It’s been almost eight months since we broke up. And I won’t try to earn sympathy by pretending like it was entirely his decision, either. We just didn’t work out — he wanted to stay in our old city, go to grad school, start putting down roots. I never liked that city, and I wanted to do other things. Even though there was clearly still love there, and we’d see each other at the various social events of our mutual friends, we broke up. We had one of those talks that starts off really optimistically, talking about how we’re going to make it work if we’re doing “the long-distance thing,” but which we both knew would end in a breakup. We both cried. We had sex once, then again the next morning (we fell asleep in the same bed, though I said I was going to go home). We called it off.
Over the next few weeks, maybe a month or two, we would exchange texts. We would flirt, almost. It was a way of tapering off the breakup, making it a little less final on both sides, I think. We never slept together again, but that was more a question of logistics than anything else. I’m pretty sure that, if we had gone to a party and gotten even two glasses each in us, we would have ended up going home together. And given the feelings we both clearly still had (even if reason told us it wouldn’t work), we may have even ended up back together. We would have tried to “make it work,” even though we both know we’re too jealous and impatient for long-distance. But we never went to that party, so we never slipped back into a relationship, and there were a good four months of radio silence.
He started grad school, and I moved to a new city. The only real interaction we had in that time was me wishing him a happy birthday on his Facebook wall and him “liking” it. There were no hard feelings, it wasn’t weird for our friends, and I think we both planned on calling one another for a coffee when we were in the other’s city. I saw the person he was becoming, even in that short time, and it made me happy. I felt like I left behind a good person, and that maybe even one day we might cross paths as better people who could make it work for real. It wasn’t quite love, but it was a certain admiration, a warm nostalgia.
But he met someone. About three months ago, he started seeing a girl he went to school with, a pretty woman with an ornate (but not obnoxious) name with long, shiny brown hair. She is doing impressive things with her life, and comes from a good family, and seems to treat him well. My friend met her a few weeks ago, and even though she was talking to me — and therefore was at least somewhat expected to talk shit about her — she had nothing really bad to say. The girl is nice, and though I can’t say that she’s better than me, the point is that she’s not me. And her presence in my life (and on my social media, where I can’t stop myself from constantly checking the limited version of her profile that I can see), has awakened so many dormant things in me.
I love him again. I want him again. I am territorial over something that is no longer mine. I watch everything that she writes to him and imagine that my words would be better, funnier. I think of her as a threat to something I had already lost, and I suddenly find myself looking for reasons to talk to him again. I want to run into him. I want to get back together. Her choosing him has reminded me of all the great things about him, the things that other people can clearly see, even if I allowed it to slip through my fingers. He has won the unspoken race to happiness, and it has reminded me of my aloneness and the love that I had for him. It’s torture seeing everything evolve between them, and know that there is nothing I can really do, even though I see his face on my computer every day.
My friends ask, “why don’t you delete him?” And I should. There would be a moment of weirdness, because we are friends in theory, but he would get over it. He would probably even understand. But the real issue — the one I don’t tell them when they look at me in worry — is that I don’t want to delete him. I want to keep this shadow of him in my life, because I still love him. I still look at him because he still matters to me, and watching his new love develop makes me feel like I have some sort of strange control over it. It makes me feel like it’s still real, like he is still a part of me, like there’s anything I could do about it. Checking his profile, as much as it hurts, is one of the best parts of my day. And I don’t know how to get rid of him. I don’t know how to admit defeat, and take the razor from my hands. I miss him. I am lonely. And seeing him on my news feed makes me feel, in some little way, like he never really left.