For most, the holiday season brings happiness and the spirit of generosity. In NYC, fire escapes are decorated with Christmas lights, wrapped presents sit underneath winter white (if you’re fancy) synthetic trees, and family members gather to chug Heinekens and have merengue dance-offs.
‘Tis the season to be merry’ and with it comes traditions and the return of all things – including the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story and Pedrito Fernandez’ burrito song where he sings, “Tuki, tuki, tuki, tuki.” But not all things that reappear are as enjoyable as a good flick and a cheesy Mexican holiday tune. There is also the return of long lines at airports, frenzied gift shopping, and bitter winters and slush. Worst of all? The inevitable emergence of the ghosts of exes past.
Twas the night before Thanksgiving and I received a text message from a familiar number. “Happy Holidays to you and your family,” it read. I hesitated before making any sudden moves. Should I reply with a generic Hallmark message of my own? Should I ignore the text, pretending my first boyfriend, George, didn’t send me a joyful holiday wish? None of the above. Instead, I dialed his number. It rang twice before George’s voice boomed through the earpiece. It sounded just as I remembered: high pitched and gleeful. His overzealousness was always a point of contention between us. My cynicism was not impressed and I wanted to beat the shit out of him when he ran his mouth like a schoolgirl (that’s fast and often). So, why was I calling someone who annoyed me? Because Elijah met Conchita. Since then, bouts of affection and quality time were replaced with distance and detachment. He called less. I spent the night less. He opened up less.
I didn’t know how to fix it. So just like a lonely woman during the holiday season, I needed attention from someone who worshiped me. That had always been George.
After some small talk, George was curious as to why I had called. He was surprised, he said. Didn’t expect me to return his text with a text never less a phone call.
“Don’t read into it,” I replied curtly. I didn’t want George fantasizing about my hot, Dominican nakedness as he told me he had many times during our relationship, during our break-up (sex), and after we had gone kaput. To convince him his penis would never poke at my vagina again, I went on to tell my ex-boyfriend about my new boyfriend, Elijah. I bragged. Told him how well things were going in my relationship and how happy I was. Told him how my family loved my new boyfriend. He went on to tell me about his last relationship. How she had gone through his cell phone and was envious of his relationship with his co-workers.
“You were never like that with me,” he said.
I sensed his regret. It felt good, but regardless of how reaffirmed and reassured this ghost made me feel, I wanted no part of the past. That’s when I switched gears.
“Listen, I would prefer it if you didn’t contact me. I don’t think you can treat me as a friend, and I don’t want to disrespect my boyfriend.”
George didn’t take it lightly. I had called him, after all. I repeated that my intention wasn’t to rekindle or reconnect. It was only a curiosity that needed to be scratched, lightly and quickly. But George had returned with a purpose. He dug up the past, scattering brittle fragments and remains throughout the conversation. I listened, rolling my eyes as he apologized for not opening up when we were an item. At 24 years old, George was my first official relationship. But it was so long ago. Two years ago to be exact. I didn’t want him. I didn’t love him. I never did.
George was relentless, he kept convincing. But I was always tougher and rougher around the edges. I cut him off mid-sentence and said adios. Once George’s ghost went poof I dialed Elijah’s number, ready to fess up to my emotional indiscretion.
“Hey, I need to tell you something,” I spat out.
“What’s going on?” He asked, his voice flat.
I told him that my ex-boyfriend returned, wishing to change the past and renew our bond. How I shot him down with assertion. I told him everything and he listened. Elijah didn’t yell. He didn’t ask questions or express any concern. My reconnecting with an ex didn’t seem to matter.
“Actually, I have to talk to you about something,” he responded carefully.
“What’s up?” I cooed, unaware of the impending death that would come upon us.
“I spoke to my ex-girlfriend…and I’m really confused about what I feel.”
My eyes welled up with tears. It hurt to hear the rest.
“I wanted to wait to speak to you in person but I didn’t want to pretend like everything was ok. I need some time to figure things out.”
I struggled to catch my breath. I wanted to scream. I wanted to sob loudly and violently but maintained my composure, if only pretend to be unaffected.
“We’ll talk more when you come back from Thanksgiving break,” he affirmed tersely.
I shook my head vigorously, containing my cries before squeaking, “Fine.”
“Sujeiry, I’m not getting back together with her. It’s not about that. Remember that,” he expressed, warmer now.
I cleared my throat, utilizing all the strength that I could muster, and agreed we’d speak about it in person. I hung up and cradled my face in my soft hands. Tears dripping from my eyes like water drips from the faucets of antique sinks; no matter how tightly they are closed they always come undone.
I’d come undone.
The ghosts of exes past had resurrected. I was prepared to bury them but Elijah wasn’t. He held on to the shovel, one foot on the moist soil and the other on solid ground. He allowed her spirit to haunt our relationship.
I could always feel her, lingering.