Meet someone new and hit it off right away. After five minutes, feel as though you’ve already known him five years, so good is your chemistry. Immediately wonder if this could be the guy you’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for, if he’s the one who’s about to make everything worth it. Only wonder this quietly to yourself though, because despite this connection, you remain uncertain. It couldn’t possibly be this easy; in the past, people like this have always been too good to be true. This insecurity, this cynicism, is why you hesitate to do anything, why you meet every potential sign of romantic interest with inertia — because you have no precedent for someone this amazing and you suspect you’re imagining the whole thing.
Let weeks pass, maybe months, then finally muster up the courage to ask him to coffee, just the two of you. Get there early and spend each second up until the moment he arrives postulating how the conversation will go — memorize a clever joke that you’ll deliver naturally, as though you thought of it on a whim, which will prompt him to fill the space between you with his infectious laugh. When you see him walk through the door, feel your stomach drop into your shoes and forget everything you’ve rehearsed. Greet him as awkwardly as possible.
Almost right away, he’ll tell you he’s started seeing someone, someone he met a few weeks ago at a party, one you were invited to but decided to skip because you had work early the next day (as if you didn’t resent your job enough). Make sure to keep a smile plastered on your face the entire time he’s talking about this new guy, or else run the risk that your disappointment will spread from your eyes to the rest of your face and betray you.
Newly armed with the knowledge that the person you were afraid might simply not like you back is now a person you can’t have, go home and do the only reasonable thing to do: take off your pants, get wasted, and clean your entire apartment in your underwear. No, you won’t be able to scrub away your sadness, regret, or the new boyfriend, but at least your kitchen will have never been cleaner. Consider playing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” during the whole episode — never have the lyrics seemed so apt, so profound till now — but ultimately decide against it. This whole scene is sad enough as it is.
Despite your hangover, wake up bright and early the next morning because it’s time to start your new hobby: stalking and obsessing. While most people spend hours on Facebook ‘researching’ their crush, you’ll spend hours staring at the thing that’s keeping you from him, hoping to one day figure out what he has that you don’t. Your hair is better than his, your teeth are whiter. Okay, he’s slightly taller (congratulations, most people are), slightly slimmer (thanks to all the drugs, you’d like to think), but you don’t feel like it’s enough of a difference where it should matter. Recruit some friends to play this game with you and almost cry with joy when one of them points out the weird mole on his neck. “You’re right!” you shout, “how did I not see it before, he’s practically a circus freak!” Consider that you have the best friends in the world, you’re so thankful they’re helping you through this. His stupid boyfriend probably doesn’t even have any friends. Loser.
These dear friends will indulge you because they love you, but only to a point. After a while, they’ll tell you in an exasperated voice that it’s time to move on already. They’ll give you the same advice everyone gives the heartbroken: you have to get under someone new to get over someone old. You’re not so sure about that. You’ve never been the type to just ‘get under’ someone, but maybe you could get next to them, at a restaurant somewhere, have a cocktail or two? These little dates offer temporary respite from your perpetual heartsickness, but at the end of the day they’re just not substantial enough. In a world where love is a game, every new guy feels like a wiffle ball — light and easy to play with, but ultimately full of holes. The mere memory of the one you wanted (the one you want) feels like a steel ball shackled to your ankle. On dry land he keeps you in one place, but when you’re out in the metaphorical sea looking for all the ‘other fish’ you’re told are out there, he threatens to drown you.
At the end of the day, the problem is that you can’t seem to get the imaginary relationship out of your head. People who go through breakups, they can cite actual reasons why it didn’t work out, why they’re better off without them. But you never got that chance. So, all the what-ifs and should-haves stay lingering in the air, making it impossible to ‘just get over him’ and keep you replaying the past while everyone else seems to skip merrily, hand-in-hand, into the future. It’s a constant effort to forget about him, about them, and you’re rarely rewarded any success. Maybe for one minute of one day you’ll actually manage it, but then something (some insignificant thing, like someone wearing the same shoes he wears) brings him rushing back to the forefront of your mind. So naïve were you to think that you had extinguished the fire; sure, you got the flames to die down, but the embers were still burning white hot, just waiting for a puff of oxygen to bring them roaring back to life. Apparently in this metaphor, shoes are oxygen.
Hey, speaking of his shoes, maybe you should text him? Just to see how he’s doing, tell him you’re thinking of him. You’ll be polite; no harm will come from it. You’ll even ask how his stupid boyfriend is doing — urgh, just boyfriend. You’ll ask how his boyfriend is doing. Maybe they’ve even broken up already.