It all started with heartbreak.
Isn’t that usually how the story goes? At least the good ones. You know, the ones you recount numerous times to your best friends, co-workers, and strangers willing to listen to your sad interludes. They always say the same thing. “You deserve better” is a common one. Or some variation of “Let it go, Alex”.
It is kind of amazing how a singular event can change everything. [I’m going to channel my inner Ted Mosby, the titular character of the millennial gospel, How I Met Your Mother.] Heartbreak isn’t something that should be pushed to the side, especially the first ones.
That heartbreak catapulted me into a world I never thought I would ever touch. That heartbreak had broken and filled me, all at the same time. That heartbreak and the ensuing silence made me the person I am right now.
Washington, D.C. is a weird city. It’s a special city for me because I never thought I would end up here. It is also the city where I finally opened myself up and stopped wallowing over the first heartbreak.
You can feel the waves of power and ambition at every street corner, major headquarter, or coffee shop. You can also feel the transience of it all. Washington isn’t a place you’re meant to stay in forever. You do your time, make your contacts, and then get the fuck out of the city. That transience has undoubtedly infiltrated the way people handle relationships.
There are several ghosts I met in this city. The first ghost – let’s call him S – was someone I met through one of those mobile dating apps – an action angrily prompted by my first heartbreak when he made no indication of wanting me in his life during a Skype session. It was nice to feel wanted again, by someone I was genuinely attracted to. I remember putting on my favourite black dress and thinking, “Damn, I look good”. I remember being slightly disappointed when he wasn’t as tall as I had hoped, but we hit it off and conversation was easy.
I remember that day I was looking at Brightest Young Things, a website DC people use to know the cool things happening around the city, and saw that one of my favourite artists, City and Colour, was playing. When he mentioned that he liked the artist, I thought, “This is fate. I was meant to know that the band was playing” because from them on out, we got along so well. It was a flimsy, coincidental connection, sure, but that was the only sign I needed. He was the first guy I ever went home with.
That ghost lasted for about a month. I never asked if he was seeing anyone else. Every time I tried to take a step forward, he took a step back and then a tiny step forward. It was confusing. One day, he just stopped responding to my texts. It’s funny because I remember thinking the next time we met, I would bring up “the talk”.
In some ways I think it was also my fault. Maybe I didn’t show enough interest. I also wasn’t sure where I was going to be in the upcoming months because my internship was coming to an end, and he knew that. Against all odds, I found a way to stay in DC longer, but it didn’t matter anymore. I never thought I would be someone who would move or stay for a guy, but if it was the right person I would. I honestly thought he was the right person, until he wasn’t.
There were other ghosts. T, whom I had met when one of my good friends wingwoman’d me, seemed like a fantastic person. I ended up going home with him and he was just the perfect gentleman. He even offered to make me breakfast the next morning, an act that just seemed so foreign to me. I thought, maybe this is the type of guy I needed to date. He was going to go on vacation that week and we open-ended plans to potentially meet up again. I guess timing was never on my side, because he never did the follow-up and probably forgot all about me once he went on vacation.
There were other ghosts in this city, and London before that. There were ghosts in my hometown of Newark, New Jersey. In particular, L made me not date anyone for what felt like an eternity after he too ghosted me. A, a good college friend, completely ruined me a few more years after that. It’s funny because those ghosts all reappeared in my life some way or another. L tried to get my attention again, but I wasn’t having it. And A, well, that was a lost cause, but I did see him with another girl in a red dress at a Bloc Party concert.
The ghost that hurt the most was definitely the first heartbreak. And it still hurts.
You know how everyone says those experiences build you up and make you stronger? Well, I feel completely broken.
So here is a final letter to my ghosts:
Silence is never a virtue. It’s not okay to think that everything could just be swept under the rug. Intimacy and vulnerability can’t just be erased. If it’s that easy for you to forget those moments, then there is something seriously wrong. Maybe I am too emotional. Maybe I should just give into this hook-up, transient relationship culture. But you know what? I’ve tried and I have never felt so expendable in my life. Even though I may have not been ‘the one’ for you, it is no excuse to vanish without any explanation. I’m sure you will all forget about me and remember me as just another notch on the belt or just another girl who led you to the right “one.” But I am also a person. I just hope you treat the next girl with more courtesy and respect.