I’m scared that it’s always going to be you. It’s not a bold fear, really. Not loud and vicious like the monsters I feared were under my bed as a child. It’s not debilitating. Not one that taps me on the shoulder and makes its way next to me at the dinner table each night. But it’s there, nonetheless — a quiet echo in the distance.
I’m scared that we missed something. That somewhere between tangled sheets, words left hanging in the air, too many Grey Goose and club soda’s, slamming doors, whispers of we’ll still be friends; that won’t ever change, and finally driving away in the dark of that cold March night, we missed a sign. That if we just looked up, it would be written in the night’s sky for us. Telling us we made a mistake and to turn around.
I’m scared that all I’ll ever be is stuck living inside of this heartbreak ghost town — that everything I do, everyone I touch, every person that fills your place will be haunted by your memory.
I’m scared that I’m always going to carry your ghost with me.
And it’s so damn unfair.
It’s strange when you lose someone who was so much a part of your narrative. We were a tangled web — intricately built and strangely elaborate. One that took precision, patience, and timing to weave together. Our web was never without flaws, but we were always willing to start over. And perhaps that was our downfall. Perhaps we started over one too many times. But each time a piece got knocked over, we rebuilt. We kept adding to the web, ignoring the mistakes. Ignoring the signs that did all but scream this web is a dead end, stop while you’re ahead. Years of building and rebuilding and weaving eventually wore on us and nothing could have stopped it from being destroyed completely. From a ravaging storm that washed away all the pieces of our web, leaving it unrecognizable.
And that’s how you learn to let go.
You learn that the pieces you thought fit together so well really didn’t hang as beautifully as they once did. So you walk away. Begrudgingly, at first. You avoid anyone with the same charm and charisma. You avoid letting anyone else talk to you with any hint of confidence that was remotely similar to his. You refuse to let anyone look at you in the same way he did. You refuse, at first, because you want so badly to still believe in that web. You want to believe that you can find the missing pieces in a hidden crawl space and glue them back together. You’ve done it before; you’ve pieced back together the broken mess. But this time was different. You start to resent things, people, and places, because no matter how hard you try to avoid the beach where you sat and listened to him tell you this time will be different, or the bench at the mall where he made promises for the future, or the basketball courts where you used to watch him play, you somehow still find yourself lingering. Hoping that if you go back, you’ll find that missing piece.
It’s a funny process, letting go. You have to dig a hole so deep and wide to bury them, but if you stray slightly from the blueprint of his grave, his ghost comes back.
You’ll kiss new people, and at first, it feels a bit like some profound betrayal. Like the ground beneath you is crumbling and you’re suffocating under the force of a sweet kiss. Like you’ve done something tragically wrong and you’ll never be able to fix your mistake. Like that kiss is going to ruin the already destroyed web. But then suddenly, somewhere along the line — maybe all at once, you start to forget. Really forget. You let in new love and flush away the thought of old love. You forget the way he always left a trail of his cologne on your pillow. You forget the nicknames he made for you. You forget the way he tortured you with his indecisiveness. You make new memories. You go to new parks and beaches. And it doesn’t feel a bit like betrayal or suffocation. It feels like freedom.
But that ghost always comes back. When you’re sitting next to new love, making future plans with him, talking about wishes and dreams, you realize that these were plans you once made before. That these dreams of a house on acres of land with a wrap around porch and wooden swing set were once future plans you made with your past. And you find yourself laying in bed at night with new love, with the hopes and dreams you’ve made together, and you replay it all in your head. How on earth did the ghost of loves past steal your ability to love presently? How did he steal the hope in your heart to move on?
This isn’t some sort of demand for a time machine to thrust me into the past. I’ve let go of that web. Years have passed, seasons have changed. We have changed. Where once stood young and foolish and so infatuated with each other, so wrapped up in our own little web, now stands two entirely different people. Still young, but older. Stronger. Maybe even a little harder. But I still find myself as emotionally unavailable as I was when this was fresh — when the wound was just starting to scab over.
It seems that every time I get close to throwing the dirt over your grave, your ghost comes back. Every taste of new love gets taken away and I’m left flat on my face.
Sometimes, I think my fear is more than being haunted by your ghost. Sometimes, I think I’m afraid to let anyone new fully in. Maybe it’s a fear that that person would leave too soon, so I leave before it can happen. I am self-destructive in that sense — only leaving the door to my heart slightly cracked, and shutting it before it gets too deep. If I’m being honest with myself, I realize how damn good I am at destroying any potential for love. Did I walk away because he called exactly when he said he would? Did I say no to that date because he was too charming, too charismatic, too much of a promise of something real? Was it because he wanted to talk about the future? Was it the way he looked at me like I was the only person in the room? Maybe because there was too much potential. Maybe too much hope.
What really scares me is opening that door fully and getting passed this. When I allow myself to fill those empty spaces, I’m afraid that you’ll still be there down the road. When I’m settled into my own life, married, with kids, and a career that I am so deeply passionate about, I’m afraid your ghost will still rattle my bones. When I’m having my morning cup of coffee and getting ready for work, while my kids are yammering on about the latest school gossip, and my husband is whipping up my favorite breakfast in the kitchen, I’m afraid your voice will still be an echo in my mind. I’m afraid that when I close my eyes, I’ll remember the way you made your coffee — dark, but extra sweet. And I’ll remember just how embarrassed you were by it because what kind of man takes his coffee sweet? I’m afraid that when I’m out with my girlfriends, letting my hair down, and reminiscing on old times, I’ll take a sip of Grey Goose and club soda and the tart taste will propel me into the past. I’m afraid that I’ll always remember your crooked smile, and the way your head fell back when you laughed. But mostly, I’m afraid that years from now, I’ll look back with such profound and vivid recall, sit in that regret, and still be haunted by your ghost.
“And I’m worried…I, I’m afraid that he took away my ability to believe. And I hate him for that. Because I always believed before. And now I just feel lost. And I am, I’m trying to put myself out there, but I feel hopeless.” -Sex and the City
The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘That Ghost‘ by Megan and Liz
7 thoughts on “Cause One Day, Yeah Someday, You’re Gonna Be With Somebody, And That Ghost Is Gonna Be Coming Back.”
Oh my goodness can I relate to this! So well written. I often think of my exes as ghosts, and the process of moving on is such a complicated, winding road. It takes longer than I would have ever imagined. The ghost haunts me no matter where I am, creeping behind me when I laugh with someone new, when I’m alone, or when I’m sleeping.
Most recently, I have put on my armor and mask to guard myself from someone new breaking through. I want to be alone, and prove that I don’t need anyone. I may not be ready for someone to break through for a long time. But I’d rather be cautious than too trusting.
You describe the breakup process in such detail, and it’s so easy to relate to.
Aw I’m glad this resonated with you, and also a bit sad as well. The idea that a ghost has been haunting me has been rattling my bones a lot lately. Like you, I put on my armor and stand on guard, but even with a mask made of steel, that ghost is pervasive. For you and I both, I hope we are able to bury that ghost for good and make way for something new and better in the future.
Thanks for reading! xo
Thank you, and I hope we are able to move on to better things, too. The feeling of a ghost haunting my life is dark, but hopefully he’ll stop haunting me someday.
You get me.
The first song I thought of with Ghost was Ghost of Me and You by BBMak (I went through a phase in high school where I listened to them contantly). Also, good luck. I know this feeling. I know exactly who that ghost of my past is. I ended up moving on once I realized that we had grown too far apart and there was no way we were coming back together, but it took years. And the guy I’m with now has a lot of those same good qualities of that guy without some of the not so great ones. Best of luck figuring out what’s right for you and him, and remember while you’re trying to figure it out to still try to enjoy the adventure.
At 18 I felt the exact same way, and at 20 I am the exact same cliche. Well said,