That’s right, the dreaded ex. It’s what you should avoid talking about during first dates. It’s what you push so far out of your mind that you pretend they don’t exist. Or you try to. You unfollow their Instagrams and vow to never speak their names again. But, inevitably, they come back. When you least expect it.
My most recent “ex,” if you could even call him that, dragged me along like Indiana Jones with his whip caught on the back bumper of a jeep, the road bumpy, until he eventually told me that he wasn’t in a place to do anything romantic. I’d accepted it, eventually, and was ready to be friends towards the end of last semester. We’d even hung out the day before and I’d been cordial, completely content with a platonic relationship. But there was still that little voice of hope in the very back of my head, buried under logic and reason, that said maybe. Maybe after summer we can start fresh and be something for real. Let me tell you how fast that hope died.
It was my last night in Boston. Really, it was everyone’s last night in Boston. There were only two of my friends left in town and we sat around my dorm room that night packing and staring at a grey pair of sweatpants. They were his and I’d been trying all week to give them back to him. After many dodged text messages and claims of “I’ll stop by and get them today!” I was quite through with it all. I decided, at around eleven o’clock, to do something kind of petty.
“I think I’m just gonna go drop them at his door,” I told my friends, “I’m not gonna even knock or say goodbye or anything. He’ll just find them and know.”
And this is one of those moments where I think I must have some kind of sixth sense. As my friends and I set off to complete my dreaded task, for some reason I had this idea to walk through the Boston Public Gardens first. I wanted to say goodbye to the pond and the flowers, I told myself. It was one of those run-ins where neither of us saw it coming. We were just walking along, playing Frank Sinatra from my phone speaker, when he was literally right in front of us. And he wasn’t alone. She was blonde and she was wearing a floral shirt and overalls. He was wearing a collared shirt and khaki shorts. We stood there for a couple seconds gaping at each other when he finally managed to choke out a “hey”. It was clear we’d interrupted something.
“Oh, here are your sweatpants,” I squeaked as I practically threw them at him. He caught them and mumbled a thanks. After we both parted with see you laters, I screamed. The three of us sat on a bench in silence for a couple of minutes before I finally asked,
“Do you think that was a date?” They nodded.
“Well at least you can say you definitely ruined their date.” We all laughed, but I felt dead inside.
It took calling our guy friend and asking him if he thought it was a date as well as a couple of angrily written pages in my journal before I finally accepted it. He had moved on, and whether or not he told me he wasn’t ready for anything romantic was obsolete. At first I’d thought it was bad karma finally coming to get me for all those times I ducked my head when walking by homeless people on the streets of Boston, but then I thought maybe it was something else. Maybe the universe knew what I didn’t, that I needed some kind of catastrophic coincidence like this one to help me truly get over him. I play that moment over and over again in my head sometimes- like the movie scene it was- and, often, I feel pretty grateful. It saved me a summer of pining and helped me remember that everything does happen for a reason. And it’s a great story.