We all have our Voldemort. We all have our “she/he who shall not be named” — the ex whose name tastes so sour on our tongues we can’t even bring ourselves to say it, despite the years it has been since the breakup.
My sister and I each have this person, this Voldemort in our lives. For her, it was a guy she kept going back to even after he hurt her, until one day she realized she couldn’t torture herself anymore. For me, it was the first girl I ever kissed, the girl who eventually broke my heart.
And years ago, back when we still weren’t over them, my sister and I used this euphemism to make light of what was an otherwise an emotional blow to the stomach. “I heard that song that reminds me of Voldemort on the radio today and I don’t know why but I felt like crying.” or “I ran into Voldemort on campus today and we pretended we didn’t see each other.”
The fact that we were comparing this person to the fictional lord of all evils made us laugh — made us laugh so we wouldn’t cry, because becoming strangers with someone you once shared the depths of your soul with sometimes feels like you are suffocating under satin sheets. Satin sheets and love are quite beautiful until they are the reason the air has been knocked out of you.
We all have that person who has left a dark imprint on our lives. We may not have a lightening bolt shaped scar on our foreheads to prove it, but there is a certain dark cloud that hangs over us and materializes in little ways.
In our guarded body language on our next first date.
In our clumsy movements during a random hookup that seems like the best way to forget our pain.
In the tears that stain our pillows on those nights we felt alone.
And suddenly the silly nickname we use to talk about our ex is more than just a silly nickname. It is a real feeling of betrayal and it clings to us like a film of oil on our skin that cannot be washed off with a simple rain.
Or maybe, we cling to it. We are used to this pain that has become so familiar. We always know where to find it, just under the smile we faked or the enthusiasm we forced. We try to ignore it and move on, but nothing in life is ever resolved until it is faced head on.
In Rowling’s world, it is the traumatized young boy who grew strong enough to defeat his tormentor in the end.
In our worlds, there comes a time when we are overcome with emotion and pain that scream so loudly they can no longer be ignored. It is only then that we will be forced to search within ourselves to find what is extraordinary about us, to find our inner strength and confidence. And one day we will look back and realize that we have defeated the dark cloud that once hung over us — and the journey to get there was so long and exhausting it will all seem like a blur.
We will find someone new when we are ready, and that person will open us up and pump life into our blood and we will feel so disconnected from the heartbroken adolescents we once were. And our Voldemorts will seem so trivial, so immature, so not-even-worth-our-time.
But buried deep beneath the thick layers of skin we developed as a result of them, these Voldemorts will live to represent our transformation.
And when time has passed and we can finally laugh at ourselves, and we hear that song on the radio or run into that person on campus, we will call up our sister or best friend or confidant and we will refer to our ex by name, because “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” And we are no longer afraid because that person can no longer hurt us.
But maybe, just for old time’s sake, we can still refer to this person as Voldemort. Not because it’s too painful to say their name anymore, but because it’s become a joke. We have moved past it. We can finally poke fun at the time we thought our world was crashing down because one person was reckless with our heart.
And all it takes is that one person, that one person who sends us spiraling towards the bottom only so we can pick ourselves back up and rise higher than we ever could have dreamed.