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When I first started seeing my college boyfriend, I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. He laid his cards on the table: emotionally distant, brilliant history buff, dressed exactly the same every day, cut his hair once a year. The kind of guy who could organize a UN summit, but had no clue how to wash a dish and didn’t care to learn.
I can’t explain our relationship, so I won’t try. It was four-and-a-half years of thinly veiled emotional abuse, being distanced from my friends, and piling love onto someone who didn’t really care to have it.
It was obvious to every person in my life (including his family, who are the kindest, most loving people and I am truly sorry that I can’t adopt them away from their son) that our relationship was fucked, but I shrugged his terribleness off as “just the way he is,” meaning an asshat.
Which is why I was shocked to find that, in the midst of the fifth year of our relationship, someone else had seen the life I had and actually wanted it. Specifically, his intern, a small, timid person with an unfortunate name (think Candi or Staycee).
Turns out those 6-hour meetings at her house weren’t the intense grapplings with social justice and strategy I had believed them to be. Turns out they weren’t texting at midnight about work. Turns out I had been a sap, as my boyfriend tearfully confessed to me in the car in front of my mom’s house the night before New Year’s Eve.
They hadn’t done anything physical, just been “emotionally intimate,” which he actually said with his mouth.
I left him struggling with the automatic car alarm and walked into my house, informed my mother that he had broken up with me, and could we please resume watching Sherlock without talking about it at all. She said “What the fuck?!” and then turned Sherlock back on, like any truly good mother would.
So I was spiritually cheated on, and broken up with for Tiffanee/Brandi/Roxxi. I cried for about two hours, then got mad, then called everyone I knew to make sure I won the who-gets-the-friends game. I flew back home to Boston (we had separate flights a few days apart, so I had a head start), packed, and found an apartment down the street within 12 hours. I was out before he got home.
Before I left, I did one last scan of our bedroom, and my eyes fell on a little black book on his nightstand.
There is no defense for snooping, I know. But remember, I was still visibly smoking from the scorch wounds of this breakup. I was not in a place mentally where I was thinking about respecting anyone’s privacy. So I opened it up.
This notebook was devoted to his breakup strategy. He’d drawn little diagrams, made pro/con lists, things were color-coded. There was a page titled “Reconciling with M,” and it was blank. I guess he still needed to brainstorm that.
There were a lot of feelings happening as I glanced through the pages, mostly relief at having dodged a speeding train in the form of someone who needed to make a pro/con list to decide to break up with his girlfriend.
On the first Monday of the year, I was freshly single, moved into a new apartment, and starting a brand new job. I walked home after a productive day feeling really great about the future and looking forward to the new year. Then I promptly locked myself out of the apartment with my roommate’s dog, no phone, no wallet, and nothing but a sundress and my winter boots on.
I had 3 roommates, so the odds were good that one of them would have to be home soon. It was 25 degrees, actually not that bad by Boston January standards. I huddled on the top step and waited, the dog growing more and more confused about whether we were going to the park or what. I tried shoving my hand through the mail slot, considered ringing up the neighbors with my sob story, paced, and then just settled back into the funk of my thoughts, totally imprisoned.
About an hour in, I sunk into toe-tingling despair. There was no way I could sit out there in the silence and the cold for another hour, or maybe even more. My old place was only a five-minute walk away, and I knew I’d left a coat there. I could at least go there and get a coat, right? And I harbored the thought that maybe he’d let me in, we could talk, it would be painful but maybe we’d somehow come out as friends?
Nope. Nope nope nope. I brought the dog along, and our roommate let me in. My old boyfriend was shut in our old bedroom with his new girlfriend, and he didn’t make a peep for the duration of my stay, which turned out to be three full hours (we played board games). Apparently they were worried I’d brought a bucket of pig blood along to throw on them.
I was sleeping on the couch at the time, since I had yet to purchase the foam Ikea mattress that would be my floor-bed for all of 2014. So at midnight, when my new roommates welcomed me home, I collapsed onto the couch, finished off 3 gin and tonics, took some selfies with the cat, and passed out.
From that day on, we were strangers. I passed him in the street fairly often, and once or twice I tried to get him to talk to me, but he would put his head down and walk determinedly by without acknowledging me at all.
It’s hard to have someone reject you so thoroughly after being in your life for so long, but at least I had the fires of righteous indignation to keep me warm. Plus, he’d given me an ice cream maker for Christmas, so the relationship wasn’t a total loss.
The following few months were easily the best of my life. I went out every night, doing all the things I could never get him to do with me, reawakening old friendships over the lipid-heaviest brunches I could find. I slept with bartenders, random acquaintances, a guy I met on a Greyhound. And eventually, I found a lovely new boyfriend who compliments my steak and doesn’t make my friends cringe.
I’m so glad I got cheated on. I don’t think I would have snapped out of it otherwise, and I could still be playing house with someone who thinks “You know I can’t answer that kind of question” is the correct response to “How do I look in this dress?” Sorry, Khristii, he’s your problem now.