1. The one who almost was, but not quite (but maybe still could be).
You think everything is going right. Every sign was there. You have the same sense of humor, the same hobbies, the same favorite things. You talk every day and conversation was free and easy. And because the two of you seemed to fit so naturally together, it also seemed only natural that you’d develop into something more. He feels this way, too, right? Between the little gestures and in-jokes, you SWEAR you were on the same page — and then. Maybe his Facebook status changes to say that he was in a relationship with another girl. Maybe he decides that he just wasn’t “ready to date right now.” Maybe he says you were a really great friend, but he just isn’t into you in that way. Because he never had to be — because neither of you ever had concrete words or a deliberate understanding, he didn’t owe you anything at all. Yet it’s the almost that lingers, the could have been that haunts you. After all, it was a relationship in all ways but the commitment — and now all you’re left with is the abandoned framework to a structure you will never inhabit.
2. The one whose friends love you.
They’re excited every time they see you. You mesh well — and even your friends get along with him, and with his friends, and it just seems a natural extension of your overall group. You all laugh together, go out together, feel safe together. And there’s an implicit level of respect and approval — that because you are his and he is yours, nobody in the group will try anything else. They make little comments, too: about how great you are, about how lucky he is to have you, about how you’re an upgrade from the last one, or that they’ve never seen him this happy. But you’re not dating the friends, and they can’t decide who he does and doesn’t commit to, so even this badge of “yes, we like you, you can stay,” ultimately means little in the terms of will he or won’t he. (Hopefully, at least, they give him hell in the coming weeks and months for giving you up the way he did.)
3. The one who just disappeared.
Everything is going great, you think — you have chemistry, you click, you have shared interests and your conversations never lull — and then, boom. He’s gone. No more texts, no more phone calls, no more social media interaction. Nothing. It’s like he’s fallen off the face of the earth and you can’t help but wonder if it’s something you did, or said, or what part of your personality is so fundamentally flawed that it made him run in the opposite direction. Though we live in a world with 80 ways to keep in touch with the same person over the course of one day, it’s surprisingly easy for someone to just up and… where’d he go? Nobody quite knows, because this guy is most often someone completely outside of your social circle to begin with. Maybe it’s after date three or four or six, but his Facebook will vanish from yours, his number will stop replying to texts (and you know much better than to call him). That is — if you had him added on social media at all, because often, the telltale sign of this one is that he doesn’t tell you what his last name is or give any further details of his life. You don’t quite think anything else of this at first, because isn’t that how dating works? You gradually get to know each other, and then once you’re meshed into each other’s lives, then maybe you add each other. But when the messages go silent and you have to decide whether you check in three days later or you just delete the number, you wonder if he really did fall into the realm of lost socks, or what exactly it was that you did to make him cut and run.
4. The One you thought was The One.
He’s charming, he’s funny, he’s got a stable job, he lives in TriBeCa, he’s over six feet tall, he’s got a British accent — and you meet him and it’s just like, “This is it. This is the one. This is every single thing I’ve ever wanted in a human being, here in one human being, and weirdly enough, he’s into me?!” It’s your checklist and Prince Charming (if there ever really was one in the flesh) all rolled up into one. (No, nobody’s perfect, but if you had to come up with your list of things that you’d idealize and hope for beyond your wildest dreams, he’d be very nearly exactly it.) And he’s so good to you that in the back of your head, you’re somehow waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it doesn’t seem to, no matter how much you hold your breath. But no matter how close you get to achieving this dream and this ideal, you know something is going to happen. (The other shoe, remember?) Maybe you jinx yourself. Maybe you put that karma out into the universe and it just happens. Maybe he can sense your doubt and thinks this means you’re not into him. Whatever it is, though, he’s gone, and all you now have are stories of what could have been.
5. The one you never even got the chance with.
Whether this is your doing — you were too nervous to say hi, you talked yourself down from the ledge of just going for it, you thought that maybe he’d reject you and didn’t want to face that humiliation — or the fact that he was already in a relationship, or you worked together, or he was just some absolutely beautiful stranger you saw somewhere for half a second of your life, you’re always left with the ghost of “What if?” What if you’d been brave enough to tell him how you felt? What if you’d been gutsy enough to just say hello? What if you’d worked up the nerve to introduce yourself? What if, what if, what if? But “what if?” is a double-edged sword, and for all the promise it holds in future tense, talking about it in hindsight often breeds nothing but regret. What if you had said hello?
But what if, the next time you see someone who makes your heart leap into your throat, you do?