OTWC #017–18: On Seeing Your Ex for the First Time After the Break-up

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


I’ve missed three days of this and it’s totally my fault, but I’ve had one hell of a crazy week. It’s been emotional, jubulant, and well…tiring. I haven’t been sleeping well recently and can’t figure out why. So, I’ve got a spare moment before I head to my friend’s showroom launch to purge.

Three things of major significance of this week:
- Potentially partnering with a huge company
- Refurbised my first investment property
- Ran into my ex

To be honest with you the third point has completely wrecked my psyche. Tuesday, didn’t sleep well. I remember a vivid dream of meeting “her” at a bus stop, we spoke and it was good. I wake up, my alarm hasn’t gone off. Shit, I’m either early to rise or late. Turns out it’s the latter. I throw on a suit and head to the two meetings I have with clients for the day.

The whole day, something feels off. Maybe it was the dream, maybe it was the fact that I was late and couldn’t go through my morning routine. Hell, maybe the planets weren’t aligned properly, all I knew was that I didn’t feel in sync with my self.

That day was a special day, my friends and I were going to a football match and whilst I don’t care for football, every moment I can spend with these guys is precious. After dinner at a fancy fried chicken place, we power walk to a local pub for away fans. Now I had no idea about the whole “Home fans only” thing that a lot of businesses have as a policy but it felt strangely prejudice.

On the way to the pub I’m looking through the shop windows and I see the back of someone. Something primal alerts me to danger. I know it’s her, I haven’t seen her face but I know it’s her. She’s got a new tattoo, she’s changed her hair colour, but I know it’s her. My head fills with fight or flight. I could just walk on, and not worry about it. I could stop and talk, and then what?

There is no right answer to this, so I stick to my instincts and do the thing that feels most terrifying.

I’m sure it’s a universal part of breaking up with someone that you constantly think about running into them. How you’ll deal with it. Running all the various scenarios through your head about what you’ll say, how to show them that you’ve come out of the relationship better than they have, but in practice you’ve got nothing when the time comes.
I tried to go into the shop.
It’s locked.
I knock on the door.
She sees me.
Awkward smiles are exchange.
She is standing outside with me and our eyes are locked.
It’s fucking electric and no one knows what to say.
“How are you?” 
[Silence for 30 seconds]
“I started a business.”
“I heard.”
“I had a feeling I was going to run into you today.”
“That’s weird because I had a dream about it this morning”
“Are we done, done?”
“How do we end this?”
I then awkwardly hug her. It’s not reciprocated.
She goes back into the shop, locks the door, looks up and sees me walking away with one glance back.

Then the devastation hits. The adrenaline. The “what-the-fuck-am-I-supposed-to-do-now” feeling permeates my entire being. I want to go home and cry, but I stay and get drunk. At the pub, I meet a journalist for The Statesman and he’s sitting there with his mate that’s won a Pulitzer prize. Here I am sitting with two guys that can dramatically help me improve my writing, and I’m wallowing because someone I used to love also used to love me.

That break-up hurt (and annoyingly still apparently hurts) because for the first time in my life I was truly vulnerable with someone and they ran away.

After a few beers with some close friends, we were walking around Central London (this was when my ex and I were still together) and I saw her. Even though she was wearing a red wig, I knew it was her! The joy I felt in that moment, I ran up to her and hugged her. We’d just got back from a long 18 months of living in each other’s pockets and had nearly broken up a few times, so to my mind we’d conquered that and I was ready to commit.
“It’s me and you, forever.” I told her.
“I’m not proposing but let’s do this,” (referring to commitment) I told her.
And then we broke up.

Now, I’m not complaining. This past year has been incredible, I’ve:
- Co-authoured a book, and helped produce four others
- Travelled to a tonne of countries
- Bought my first property
- Found my passion
- Lived a life of adventure

And all I can focus on was that short two minute interaction with someone that doesn’t want to know who I am anymore.

I think about the four years we shared together. It was a huge chunk of my life and we had so many specific-unique-just-to-us moments that I loved. But there were some pretty awful times as well. The thing that hurts me most about that relationship was how awful I was.

Hindsight is 20/20 and although I don’t know why she broke up with me, she did. So I’ve had to reflect on what I could improve, which has been…painful. To come face-to-face with your own horribleness and know that you made someone that gave you the greatest gift they could (love) to you and you made them feel like an idiot for it.

I couldn’t say anything to her because I was scared that if I told her how sorry I was that I made her feel that she wasn’t enough, how incredible she is and always was, and how grateful I am that we got to spend the time together that we did, she’d think I was saying it to get her back.

Whilst we could probably make it work if we got back together, that’s an unlikely possibility and not one that feels like a good use of time. It’s important to learn to move on, and face new challenges. “Don’t mourn that it’s over, celebrate that it happened” comes to mind.

It hurts to think that I hurt someone so much that the only possible action that they had was to completely remove themselves from your life. I regret how I acted and how blind I was, the whole relationship feels like a fable that I should’ve paid more attention to.

As I sat drinking into the night with my friend, I thought about all the women in my life and how incredible every single one has been. I thought about all the wonderful aspects of humanity that reside in them. And I thought about all the things we do to ruin everything when we think we’ve flown too close to the sun.

Yesterday a friend called me up and she told me, “Perhaps this was necessary, now you can have some closure”. Is closure what I want? To have seen them again? I don’t know.

We need the lows to appreciate the highs. We need to fail so that we can learn. We take what life gives us, and the only rational response is to say “Thank you”.

I remember a long, sweaty, unbearably bumpy bus ride through Laos, from Vientiane to Savannakhet. Her and I sat next to each other and talked about children’s names we liked. I remember what sparked that conversation. For the first time in my life, when I imagined my future I wasn’t alone and I was holding hands with a her shaped object.

Seeing her again dug up a lot of emotions that I thought I’d processed. Part of the shock was how instantly I feel like I’ve regressed 18 months to the moment when she said, “I think we should break up”.

I’m sad that it’s over, I’m happy that it happened. I’m terrified of the future, and I’m excited to see it.

About three months after the break-up I remember scouring Reddit threads for advice on whether you should get back with your ex. The piece of advice I remember was, “learn from your mistakes so you don’t fuck it up with the next one”.

On my bus ride home on that Tuesday night, I asked an old Canadian what I should do. He said “nothing, and in the future let them come to you”.

I’ve got 8 minutes left and nothing more to say.

Thanks for reading.

Total Words: 1456

Rules of the 1,000 word challenge:
1. I write till I reach 30 minutes or 1,000 words
2. I have to post without editing
3. I can’t write about pre-determined topics (but sometimes I can)
4. If I miss a day, I need to make up for it later
5. I’ll come up with more rules later