It’s possible he was always this way — a douche, that is. Four months after we painfully and regrettably separated, I ran into him at a fashion show where I knew I would run into him.
There I was, standing in the middle of a room of well-dressed women drinking midday champagne, my hands shaking while my friend looked over at him, the cause of my nervous breakdown, and said to me, confused, “That guy? He’s the one? What a try-hard.”
I defended him, saying that he wasn’t the clothes that he wore because, in my brief experience with him, I believed it to be true. That and I believed that this person was my soul mate.
Two years later, Instagram would provide an alternative argument, more in line with my friend’s knee-jerk appraisal of him. My soul mate, as it turns out, is a douche.
When we met, Instagram wasn’t the all-consuming clusterfuck that it is today. We both had BlackBerrys. Neither of us were caught up or concerned about this world of followers and likes. There wasn’t this idea of being “Instagram famous.” That time felt private, less exposed, and comparatively primitive, our correspondences like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy exchanging physical letters. Sort of.
What the two of us knew about one another was built on a foundation of interpersonal communication, without a social media platform to help — for better or worse — fill in the gaps.
Admittedly, there were plenty of gaps to fill, a veritable empty quarry of unknowingness. He lived in Europe and the whole fiery inferno of a relationship lasted all of five tortured weeks, during which we covered everything from what kind of apartment we should live in together, flying me across the world to meet his parents for the holidays, and falling in love. He began calling me his girlfriend.
But the faster you go, the more violent the crash, and for the better part of the three years that followed, I was haunted by the feeling that I had been prematurely ripped from the person I was meant to be with forever. In reality, I didn’t know this person at all.
I still wasn’t over it when, two years ago, after both of us had apparently invested in iPhones and Instagram, he randomly appeared on my phone: a photo of him on a popular fashion blogger’s feed with his newly made handle and his aging face wearing a three-piece suit, his hair slicked back, a self-manufactured iconography made for street-style photographs. Strangers swooned in the comments, salivating over the tattoos on a hand that once held mine.
The first photograph was a punch to the gut. It was like running into him on the street without warning, removed from the benefit of possibly reciprocating that same feeling. Those real-life encounters require some amount of timing and serendipity. Instagram, however, is too often a one-sided digital run-in, a Gut Punch By Request.
Instagram had resurrected him from the relationship-dead. Instead of him living in the dull, fuzzy periphery of my memory, now, whenever I wanted to, I could type in @exsoulmate into my Instagram people search and cobble together an idea of what his life was like.
At first this was torturous because I still thought I loved him. There he was in Paris, in London, in Spain. There he was on a motorcycle, in a car, in the hotel room with a fish that we had named together that he still called by that name, even though that first fish had since died nine times over.
There was still some semblance of the person I had known, however briefly. His follower count went up and his place within the fashion world became more well-known. He hosted dinners for celebrities, sat front row at fashion shows, and then, finally, he had a girlfriend.
One would think that such trolling would prolong the process of getting over him. Only, unexpectedly, it did the opposite. Like watching your favorite, previously silent celebrity bomb interview after interview with their ineptitude, the more he posted and commented, the more I could not for the life of me understand what I saw in him.
This, I thought, This is the person I was convinced was the only human being I needed in the world? Who I once told, in a fit of post-spit bargaining, that I would be happy sitting in the tub of his hotel room, letting him work, just to be in the same room as him?
Either Instagram had turned my soul mate into a douche or it shed some much-needed light on a dark corner that I had dumbly ignored, blinded by an exterior so many strangers now fawn over on their phones.
Maybe he was always this way, always searching for this stage, and I projected on him all the things that I wanted. Maybe none of it was ever real.
But I suppose this is the benefit of social media–helped hindsight. I’m just glad to have moved on, and happy to let someone else claim him as their real #soulmate, because he was never really mine.