“Is this Stacy?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
“Stacy, this is Jessica. I know you went to visit Michael in St. Louis, and I just wanna’ know why the fuck you would do something like that.”
I took my phone off of my ear and stared at it. “What did I get myself into?” I thought.
“Uhmm…” I said, trying to figure out what to say in this situation. My ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend/baby mama was calling my phone because she found out that over Christmas break I went to visit him and his family in his hometown.
“How the fuck you just gonna’ go visit somebody else’s boyfriend that just had a newborn baby?” Jessica continued, now using her outdoor voice.
I really didn’t have a good answer for her. I just wanted to see Michael. I missed him. I transferred to Fordham University from Florida A &M University to get away from him, Jessica and their baby, but I put myself back into their drama.
Michael had invited me to visit him at his parents’ house in St. Louis for the holidays. I was happy to accept his invitation. He took me sight-seeing, we ate at a lot of different restaurants, and he introduced me to his extended family. It was really a nice trip. When I got back home, I missed him. I was sad that we were still broken up. I was resentful that he had a baby with someone else soon after he got me pregnant. I decided not to have the baby, and we broke up.
Although Jessica was angry that I visited Michael, I provoked her. One weekend, my childhood friend, Kenya, came to visit me at Fordham. When I came up with the petty idea to create a fake Yahoo email account to let Jessica know “anonymously” that I visited Michael, Kenya co-signed. I thought I was going to feel happy and satisfied, if and when I ever found out that Jessica received my anonymous email. She stole my boyfriend; she had it coming. But when she started calling me repeatedly, screaming at me, and calling me all types of names, it really wasn’t that rewarding of an experience. She screamed so much. I knew I had gone too far. I never pushed someone’s buttons intentionally like that again.
For years, Michael assumed one of his friends betrayed him and told Jessica about my visit. I netold him the truth.
Jessica just kept on yelling, so finally I hung up. I sat down on my bed and let my back fall on my comforter. It was in that moment, that I realized I had become “the dreaded ex-girlfriend.” The dreaded ex-girlfriend is the one ex the guy doesn’t seem to lose touch with…ever, even though he’s in a new relationship. The dreaded ex-girlfriend is the type of woman that makes her ex-boyfriend want to keep pictures of her after they’ve broken up. She’s the one who still hangs out with him occasionally, whether she lives only a few minutes away or a few hundred miles away. The dreaded ex-girlfriend is the ex he sends text-messages to when he’s had too much to drink or when his life gets too complicated and stressful. The dreaded ex-girlfriend is the one he admits that he should have married. Yes, that bitch.
Jessica called my phone again, and again, and again. I kept sending her to my voicemail. She filled up my voicemail box. After 20 or 30-something missed calls from her, I got tired.
“Hello?” I said, answering Jessica’s call.
“Woman to woman, Stacy – why did you go visit Michael? We have a newborn child! We’re going to get married. I’m going to walk down that aisle!” she said loudly.
“Married?” I laughed. I never heard Michael mention anything about marrying her.
“Yes, he’s going to marry ME! Not you, you Plain Jane,” she said.
I mean, yeah if you compared the two of us, she was right. I didn’t dress too revealing, all of my body parts were real, my nails were real, my hair was real, and I didn’t even have a relaxer. I could have looked like one of those reality TV stars if I wanted to, but the truth was that I was too lazy to spend that much time trying to look like the exact opposite of myself. For the most part, I liked the way I looked. I liked my body. I liked my curly hair. Jessica tried to convince me that I was too natural and that was no longer good enough for Michael. I didn’t like that.
“Well, how would I have any idea that you and Michael were getting married, Jessica? He doesn’t talk about you. There weren’t any pictures of you up in his house. Also, who do you think paid for my flight?” I said in the calmest, yet meanest way that I could.
She. Lost. It. Jessica starting yelling all over again, so I hung up again. I couldn’t even understand what she was saying. She devoted the next two days of her life to calling my cell phone. It was becoming commonplace to have 25 missed calls from Jessica when I got out of class.
When she stopped calling me, Michael called to tell me that he and I shouldn’t talk for a while. I didn’t talk to him for a year or two after that. I was disappointed, but I understood.
Michael and Jessica never got married. Michael and I, however, reconnected and continued dealing with each other for years after the phone-a-thon with Jessica. Michael and I had no concept of a clean breakup. We talked on the phone multiple times a week, and we still saw each other a few times a year, whether I had a boyfriend or not.
I brought my unresolved issues with Michael into every relationship that I had after him. Every boyfriend I had knew about Michael. One boyfriend asked me to stop talking to Michael; another asked me to change my phone number, so he wouldn’t have it; another asked me to destroy my pictures of him. But what they didn’t understand was that Michael and I always found our way back to each other, no matter who changed their phone number, email address or physical address. It didn’t matter if we stopped talking for a year, it didn’t matter who initiated the break in contact, or who rekindled the contact. We always reconnected.
The last time I saw Michael was years ago in NYC. We decided to hang out, despite us being in relationships with other people. Our phones rang. Neither one of us answered them.
We planned to hang out one more time in NYC while I was married. I drove from Connecticut to NYC, but once I got there, I just kept driving. I kept driving all the way to Philly and visited a friend instead – one I knew who could talk me out of doing something I might regret later with Michael.
When I didn’t show up, Michael called my phone like Jessica that weekend. I always wondered why he was so upset about that. I thought that with our circumstances and obligations, it was clear that either of us could flake at any time.
So now, it’s been 16 years since I first met Michael. I still struggle with letting myself love someone as deeply as I loved him. We shared so much together, and I’ve spent so much time trying to forget that our relationship happened. It’s unreasonable and would be a huge disservice to myself if I tried to down-play my experience with him. Michael and I have had hundreds of hours of conversation. I still fold bath towels the way he showed me when we were sophomores in college. I still listen to certain songs because of him. Some of my relationship with Michael was dysfunctional, but at the end of the day I’m grateful that we shared a part of our lives together.