Figure out her name. Act nonchalant when he mentions her on your fifth date; spend half an hour that night searching his Facebook friends list for every possible variation of her first name. Hold your breath when you finally find her.
Hover your cursor over her blue linked name, as, suddenly, that article you read last week about how modern history is getting recorded by the minute comes to mind. Conveniently forget the author’s parting advice to not let micro-documentation wreck our ability to live in the present.
It was there; you dug.
Click all the way to the very back of her profile photos. Start with the toothy grinned group pictures from middle school and work your way up. Scrutinize the way she’s laughing in that photo from the night of their senior prom, surprise yourself when your first thought is that she looks beautiful. When the little voice in your head starts asking if she’s more beautiful than you, get off Facebook for the day and write your research paper. Spend the rest of the night wondering about the answer anyway.
One night after you and him watch Jane break up with Rafael in the latest episode of Jane the Virgin, listen as he tells you why things ended, how it was gradual but one day there was just too much exhaustion in how they carried themselves around each other. Tell him you understand, because you do, but make some excuse to use your laptop anyway. Scour her statuses, likes, and shared links; try to figure out if she had seen it coming, as if the onset of a lost love brims at the surface before bursting open.
Be unsure if you’re looking for proof that it will not happen with you and him too, or if you’re looking for advice on what to do if it does. Maybe both.
Four days after he tells you he loves you for the first time on your tiny twin mattress on the floor, think about her again.
In the morning, get online and open the picture where you think they look happiest. Look at it. Force yourself to stare at him, arms curled over and across her shoulders, chin tucked into the crook of her neck, eyes crinkled in the full-face smile you’ve come to know so well. They look in love.
Realize you are okay with that.
Forgive her for her supposed crime of having met the love of your life before you did, for loving him as whole-heartedly as you do now. Ease yourself into forgetting her hometown, her college major, the name of the cousin that got all the photo credits on her cover photos when they went to New York together last summer.
Start to remember her only in the ways that he has learned to love better, harder, more earnestly.
Months later, walk around a bookstore, one hand in his, the other glancing over glossy book spines. When he mentions that she liked coming to Barnes and Noble, don’t correct him and say she actually checked in more at Borders.