“Yes I’m serious about Costa Rica we need a vacation after this,” Ortiz wrote.
So on Sept. 16, three weeks after finding out about each other, they boarded a plane to Costa Rica together.
“I didn’t want to go alone,” Bistline said in an interview with The Post. “I was thinking it would probably help us both to go on a trip like this. We deserve this after what we’ve gone through.”
Ortiz said she initially hesitated when Bistline invited her.
“At first I was like, this girl is crazy,” Ortiz said, adding that her parents were worried for her safety on the trip. “But I just thought, it might be good for us to heal together because we’re the only two people who know what we went through.”
They spent four days exploring the jungle and waterfalls, healing and working through their feelings of betrayal. They sat for hours at the base of La Fortuna waterfall, trading stories.
They uncovered the extent of the deceit.
“I guess he would pack my things up into a duffel bag, like the gym duffel bag, and put it in his closet,” Ortiz said. “And then when I came back, he would take out my things before I came over.”
Bistline, a nurse, began dating him in April 2021, about a year after meeting through friends. Ortiz is a medical assistant at the clinic where the boyfriend, a doctor, had his residency. He asked her out on a date in October 2021, never revealing he already had a girlfriend, she said.
She was an only child. Now she has 101 great-grandchildren.
Both women had similar first impressions of him.
“When I very, very first saw him, he seemed like a ladies’ man to me,” Bistline said.
Emely agreed. Her initial thought: “He looks like a player.”
But he reassured them both, they said, that he was worth their time.
When Bistline received the initial Facebook message about her boyfriend’s duplicity, she was working at the Burning Man event in Nevada as a nurse. She reached out to him for an explanation, but he didn’t answer for two days, she said.
“The first thing he said was, ‘So I guess I have a little bit of explaining to do.’ And then he put this little, like, half-laugh emoji,” Bistline recalled. “That really rubbed me the wrong way. I’m like, ‘Is this funny to you?’ ”
Ortiz went to his house the day she found out. She waited hours outside, she said, but he didn’t show.
“I think I called him, like, a hundred times,” she said. The next evening, she went back to his apartment and found him there.
“I confronted him,” Ortiz said. “He said, ‘What are you talking about? Are you crazy?’ And then I pulled up the messages, and he was like, ‘Oh … yeah.’ Eventually, she said, he apologized and told her, “I never should have let it get out of hand.”
A boy with cancer hoped to see monsters. Hundreds of strangers showed up in costume.
Ortiz said she made him a large basket on Valentine’s Day, driving around the city to gather items — balloons at Family Dollar and candies at Target.
He re-gifted it to Bistline, the women discovered.
“My heart sank into my stomach because I had put so much feeling into that Valentine’s Day gift,” Ortiz said.
There were other discoveries, too. He claimed he went shopping when Bistline asked about the new clothes Ortiz bought him, she said.
When Bistline returned to Las Vegas from Burning Man in late August, she and Ortiz met in person for the first time. Bistline had planned to meet up with her ex-boyfriend that night, and she brought Ortiz along.
“He just started, like, laughing awkwardly, looking back and forth at us,” Bistline said. “I think he didn’t know what to say.”
When they confronted him, he admitted he’d swap out their toothbrushes when each visited his apartment, they said.
As they sorted through their emotions in Costa Rica, they discovered that they fell for the same qualities in him.
“During our first date, there were never any boring moments,” Bistline said. “He was super intelligent, and he wanted to talk about things that I was interested in. We had super deep conversations.”
Ortiz said she fell for his compassion. “He was always there for me.”
Both women said they’d miss snuggling his cats. They won’t miss hanging out with his friends, they said, because they believe the friends knew about the double dealing.
Go ahead and stare at my prosthetic arm. I know it’s awesome.
There were red flags, too. Ortiz noticed he’d go long stretches without replying to her texts, then claim to have been sleeping.
“I would believe him,” she said. “But in the back of my head, I was like, that doesn’t sound correct.”
For Bistline, looking back, the biggest red flag was his life philosophy.
“He was super big on the fact that good and evil don’t exist,” she said. “And when things happen, it just is; it’s not bad, it’s not good. Now when I look at that, I’m like, oh my God, he’s trying to justify dating two women at the same time.”
Now that their breakups are about a month old, and they’re back from their travel adventure, they remain close.
When they were in Costa Rica, Ortiz surprised Bistline on the night of her 30th birthday with a special dessert. The whole restaurant sang to her.
“I don’t remember the last time I was that happy,” Bistline said. “Friendship is what’s going to carry you through everything.”
Ortiz agreed, and said in addition to a new friend, she gained a lesson from the experience.
“Always listen to your intuition,” she said.
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