What would you say?

A buddy of mine struggled for nearly five years with a breakup. In that time, he didn’t date, he just minded his own business, he endured many hardships alone, from the loss of his job (twice) to the loss of his dad in the last month to COVID. I remember one day calling him out to go to dinner with another friend and myself, after his first layoff. He was buzzing from day drinking beers for the last few days. He was still dazed, angry about losing his girlfriend of five years. She left without any explanation, putting the blame on him, the typical bullshit of “If you knew me well enough to keep me, you would have…” I wasn’t sure he was going to survive that day, but he did. He kept going.

The year before he went over and over in his head what had happened, driving himself crazy with how he could have done things differently. How he could fix it (as men tend to do–we fix stuff). There was nothing he could do. She was hostile, threatening him with legal action if he continued to contact her. He really hadn’t done anything wrong. It took a couple years but eventually he stopped venting to me about her. He started talking to other women online, though he didn’t really date anyone. Sometimes her name would come up in conversation, but it often shifted from missing her to what he would tell her if he got the chance, and it was never good. He was hurt, angry, but damn if he didn’t stop loving her.

A couple nights ago, he called me to tell me that his ex girlfriend, after being gone for over four years, contacted him. She apologized for how things ended. They have been talking again. He didn’t unleash a vile tirade upon her that would have killed her lawn for at least a few years. He listened. He sat for a few nights in his own head, turning over what she had said again and again until he was exhausted. I don’t know what will become of them. I wish them both luck, however it turns out. You see, they aren’t the same people they were four years ago. I have my guesses as to why she decided to break her silence after all these years. And I also know that he never got close to getting over her.

Again, I wish them luck.

If I had to call it, I would say that she ran across a slough of losers and realized that the man she left she had taken for granted. The grass is always greener, but that’s usually because of all the bullshit fertilizing it.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I would say to an ex-girlfriend if they ever reached out to me. I’ve thought about it again and again, and really I don’t know. I can’t even slip into that writer’s space where I can create an entirely different life and timeline to suss it out. Maybe that’s because I truly believe the likelihood of it happening (or wanting it to happen) is zero, so why even entertain the notion? I’m not the same person I was a year ago.

It just really hasn’t occurred to me until now.

I’m more cautious, more guarded. Content for the most part. Patient. Termially optimistic. Still romantic, but hopeful, not hopeless. I also think that there comes a time when doors close for good and a guy ought to be fucking aware of it. I’ve been through the gaslighting, the mental abuse, the Michelin star rated codependent relationships where I accept abuse so I can get sympathy and achieve martyrdom. I’ve gotten to grow past that. I get to look at red flags now and see them for what they are.

I’m not sure I could welcome someone back with open arms who had left me to go on a four year World Tour of Dicks like it was sampling beer on Friday nights at Old Chicago. Like nothing happened. Maybe I’m not as mature as I hope to be.

What would you say to an ex? Especially a long-lost love, the one who got away, if they contacted you?