It’s so easy to throw away months of progress in five seconds, and in under 140 characters. This isn’t about getting over my ex. This about trying to craft the perfect response to a simple “hey” text (you know the one all exes send to test the waters.) If you respond with anything other than “go to hell,” then they know it’s safe to proceed. It’s worse when you get that “hey” text when that person just recently crossed your mind which in my case isn’t hard because I have to pass through the area where he used to live almost every day. Today, as I was running for the train, I thought “wouldn’t it be funny if he drove by right now?”
Then hours later I look down at my phone and there was the “hey” text. If it was just a simple “hey” text then I could have written “hey” in response and kept it moving, but the reason why I had a great relationship with this dude was because he knew how to get into my head. So after the “hey” text he went for the jugular and mentioned that he still reads my work. Now, for any writer or creative person, that’s the mother load. Someone who you are into telling you that they enjoy your work is checkmate to the love game. We’re over. I get it. Times 10. This was a very strong power move that made me more open to responding.
But it didn’t end there.
He didn’t merely mention that he still read my essays but that he missed reading about my “dating misadventures.” I still have stories for days but the truth is I’ve just been so busy writing business plans that my blog posts have been living in the draft folder.
I should be on the long phone call to set up my health insurance but instead I’m worrying about my stupid response. His “hey”/ let me poke at your soft spots, text prompted me to respond with the following:
“Hey. I’m more into misadventures of love now.”
Or something like that, because I was so embarrassed that I deleted the messages so I wouldn’t have to read it over and over again, while awkwardly waiting for him to respond. I don’t even know what that hell that meant. What the heezy is “misadventures in love”? What I meant was, it would be nice to have a good dating story to tell.
I could see him saying “Yup, still too intense for me,” and just pushing his phone back in his pocket. I’m usually good with my words but text messages fuck me up every.single.time.
After I got my life together and picked my face up off the floor, I came up with the perfect text to explain what I meant and to wipe off the remnants of crazy I may have metaphorically splattered onto his glasses. BUT after I deleted the text, I realized I no longer had his number. So I sat and stewed and then remembered that he always had his number in his email signature. Unfortunately, the old me, could not be trusted with that information so apparently I deleted those too. But I still had the emails I sent to him. I didn’t find his number but a free writing/ stream of thoughts I had after reading Killing Johnny Fry by Walter Mosely. It was the book I bought when we visited a bookstore on our first date. It was about a man who was plotting to kill the man he walked in on his girlfriend sleeping with. When I told him I was a writer, he insisted that I share my thoughts on the book he introduced me to, in writing.
There was a passage in the book about relationships that made me stop in my tracks and prompted me to write the following. This is what I emailed him many moons ago:
After a break up you ask yourself a lot of questions that begin with how and why… How could he? Why did he? You mostly question the feelings that you declared for one another. Wondering if they ever felt what they said they did. You’re left trying to remember a time that you loved them more than you hate them at that moment. You picture him hating you just as much for giving up on loving him.
But you won’t ever know, because since it ended you wrote him off. You went through the ritual of deleting his number and packing his things. For the first time you’re happy that he never bought you presents or wrote you love letters that you wanted so desperately, because there was no tangible proof that he ever loved you, that you were left to discard and destroy. In this moment you wonder if the love you thought he had for you was ever real or just a projection of your feelings. Picture the love you had as if it were a boomerang…The simple act of throwing your love at him made you think you were getting it back.
I could never articulate those feelings until I read this:
We feel things and believe others feel like us. But we’re just making it up most of the time. Our beliefs are like the dust falling on the mountains, like the sunlight at the bottom of the sea.
Have you ever been in love with someone and then broke up with them and realized that you never knew who they were?
You look at them and wonder what could you have possibly been thinking when you got together? How could you kiss them or talk to them? They were never what you thought they were.
When I read that I felt a deep pang in my stomach. I had to write out the words to make sure they were real. I thought of no ex’s face in particular but that feeling was so familiar.
I never knew “him” and if I never knew him how is it that I thought I loved him? Sometimes we confuse knowing a person with accepting what they show us. When we feel rejected it goes far beyond not being wanted. Our gut reaction is that the person we love doesn’t accept us. The result is an off and on cluster of interactions we categorize as a relationship. Any level of rejection makes you question the level of acceptance. It makes you wonder if they actually loved you were they only holding on to the person they were hoping you’d be.
I couldn’t love a stranger.
He was a stranger to me.
I was a stranger to me.
We mirrored each other. Two people who were living a lie, and hoping to be accepted for them. Two people who ultimately were unable to stay together because the truth bubbled on the surface and was untouchable for fear of spreading like leprosy. Neither one of us could ever face the truth:
I could never trust “him” not to hurt me, and he could never trust me to stop the things he did that resulted in me being hurt.
When I met someone else a while after a recent breakup, I shared more with him than I shared with any man in the past 10 years. My secrets, my fears, and my hopes for the future. Our meeting was one that would have never happened if I hadn’t made the quick decision to not spend the evening wallowing in my past mistakes at home.
After meeting and only talking for 20 minutes he asked if he could hug me before we had to go our separate ways. I didn’t know him but I didn’t want him to let me go. After a few future encounters I found myself asleep in his arms and waking up with nightmares that he was not real and that he was going to leave just like the others. The difference is in my dream I showed him my pain. In reality, I’m well versed in acting as if I was never affected by those who have hurt me. The only baggage is literally the bags packed with their belongings waiting for pick up when it’s over. When I woke up he was still there and I told him my dream without fear and he stayed.
This was the first email that popped up when I went digging for his information so I could backtrack and show that I’m not nuts or still sitting in a corner trying to cope about us going our separate ways. It was one of those moments when everything comes full circle. When I met him he was a stranger that I was more familiar with than anyone. Our ending wasn’t very different in that he ended up leaving like the strangers I dated for long periods of time. I’d like to think that I knew him though. He obviously still knows me, or just has an advantage because I share most of my thoughts on the internet.
Bonus points to him for causing this “misadventure.”