I am going to refrain from going into too much detail and say that I, like most women, have one awful ex. I’ve dated lots of dudes in my years on the scene and there is no other man that compares to him in the badness department. I’ve lived with a low-level and persistent fear of running into him. I’m not afraid of him, but rather afraid of how I would behave if I saw him.
Would I kick him in the nuts? Spit on his Nikes? Rip my beating heart out of my chest and scream like a banshee?
Since we split a few years ago, I had the misfortune of running into him twice. The first time was on the street. He saw me walking toward him before I spotted him.
Yes, he literally took off running down the street in the opposite direction. The next time I saw him was at a concert. I turned to walk out and he was standing near the door.
This time, I ran.
Yes, I literally did an about face and scurried into a corner and wept. It was embarrassing. And it’s partially why I’ve feared any additional run-ins.
This weekend, I was on my way to meet friends for brunch when I spotted someone coming toward me. It was him.
I stopped moving, leaned against a wall and averted my eyes. I held my breath and tried not to move. He circled back around the block. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him look at me. He looked away and then at me again. I kept my eyes down. I ignored him sufficiently until he eventually went away. I watched him get smaller and smaller as he moved down the street until he was a tiny particle that didn’t really matter in my life anymore.
Even though we didn’t speak, or even make eye contact, I felt relieved that this run-in, which I had spent a lot of energy dreading, was finally over and done. I felt lighter. A lyric from a Florence and the Machine song comes to mind: Happiness hit her like a bullet in the heart. I felt happy that he got to see me happy.
It’s funny how you can love someone, then hate them, then be furious with them, long for them, mistake them for every stranger on the street, obsess over scenarios of running into them, and never have it happen until the exact moment that it does. And it’s fine.
When a relationship dies, it leaves cosmic matter behind that keeps on existing and evolving in some hidden universe somewhere. Every once in a while, you’re reminded of its existence for a moment, and then poof! Back into the ether! Time, space, logistics are all just circumstantial in the Ex Universe.
Seeing the bad ex and it not being all that bad, made me think of other exes I would actually want to run in to. Specifically, I was thinking of a guy I’ll call Dan*. Our relationship ended abruptly. We broke up over the phone. It was a ridiculous tragicomedy where Dan’s phone kept dying and we would switch back and forth from Gchat to cell phone to landline just to tell one another that our relationship was not going to work. A farcical ending to an intense romance. Shakespeare would have been impressed.
Getting over Dan was really difficult for me. In retrospect, I think it was because I never got to say goodbye to him properly, which left me with a weird question mark at the end of our sentence.
Dan and I flirted with the idea of getting together for coffee to talk, but that never happened. Eventually, after several months, Dan disappeared into the Ex Universe. His face became a charcoal smudge in my memory.
“I hope you’re doing well. It’s been a long, long time. Do you still work at the same office? I have a meeting in the neighborhood and was wondering if maybe we can get coffee afterwards?” his email said.
A coincidence? A synchronicity? A wrinkle in time? Call it whatever you want. ‘Tis the season for ex run-ins.
I agreed to meet Dan for coffee.
Dan and I sat down and debriefed on our lives, our relationship. He told me that he had met a woman and fell in love. I was genuinely happy for him. He revealed that he asked to meet because he wanted to make sure I knew that what we had was special to him. I told him it was special to me too. Glad we cleared that up.
Sitting there across from Dan, I felt a sense of peace. It felt good to have a period at the end of our sentence. It felt good to be free of the past. It felt good to see myself through his eyes — older, wiser, hotter, and more ready to fall in love than ever. Just not with him.
So what does this all mean — existentially, emotionally, spiritually? Maybe nothing. Maybe that it’s time to reflect on my Ex Universe in order to move forward.
These things tend to happen in threes. For the record, I am fully expecting another ex to pop up out of a manhole any minute now. And if he does, I won’t be dreading it.
* Name has been changed.