Jacqueline blogs at Moths to a Flame (mothstoaflame.net). She hangs in Greenpoint, moonlights on Wall Street, and is addicted to frequent flier miles. You can follow her on Twitter @mtaftweets.
Location: New York, Williamsburg, Schaefer Landing, Elevator
Background: I reside in a quickly constructed, and surprisingly over-priced building with some nice common areas. I’ve gratefully never run into him while sweating in the gym, wearing harem pants in the mailroom, or drinking cheap rose on the roof. We occasionally see each other as boring normal people in the elevator, so all I know about good-looking neighborman is that he resides on Floor 8 and likes to talk about the roads and the weather.
Location: California, San Francisco, SFO Airport, Airplane Cabin, Seat 2B
Conditions: I board a plane home from a business trip, and due to a technicality in the travel policy, I am booked in first class. I look up only when someone is stowing luggage to see if I need to stand up for my aisle mate to pass. That’s when I see him – a real looker with wavy hair. He’s wearing clothes named after animals, but not alligators or ponies; he’s wearing the new stuff, like penguins and bonobos. He points to Seat 2A, and I make room to let him sit down.
Date: 9 September 2005, 20:00 hrs
Location: New York, New York, Gramercy Park, my match box apartment
Conditions: It is a Friday night. My first Friday night living in New York City. An old guy friend from college who already lives in the city is coming over the catch up. In college I took for granted that constant and flirtatious social interaction was built into my day. After college, I have to choose who I see… and they have to choose me back.
Observations: Old Friend arrives at my teeny apartment and I suddenly realize that he’s here because we want to see each other. On purpose. He wears a button down shirt, tucked in, and looks pretty decent. On purpose. This is no casual run in and we both act stiff and awkward. We settle in to two arm chairs for an evening activity of watching a bad movie. Old Friend and I are both so hyper-aware of the other person’s presence that even when the B-listers recite their toilet humor lines, neither of us laughs because neither of us is paying attention. 82-Minutes later, the movie wraps, and Old Friend departs. It feels like the air is dense with conversation that we thought, but didn’t say aloud.
To my surprise, the bells rings and I buzz him back up. I open the door and he is standing there holding a bouquet of bodega flowers.
Location: USA, New York, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, N11 & Barry St, My house
Conditions: Hot. Very hot. Air conditioners off. Window open. Wind stale.
I am currently living with An Eccentric. She collects friends like she collects suitors, and she goes through suitors like tissue. As such, our apartment is a revolving door of former models, wannabe designers, art-affiliated hobos, busking musicians, and couch surfers. So, home is where I meet most of my favorite new characters.
Date: 23 February 2007, 21:00 hrs
Location: USA, Illinois, Chicago, Belmont, The Vic
Conditions: I am at a music venue in Chicago waiting to see a friend-of-a-friend’s band play. Due to my unfortunate punctuality, I am the first to arrive. I have a book to keep me company, so I stand in the back and read Klosterman’s “Chuck Klosterman IV.”
Observations: Spotted: another individual reading a book at the back of a music venue. Rare in an early 20′s crowd. He is thin, bespectacled, and wears pleated khaki pants. If I chart out the scenario (and apply a combination of hasty stereo-typing plus self-aggrandizement) I get the following:
The basic trajectory of a relationship is that it has a beginning (aka the courting phase), a middle (aka the actual relationship), and an end (aka the break up).
Although unpleasant [read: knock the wind out of you debilitating], the breakup is important. It’s the time when both parties get to opine on why the relationship couldn’t / wouldn’t / shouldn’t continue. So, later when you are considering a reconciliation, you have some sound bites to play back on repeat about why getting back together is a terrible, terrible idea. Unfortunately, one is powerless to reason whether or not a re-play with an ex is a good idea or pure self-sabotage without those unpleasant memories. Without the break up experience, one is more apt to get back on an exhausting, futile hamster wheel.
This is exactly what happens with Travis and me.
Bowie and I were an item for the better part of a year and were a highly combustible duo for a variety of reasons. By day, we worked at Investment Banks in London, which is to say we both had type-A tendencies, incredible impatience, and risk-adoring personalities. By night, we were shambolic hipsters who dutifully attended rock gigs, and after parties, and the after-afters. The biggest reason that we were so explosive was probably just because we were just very, very young. How young?
Well, when I accepted our first non-date, I thought we were both mid-20s. I still remember that after work evening when Bowie downed 5 G&Ts to my 2 and I chalked it up to him being an Englishman, rather than a kid who liked to booze. But then came the great reveal as we exchanged typical first date stories – I had just finished graduate school in New York and moved to London. Bowie had worked as a trader for a smaller prop shop after school, but was glad to be at a larger firm now. He had a younger sister who was 17. I had a younger sister who was 22. Then I asked, “How old are you?” To which Bowie replied, “Twenty.” So I said, “Twenty-what? I’m Twenty-four.” And he said… “No, just twenty.” Oh.
In August of 2006, I moved to London and was promptly informed by a mutual friend in whispered tones, “You know that Josh just moved to London, right?” I hadn’t actually; Facebook wasn’t yet functioning as the gold standard by which we keep tallies on our exes. I thought it would be fun to see him, so I pulled his hotmail address out of an old email party invite. Why not? Our dating story was ancient history.
When a relationship wanes, there are varying degrees that an ex-boyfriend can remain part of your life. His presence could be as wispy as an apparition – the threat of an encounter in shared neighborhood, the wonder if he’ll appear at a mutual friend’s birthday, or a flutter in the stomach when you open your inbox. Or his role could be as real as the warm body next to you – someone you text walking out of a job interview, your back-up for a +1 situation, or <gasp> the person you call when your dry spell has gone on too long.
Each and every fellow I have dated, non-dated, or otherwise been involved with has reappeared in one form or another in my life, because I never fully sever the tie.
I think it comes down to my extraordinary aversion to waste. At 6-years-old I had a school project with a public speaking component in which I taught my class how to make something new (I went to a really intense school). Since my current obsession was terrariums, I wanted to teach all my classmates how to create one. To do this, I needed 16 glass jars, so my parents purchased a case of applesauce from Ralph’s in West Hollywood. We emptied the applesauce into large bowls and washed out the jars for my project. Having been so unsettled about the waste, I got a spoon, sat in front of the refrigerator, and ate applesauce until I literally became physically ill.
That was just applesauce. Think about how that little girl would feel about wasted time, love, and energy. I cannot fathom investing in a relationship for naught. This explains why the ex-boyfriend slot of my dance card is perpetually filled in with a name, erased, re-drawn, crossed-out, or scrawled in the margin with an arrow, because he always re-appears. Like any 20-something I have my full dah. It’s just that all the parts happen to be played by Ex-Boyfriends…Who Are Still Around.
Stay tuned for more from Jacqueline and Return of the Ex(es).
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