Maybe it sounds harsh, but I treat my exes as if they passed away. It’s a coping mechanism that worked for me in the past. They’re dead to me. To them, I’m a faded, distant memory of a person who once held their hands.
Love dies, and I bury my past romantic relationships six feet under. No exceptions. I cut every contact: no talk, no text, no email. I grieve in solitude. I keep my precious memories closed and locked in a heart-shaped box.
The pain is ingrained in my soul like a tattoo is engraved in human skin.
If I accidentally bump into my exes, I know I’m seeing ghosts — ghosts that talk, ask, and haunt. I turn into Cole Sear from The Sixth Sense; only I know that they’re dead. Like Cole, I feel scared too, but I figure all they want is to talk. I listen but secretly hope they go away.
There were times when I wanted to talk. I needed to tell what I achieved and learned since we stopped holding hands. I had to brag about how much I’ve changed to make them see what they’ve lost. I used to be a selfish and arrogant ghost.
But now, I have nothing to prove for the dead. They were part of a before-life, and our separate realities don’t share crossways anymore.
The past is over, gone, buried. The ashes of my love are scattered over three graves.
I’ve been in love three times in 31 years. I was looking back on those relationships for so long that my neck cramped. I just couldn’t escape the memories. I was an addict craving for the next fix of nostalgia.
I’m not going to tell you how those relationships started and ended, but I’ll share how it feels to meet those women after a decade.
Are you ready?
My First Ghost.
I walk into a bar to see some of the people I shared eight years of my childhood with. I’m late, so everyone is already here. I shake hands, crack jokes, and order a beer. It takes a few minutes until I notice her. She sits far from me, across the table, as if she wants to signal the gap that time had put between us. It’s okay. Angi was the first ghost in my life.
Throughout the night, I only talk to a few guys that I’m still friends with. Angi doesn’t speak to me directly. She just sorts of reacts to what others or I have to say. She’s playing it safe. I’m trying to be polite and considerate, but the truth is, I have no urge to chat with her.
Eventually, we share a few words that feel nice and effortless. Angi has long black hair now and three kids that came with the man she married. Her voice still sounds confident and cheeky. I tell her that I’m single and loving it. After that, every word we exhale collides, sparks, and collapses. It feels like we need passports to enter each others’ lives again, but none of us has one. We are invaders trying to get in, but it’s alright to talk from behind the fences.
While she speaks, I realize that I can’t guess what she’s thinking. I’m not familiar with her facial expressions the way I used to be. Although she’s close to me, I sense an abyss growing between us. We are too far from that innocent teenage life that we once shared. As time passes, we both know that our visa for nostalgia town expires soon.
There is no melancholy, desire, or chemistry in the air when we say goodbye. There are no unspoken words, thoughtful glances, or “take care of yourself” wishes. We just walk back into our lives as we had never left. After that, I never see my first ghost again.
The Scariest Ghost I’ve Ever Loved
I’m standing on the street amongst hundreds of people. Everybody is loud and drunk since this is the biggest yearly wine festival my hometown has to offer. I’m tipsy, my vision is blurry, but I could recognize her face anywhere at any time. It’s the face of the most terrifying ghost that haunted me for years.
I walk towards her. As I get closer, she notices me and her eyes fill with shock. She knows I’m coming over to talk. I can tell she’s nervous by the way she fixes her hair, which is nearly perfect. This is about the fifth time we meet since she left me. But it’s the first occasion when I’m confident enough to face her without a nervous feeling in my gut. The next thing I know, I break my rule of no contact the worst possible way. I ask how she’s doing.
We speak for about fifteen minutes. She is avoiding my eye contact during the entire conversation. She sounds a little insecure as she’s not sure what to say and how. It strikes me like lightning; after all these years, she still hasn’t learned how to express her feelings. Later, when I think about this, it reminds me why we were never going to work.
Now, I can see her without the pink filter. She’s full of pixels, blurry in the middle, rough on the edges. I guess she’s no longer the focal point of my picture.
She mentions that I’ve changed but struggling to define how. She’s right, I did change. I turned my insecurity inside and had healthy relationships that haven’t completely destroyed me. But I know she doesn’t mean that. She means the glasses, the tattoo on my arm, and my balding head.
She can’t see the real change because it’s internal. My scars are still there, though. I hope she remembers because she made them after all.
The most significant change is something that none of us can see, even though it’s enormous and evident: we don’t know each other anymore. Our story has been written, and we’ve finished reading it a long time ago. No sequel is needed. Once I leave, I stop seeing the scariest ghost I’ve ever encountered.
The Ghost That Didn’t Show.
Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the third ghost yet, but I wonder what she will look like. Will she be scary, frightening, and heartbreaking? Or will she be kind, caring, and thoughtful as she always was?
I don’t know.
All I know is that I’d like to meet her feeling the same confidence I felt when I faced the scariest ghost. I want to look her in the eye and ask how she’s doing without a trembling voice. I’d like to say that I’m happy for her.
But right now, the breakup is too fresh, and the imprint she left on my bed is still there. My coping mechanism is full of glitches and errors.
Will Bruce Willis come and save me? I hope so.