Thought Catalog
June 19, 2017

Here’s What It’s Really Like To Ghost Someone

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It was a quiet, rainy Wednesday night. I was tired from work, but relaxing at home, flipping mindlessly through social media. I opened Twitter, and amidst a sea of political news coverage, sports, and life updates from my friends in 140 characters or less, there it was. A tweet that made my heart sink down to my gut like a heavy stone dropped into water.

“Don’t waste sunsets with people that will be gone by sunrise.”

It appeared as a retweet from one of my girlfriends, someone I’d known to have suffered her fair share of heartache and romance-related misery. I totally understood the sentiment of the tweet from her point of view, but the tug on my heartstrings wasn’t coming from the same one. It was because I had been one of those people that would slip away by sunrise.

I read those eleven words and immediately an uncomfortable feeling of complicated regret crept up on me, sending a flush through my cheeks. I read the tweet again. I put the phone down.

Immediately, I saw myself, only a bit younger than I am now. Walking through my college campus, it was just beginning to get dark, right after the time change when the sun was so fleeting. I sorely missed the days of long-lived sunshine and astounding sunsets. I relayed this feeling to someone I had been seeing at the time; we were walking together to his dorm across campus. I was staying over, as I would now and then.

I told him how much I missed summer, but how much I loved sunsets, no matter what time of the year. “Sunsets just make me happy to be alive,” I remember telling him.

He said something then that surprised me; he told me that he knew of a place where you could see the most beautiful sunsets. He described it to me in vivid detail, so vivid I felt like I was there. It sounded beautiful, and I was just thinking of how much I wanted to see it when he said, “I’d love to take you there and watch the sunset with you.”

It was incredibly touching, and somehow felt incredibly personal. I was almost taken aback. His tone was affectionate, gentle, and earnest. I knew he was being genuine; I remember the feeling it gave me, twisting and startling, happy and terrified all at once. Watching the sunset with someone can be very romantic—what girl wouldn’t want that? I knew he had feelings for me.

I knew he liked me more than I liked him.

We went back to his place, going through the routine we had when I stayed over, which would always end up in us having sex. After that, we’d always fall asleep, his arms around me. This was usually a comfort. I was beginning to like the feeling of sleeping next to someone.

But that night, I couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted to. My heart was slamming itself against my chest. His arms around me, usually warm and inviting, were like iron vises. I was suffocating. I was drowning in someone else’s sticky feelings, like oozing black tar, creeping up around my ankles, my legs, my torso…on a mission to swallow me whole.

I wasn’t ready.

After a few fits of half-dozing, I checked my phone. The sky was just beginning to show hints of lightening up, day gently shrugging off the night. It was a little past 6 AM. The sun wasn’t up yet, but I felt an anxious need to be.

Getting out of bed woke him up just a little. Through sleep-hazed eyes, he watched me pull my clothes back on. He looked confused. I looked away, trying to find my keys in the dark. When I looked back at him, he had closed his eyes again, sleep trying to take him back under. He was always a deep sleeper.

The twisting feeling was back, the ebbing and flowing of an uneasy tide. I hesitated. I walked over to the bed. I kissed him. He barely woke enough when I whispered that I had to go, mumbling a “bye” in response. He’d probably been half under a dream the whole time. I left as quietly as I could, stepping noiselessly away from my sleepless night. I felt like I’d stolen something. Maybe it was just part of the walk-of-shame game, playing it so blatantly on a weekday, but I couldn’t shake the squeezing feeling in my chest until I stepped outside the building.

Outside, it was no one but me and the odd gym-bound early riser. As I began the trek back to my own bed, I was beginning to feel like I’d gotten away with something. Like I’d escaped.

When I crawled back into my own bed, I immediately dropped into a comatose-like sleep. I could put this down to the fact that I hadn’t slept all night, but when I woke a few hours later for class, I got the nagging suspicion that it was for another reason. He texted me later on in the morning, asking me when I’d left. I told him I’d left early, but only because I couldn’t sleep. I told him I’d talk to him later.

I never did. Every time he texted me, I responded less and less. And one night, when we both ended up at a mutual friend’s party, I didn’t talk to him at all. He left later with just one glance toward me, riddled with both reproach and the last-ditch kind of hope that I’d get up, follow him out, and we’d go on as we were. I didn’t budge an inch from where I sat.

He stopped texting me. Whatever we were dissipated suddenly and without fanfare, like a candle’s flame suddenly snuffed out—and it had been by my own hand.

I’d ducked out before sunrise on the person who wanted to share all my sunsets. I’d ghosted him, and he let me. Somehow I wasn’t sure if I felt relieved, guilty, or disappointed. Maybe a horrible mix of them all.

I knew he liked me more than I liked him.

I wasn’t ready.

I still tell myself that. But I have no heartache over watching sunsets alone. TC mark

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