Ex is X

I’m jealous of my partner’s ex-wife.

Because she’s still in contact with him from time to time.

And that makes me wish I could have contact with my Ex.

After all of these years, there is still a part of me that hopes I can have a casual conversation with him some day.

Back when we were actually attempting this, that wasn’t enough for me. I needed more. I needed face time. I needed large pieces of what we’d had in our relationship, which if we looked at it honestly, was more of a friendship than anything else.

I kept trying to claw my way back in. Somehow. Some way.

I haven’t been able to let it go. But the way I feel about it has changed. The time I spend thinking about it has lessened to a passing curiosity; intense, but short lived. We move on because that’s all there’s left to do. Whether or not we meet someone else, we’re faced with another tomorrow, no matter how much we think we’d prefer to redo the past.

One love does not eclipse another. Current events don’t erase memories.

But The Person After is not an understudy. Holes can be closed, gaps can be filled. Happiness is achievable at any time, for any reason.

Am I someone new? Not really. I came into my current relationship with anxiety and depression and baggage. But I also had a little bit of wisdom and enough (not so great) experiences to decide that regardless of my imperfections, I was not going to settle. I was still looking for that same something I thought I’d found eleven years ago. Connection. Honesty. Realness.

I’m different only in the way that we are moving beings covered in double sided tape, picking up things along the way. New jobs. New extra curricular activities. New titles. New outlooks. New attitudes.

Maybe most importantly, new people who make our lives whole again.

In this age of social media, where everyone’s everything is aired out in public fashion, it feels like I’ve been banished from having even the smallest bits of information about my Ex. And yeah, those things are totally none of my business.

It’s just that they used to be. While it may seem wrong or weird to still care, I do.

I want to know how the cat is doing. I want to know how his art is going. I want to know how his family is.

I want to know if he is doing well.

I want to know that wanting to know is not one-sided.



Green Ghost Golden Hour

There are specific places that make me step back for a minute. It’s more than location. It can be a time, a temperature, a smell – those sensory details that give physical places weight and context. Sometimes these places are far-flung and exotic, either through distance or unfamiliarity: The sweaty, garlicky heat of a Taipei night market. A dusty stretch of Austin highway in a caramel Fiat the sales rep is still pissed you chose instead of a giant SUV. Pretty much anywhere in the South. Sorry Toronto, I know you’re technically in another country but it felt a whole lot like home.

Right now I’m really into my living room late at night. Early morning is good too, but like 10:30 or 11 at night is best. I do my stretches and look at the curtains.

They hang like green ghosts, illuminated by streetlights. I start by doing that thing where I walk my hands forward, feeling the stretch in my always-tight shoulder blades. I think about all the places I’ve lived that I wanted to be good so bad, but I was pretty bad at making anything good. I never wanted to come home. Home was screaming and immovable clutter growing up, then ants and roommates, then-

I do those weird chiropractic exercises that my boyfriend calls carpet-swimming. It hurts but it’s that good pain. Muscles and tendons shifting, I think about the guy who wouldn’t move in with me because he said my taste sucked (okay, there were other reasons too but come on), and all the stupid, shitty fights. How I never had my boyfriend over to my place because I was ashamed that I couldn’t do it, that trying to make my domicile cute inevitably ended in rage and crying and one time a punched wall.

I lift my head up to revisit the curtains. They’re cheap, gauzy numbers from Urban Outfitters seven years ago, sun-bleached and slightly shredded in places by our asshole cat. I bought them during a time when I was scared to do anything with my apartment because I felt like (I knew) I’d fuck it up. They sat there for years, never leaving their shipping boxes.

For the first time, I like coming home. I move into child’s pose and my gaze swivels up to the ceiling, but I can still see them out of the corner of my eye: something delicate and fluttering, a thin but present protection.


Measuring Life in Halloweens and Black Bean Burgers

Over the last few weeks, I read this beautiful and elegiac piece, dressed up for Halloween, and burst into tears in the bar area of Chili’s.

My boyfriend stared at me, unsurprised. I’d dropped hints this was coming: Staring into the distance in between getting sodium poisoning from Bottomless Tostada Chips. Shifting in my seat. Asking, “Where do all the books go?”, my voice breaking slightly.

We’d just sold five boxes of books at the Half-Price in Skokie. And smaller things have made me cry in public places.

I went on to blubber through some stuff about growing up in a house with too many books, which was terrible and wonderful, but the first part makes me want to lead a capsule lifestyle now (I’m failing), that I have so many shitty relationship memories, and I was thinking of this because a lot of previous Halloweens were ruined by an ex-boyfriend, who’d been really into Chili’s and that was why all these feelings really made sense right now.

He took a bite of his chicken sandwich. I wondered how I wasn’t single.

I was with someone for a long time who wasn’t into Halloween. He didn’t like costumes, or even dressing up at all. It was faking it, he said, pretending you were someone you weren’t. It was lying. Every year, we’d fight about going out and participating. He’d grudgingly put on something that was a costume, sometimes. It wasn’t even a half-assed costume. It was a quarter-assed costume, a walking reminder of how he didn’t want to do something and thought it was lame.

I ended up feeling terrible about something I loved. And there were a lot of things like that. I don’t begrudge someone for not liking something, but ruining it for someone else is pretty low.

Through exes, suburban chains restaurants, and “Learning to Measure Time in Love and Loss“, I realized that life is too fleeting to be with someone who hates Halloween. It’s too precious to convince yourself that what you love sucks, and you should apologize for it. It’s too important to date someone who doesn’t make you feel amazing, supported, and loved. And it’s way, way too short to salt your giant Diet Coke with tears of regret.

My black bean burger sat in front of me, their attempt at an artisanal bun glossy and golden. My boyfriend looked at me, his face open and concerned. I stopped talking and ate.



When I Feel The Weakest

While it’s been years since my last boyfriend broke up with me, there is some part of me that will still react to the fact that he’s alive and breathing.

I can’t really explain the feeling. It’s just there.

I don’t believe in a “One”. And having been dumped in all of my serious relationships, I’ve come to think a lot about whether people are just not compatible or just not able to work things out because of lack of effort or miscommunication/misunderstanding.

My current boyfriend and I often point to the fact that there were a few moments early on when we fought and could have easily called it quits, but instead, figured it out. I feel like that’s a testament to us considering when you’re in the first few months of a dating situation, it’s much easier to think “Eff this. Bye.” To be scared off by the notion that you just don’t “get” one another.

So sometimes I look back on my last two longterm relationships and wonder if we’d just talked more, been more honest, trusting and open minded if perhaps we would have made it, at least for a bit longer. Or if we just couldn’t do that, either as individuals or as a couple.

I will never forget being told I wasn’t my last boyfriend’s “soulmate” and this was the foundation for him breaking up with me. I didn’t fight back because I believed him, even though I didn’t believe in soulmates. That’s because I was never brave enough to tell him when I was feeling vulnerable or anxious or scared. I wasn’t open about some of the things I thought we needed to talk about and work on. That manifested into me thinking we might not be totally right for one another. And apparently he felt the same.

I’m not sure if a conversation could have solved our problems. But it’s hard to think that an honest discussion about what wasn’t working would have hurt anything. I know I loved him and I thought he loved me. That’s not the end all be all, but it seems big enough to at least try.

And try is what never happened in the relationship before the last one that haunted me for years.

In any case, both of those guys have moved on in one way or another. So have I.

The other day, as I was walking to the bus stop to go to my boyfriend’s house, I came upon a group of people having a yard sale, playing bags. As I got closer, I realized they were right outside my ex’s friend’s condo. And sure enough, there he was.

My instinct was to cross the street. But I felt that was too obvious. Instead, with a racing heart, I walked past them without acknowledging anyone, thankful for sunglasses, but wishing I had my earphones in too.

It’s not like we’re on horrible terms. If anything, we’re on no terms, so a wave hello wouldn’t have been the end of the word.

I just couldn’t.

Because there will always be a feeling of rejection no matter how much time passes. And I don’t need to be reminded that he’s married and happy because in order to be those things it meant not being with me anymore.

I become divided into Old Me and New Me. As good as New Me is, she still can’t seem to show Old Me that things are pretty great now and that that should somehow snuff out the strange humiliation that creeps in when confronted with the past.

I’m thankful for my current relationship. Perhaps I had to go through what I did to get to this point so I could understand what it really takes to work on something. I don’t mean that this is more of a struggle than the past. I mean that I was trying to deal with all of my insecurity by myself, afraid to show my true colors to the person I loved. And as hard as it is to be that open and forthright, it makes for a better, easier relationship.

I just wish that strength could override the coward I become around my exes.