(as told on the Moth)
I had just gotten out of a serious relationship so, as one does, I moved to Paris. I rented a beautiful little apartment just outside the city, and spent my days working from home, eating croissants, and drinking wine. The intention of my stay was to take time to truly listen to myself. To trust my instincts and follow my joy.
One night I ventured out to a piano bar and made friends with the singer. She invited me to go for a run followed by a picnic the next day. So we met up, ran, and then headed to meet her friends who were already there. One of them, a guy who you might say looked like Jon Snow, was very excited about a bar nearby where a guitarist plays songs and everyone sings together at the top of their lungs. It sounded like Marie’s Crisis in the West Village - one of my favorite places on the planet - so I knew it would be my kind of bar. A few of us went.
I don’t know exactly when I noticed that he & I were vibing. We were laughing and singing and drinking. We’d go outside and chat with other people but I would find myself aware of his presence, wherever he was. By the end of the night, he and I were the only ones left. I was having the best time - I had followed my joy all day, and there was a peace & ease to it. When we left the bar he looked at me and said, “I like you.” His directness sent a wave of excitement through me. I responded with, “I like you too.”
We spent an incredibly sexy night and morning together. We laid in the sun by the canal in the afternoon, and he walked me to the train. We PDA’d our goodbyes, exchanged numbers and left it with, “we should do this again sometime before you leave.” I was glad for the openness of it.
After a couple of weeks I decided to text him. No reply. A day goes by. And then another. Still nothing. I started to question everything - did I make it all up? Was I reading our chemistry wrong? Am I crazy? In moments like these, my brain is very adept at picking up a story and running with it. The winning narrative was: he is having second thoughts about this whole herpes thing. I tested positive for genital herpes 4 years ago and went through what I like to call a quarter-ish-life identity crisis. I’m at a place of acceptance with it now that I’d never thought I’d see, but doubt still rears its head in moments of vulnerability. Like that night, when I told him about it before we “got busy” - I was nervous he’d reject me. He didn’t then. But maybe his silence is a rejection now.
Two days later my phone buzzes. It reads: “Hey! Would have been great! It was nice hanging out with you but a mistake...Take care and be happy.” My heart sank in disbelief - me? A mistake? I mean, there’s been a bad breakup or two that I assume some of my ex’s would have preferred to avoid, but the weight of “mistake,” was heavy. It was the herpes. It had to be. He had gone home and decided the risk wasn’t worth it. There was no other logical explanation, so that was the story my heart & head decided was truth.
Still, I wanted confirmation that it wasn’t about who I was, but about this baggage I happen to carry around. Naturally, I decided hearing it from him would make me feel better. So I responded with: “Sure. Do you mind if I ask why it was a mistake? (I’m a big girl, I can handle an honest answer :)” No reply. A day goes by. And then another. Still nothing. In the midst of being ghosted I realized that I was wanting him to give me something that I could give myself - I am kickass. And while getting that text was jolting, I know I am resilient. So I texted him: “Never mind. Take care! (peace emoji)” & moved on.
8 days later, my phone buzzes. It reads: “Hey! Sure! Sorry for the late answer blah blah blah... The mistake was definitely not because of you!! I’m engaged and we were in a bad period when I met you, she had just cheated on me...somehow I feel I used you (flirty emoji), hope you don’t mind. Apart from that I definitely enjoyed our interaction and discussions.”
Now, I ‘d made peace with the whole thing before this, but as soon as I read he was engaged it became remarkably clear that jumping to the conclusion that it was about me and my baggage was so automatic, I hadn’t entertained the fact that it could be about him and his. I immediately felt lighter & oddly, happy because the realization that I wasn’t the only one with baggage to claim made mine feel nonexistent. Who knew that being the other woman could bring so much joy.