I’d heard the whispers in hushed conversations from friends, colleagues and even people passing me on the streets during their lunch breaks. All their conversations followed a similar pattern: they were lamenting about this guy or that guy who pulled a classic Houdini, the there-one-minute-gone-the-next guy who pulled The Great Disappearing Act. Things were going great, or at least they thought so, and then Poof! It was as if someone had stolen his identity and trapped him in some alternate universe: no phone calls, no texts, no emails. Not even a heartfelt goodbye note left on the kitchen counter, even if said man didn’t really mean said heartfelt goodbye.
Although I couldn’t really understand this, I nodded in sympathy whenever my friends would get on for another ride on the Houdini Express. I heard their words – words mixed with anger, confusion and just plain frustration – but in reality, I had no idea what they were talking about. Frankly, it was as if they were crying with a loaf of bread under their arm.
I wanted to shake them, and scream, “STOP. This is a good thing! So why are you sitting around crying?”
Here they were, obviously in the midst of an apparent breakup sans guy, and from what I could gather, they were making themselves feel worse. The way I see it, the absent-guy breakup is the next best thing to a no-strings-attached relationship. There’s no messy, defensive, tears-dropping, furniture-flying argument in which you both bring out the dirty laundry list of every single thing the other ever did wrong, including the time he took two minutes instead of one to compliment you on the dress you wore to your cousin’s best friend’s brother’s wedding four years ago. There’s no we’re-back-together/we’re broken up game of tag. There aren’t even any vows involved either, like swearing off men for life or threatening to move to some remote Eastern European village and dedicate your life to a Nunnery.
Nope, there’s no remnants of any trauma whatsoever, save for the one these women were creating in their own minds. In fact, there’s no official break whatsoever either. So you’re literally forced to move on; and isn’t it better to move on with as little post-breakup baggage as possible, really?
That is, until the day I met LA Hot Shot. Well, he didn’t start out that way, and honestly, to this day, I’m still saddened by the way things ended – or didn’t end – between us. He introduced me to the harrowing world I’d once seen so many of my friends in: The Silent Rejection – the rejection that is all too loud in its silence, that doesn’t stand up to the phrase “less is more” and the rejection that isn’t even technically a rejection; it’s just, well, nothing.
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
LA Hot Shot and I met in college. From our first meeting in our college newspaper’s newsroom, I could tell he was type of Seth Cohenesque guy who had that certain charm that could put anyone at ease. Yes, he was cute. Yes, maybe I was attracted to him a teeny bit. But more than anything, he was the first guy I ever felt completely comfortable around, which was a long time coming considering I’d come to the conclusion long ago that my physical disability rendered me virtually unnoticeable to the opposite sex. Yet he never seemed to notice and I liked that. He was, truthfully, the exact opposite of me: Laid-back, witty, flirtatious, outgoing, confident, sarcastic.
Maybe it was our differences that first drew me to him. Maybe it was the way he could put anyone at ease with some witty joke he’d rattle off as if he’d just thought of it off the top of his head. Over the next year, I loved coming into the office, seeing him spin in his chair in fits of procrastination or having downright serious arguments about some trivial pop culture topic with coworkers. We’d chat about evil professors and brag about who had their homework done first. It was refreshing, and for the first time, I wasn’t trying to impress some guy. I was just talking to a friend.
After we graduated, he moved to Los Angeles. He had big dreams of working in the production industry. I admired his ambition and tenacity, seeing as I was still too scared to leave the comfort and safety of the Illinois cornfields just yet.
A few months went by and I didn’t hear from him. Eager to get the inside scoop on his California adventures, I email him a short note…no flirting, no subtle innuendos, no “So I think I might be in love with yous.” Because, after all, we were just friends, right? Is it such a crime to want to know how your friend is doing?
Hmm, no response. Looking back, I should have just let it be, but I knew there had to be a reason. And so to answer your next question, yes, I sent him another email. And yes, I was nice (I asked him if things were OK), and yes, I probably should have stopped emailing after the third time, but I was…mystified, I guess.
I did get a message a few weeks later. The sort of message that speaks volumes to my fellow Millennials: he deleted me from his Facebook and Myspace friends list. So OK, maybe I pulled a Carrie Bradshaw once or twice (or maybe five times) and tried to friend him again.
But the signs – well, rather the lack of signs – told me otherwise, that he apparently didn’t want to be my friend. It was the elementary-school equivalent of giving me the cold shoulder at recess.
But why? What deadly sin had I ever even committed?
What sort of guy just dumps you? True, it wasn’t an actual romantic sort of dumping, but it still stung nonetheless.
And why doesn’t said guy have the courage to AT LEAST give said poor girl a reason for said dumping? Were we really still in high school, I wondered?
And that’s when it hit me: I had finally morphed into those women I’d once pitied. Now, I was the one who was obsessing. Too much. Too often.
I pictured LA Hot Shot living his new high life, hobnobbing with the rich and famous in swanky Hollywood clubs, laughing with glee as he tells everyone the story of the crazy cornfield girl. I’d stooped low this time, dangerously low. I’d let him ultimately turn me into an obsessive, overanalyzer. In reality, he didn’t owe me anything
Technically. I wasn’t his girlfriend. I wasn’t a family member. I was, as he probably saw, just some girl he met in the cornfields in college. A part of his past he wanted to leave behind?
I didn’t like this new girl I saw in the mirror. And so, at long (long) last, I finally did it. I let go.
I could still be confused, which I was. I could still be frustrated, which I was. I could even be angry and defensive, which I was (and OK, maybe I am still a little bit). But mostly, I’m just sad. Not heartbroken because we were only friends (or so I thought), and yes, of course my life will go on. I’d probably have more laughs if he was a part of said life, but of course I will go on.
Truthfully, maybe I didn’t even know what I wanted from those emails, but I suppose at the end of the day, we all can’t have that closure we sometimes desperately seek.
Los Angeles, you can have this one. I think I need to sit this one out and take a break. A long break.