The Ex Files

Off the Beat

My boyfriend and I were walking on campus, our path dappled with soft light and fallen leaves. The night air was cold, so we walked close to each other, our hands intertwined for warmth. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I do remember him saying, “Even when we’re not together anymore, I’ll still care about you, no matter what.” Romantic, right?

It was the biggest, reddest flag ever.

Now fast-forward a few months to when I broke up with him while we sat on the steps outside my apartment building. He was so distraught and emotional that he immediately started throwing up in the grass next to the sidewalk. While he was dry heaving on his hands and knees, all I could think of was my break-up contingency plan.

Step 1: Throw away or hide every souvenir of our relationship.

Step 2: Dye my hair and change my image to complement my new life change.

Step 3: Cease all forms of communication with my ex and move on.

After a week of the single life, we met up so that I could return his multiple hoodies and he could give me back the snacks I had kept in his apartment. He cried and pleaded while I counted down the minutes until it was over. We hugged and said goodbye, and I closed that chapter of my life and moved on.

He texted me five minutes later.

You see, in between him throwing up and crying and begging for a second chance, I felt bad for him, and I thought if I said we could be friends, it would lessen the blow of his girlfriend of only eight months breaking up with him. Unfortunately, he took that as a version of what he had said months ago — that I would still care for him after we were no longer together.

Much to my dismay, he kept in contact with me. I continued receiving daily texts that caused me to groan and created knots of dread in my stomach. I tried my best to ignore them, but if I didn’t respond in 24 hours, he would follow up with worried messages, asking if I was ignoring him. I felt bad, and I would end up texting him short responses. In my mind, if the texts were short, I was still abiding by my no-contact rule in some way.

Communication continued in person, too. When we saw each other on campus, he hunted me down to talk, no matter the scenario. He crossed a crowd of students to stop in front of me while I was walking to class. If I happened to be looking down at my phone, he’d wave his hand in front of my face to grab my attention. Once, I found a handwritten note from him taped to my bike while it was parked outside Moffitt Library.

He kept insisting he just wanted to be friends, but it was clear that he was still into me.

So, I was forced to lock away any sympathetic part of me and become the bad guy. Any text he sent me was ignored. Follow-up texts that asked if I was ignoring him? Ignored. Follow-up follow-up texts that accused me of leading him on? They were blows to the part of me that wanted to give him sympathy, but I still ignored them. I shut down any attempt he made to keep in contact, and eventually he drifted away. I had done my best to train my ex to get over me.

A few weeks ago, it was his birthday. I sent him a quick birthday text because I allowed myself to be sympathetic again, and I thought it was a polite thing to do.

“This is Caragh, right?” he responded. Some part of me was proud he had gone so far as to delete my number. But I had given my ex an inch, and in response, he took a mile.

After paragraph-long texts about the status of our breakup and a 15-minute phone conversation, I threw up my walls and shoved the sympathetic part of me away again. As of now, I have four unanswered texts from him sitting in my inbox.

I never wanted to resent my ex. Some part of me believed that it was possible to be friends with him one day — or at least, that we could be friendly to each other. But as he continually lingered on our past relationship, even when I told him repeatedly that it made me uncomfortable, I quickly discarded that hope. Yet underneath the resentment and frustration, a part of me does still care about what he has to say.

While online articles and close friends recommended I block him, forget him and put an end to the constant unwanted attention, I could never bring myself to do it. I’m still holding onto the small hope that someday his messages will change from products of an unhealthy breakup to something more indicative of a healthy friendship.

So for now, I keep his number in my phone, unblocked and in reach. If he texts, I’ll see what he has to say.

And maybe one day, I’ll answer.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.