It is November, and I am braving the terrible cold of New York. I have spent my evening in my hotel room watching Sex and the City, eating pizza and complaining about all the missing trees. The Big Apple is massive, and although I come from another metropolis, I feel overwhelmed. Naturally, the windchill makes me ache for a companion to snuggle under these white sheets with. I go through my mental Rolodex of past sweethearts and remember that Julian still lives in Brooklyn. Before I can reach out to my Colombian, my memory smacks me harder than the cold Northeast air: Julian stopped answering my phone calls a year ago, and I still do not know why.
Nights like this, I wonder who came up with the concept of “closure.” I am sure a therapist somewhere can explain it, but I still can’t help but think someone sold us on the idea that we need a clean break from someone we loved. We ache to hear the words that will allow us to stick a label that makes sense of a relationship. “We grew apart” or “They made a mistake” are acceptable, but “He disappeared” is not. I have always had a hard time telling the truth of why my lovers and I are no longer lovers. Who wants to admit that the man they couldn’t talk about without blushing stopped calling and blocked them on all social media platforms with no explanation? That is not the kind of ending I would ever write. Why would I accept that as my truth?
The first time a man ghosted me, we had been dating for six months. I was not in love but was having enough orgasms to think I was. Marquese and I met online and had a whirlwind romance. We spent many nights making out in his car, having sex in motels and eating late dinners at my favorite 24-hour taco spot. I was in my mid-20s with good knees and a whole lot of stamina we put to use. That is until the earth swallowed him up, and he disappeared.
The second time someone pulled the vanishing act on me, it was my darling Situationship. I had promised to show up for him in a way I was not ready to but did not know how to communicate my limitations. He was hurt and felt he could no longer trust me. For eight long months, we hardly talked. I was hurt, confused, angry and frustrated. He only replied when I was concerned about his safety and continued to ignore any profession of love. I did not take it well and wrote more poems than I could count to finally accept that maybe that was our end.
My most recent ghost was my one-night stand, which became more of a one-and-a-half-night stand. I knew it was coming. Years of dating have taught me to see the warning signs. He called me after our first date and spoke about our future. He said he had an uncle he wanted me to meet and that I had to taste his mother’s cooking. I am familiar with men that role play at commitment but have no intention of showing up past the moment of fantasy. I leaned into it. It was nice to pretend, to make-believe this dude was someone I might want to do other regular adult things with. I promised to take the ride to Bakersfield for Thanksgiving. I agreed when he mentioned Christmas at my home. We fell asleep knowing we would never speak again.
Tonight Julian’s sweet voice is haunting me. He and I met many years ago, and although the story is too long to divulge at 4 a.m., I will tell you this: We loved each other hard. Long-distance relationships teach you that all you knew of heartache can be multiplied. It gives hunger a new texture. Often after Skyping for hours, he would text that he didn’t know how much longer he could keep up with our cross-country love. I agreed. We often stopped talking for periods, and we knew that meant the other person was dating in their city. We never asked, and we never told each other until after the other relationships didn’t work. We did this dance for years. Then I dialed one day and the call was not returned. I text a few weeks later, nothing. I messaged him for his birthday, wished him a Happy New Year, called him our secret pet names, sent him love and, eventually, I gave up.
I am in New York City for the first time. Finally, I am where the man I ached for lives, and he is just a ghost among the skyscrapers. That is an ending I do not like but have accepted. I understand he will always haunt me. When I hear Brooklyn, I’ll think of him. I will fly back to my Los Angeles, my Jacaranda trees and my sunshine, and, eventually, I will love someone new and risk welcoming another poltergeist in my life. I will hook up with another person and be relieved when they dissolve into thin air. I will take trips to places that I have dreamt about for years and spend the whole time wishing I were somewhere else.
Perhaps, to love is to haunt, to stubbornly wait for an apparition, to demand a miracle that might or might not happen. My Situationship ghosted me once and then returned as a flesh-and-bone man ready to do it all over again. Some endings are perfect. Other endings are just you, a bed, pizza and Carrie and Mr. Big dancing to “Moon River” while you sigh into a room that’s held many hearts with their own phantom loves. Who are we to say that this also is not a perfect ending?