“It’s a truth universally known that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”
– Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’ Diary
I don’t ask for much. A job, a place to live, some cool animals to enjoy my life with, good friends. Maybe even a little (a lot) of booze from time to time (often). Sometimes I even ask to win lotto even though I never buy a ticket. What I absofuckinglutely do NOT ask for is to ever bump into any of my deranged exes. I mean, why would I? So we can have an unpredictable and awkward encounter of some sort, generally involving either a death-stare stand off or an utterly superficial conversation that usually ends in one, if not both, of us all-but RUNNING in the opposite direction to get away? No thank you!Alas, it’s MY life we’re talking about and it would seem that God has QUITE a sense of humour.
One bleak and dreary Monday morning a couple of months back, I bumped into the BFFL (Grimes) on the train and we walked to work together from the station. We gabbled in standard conversation about how our lives have been in the 24 hours since last we spoke. Grimes’ building is behind mine and to get to it, he walks underneath my one; which entails crossing the road to the main entrance of my place of work. It was here, on that bleak and dreary Monday morning a couple of months back where I was stopped-dead in my tracks, mid-sentence at the traffic crossing. Across the road, in a high-vis vest over a Security Guard uniform stood what looked like my most recent ex;The Bodybuilder.
I immediately shielded myself behind Grimes and sheepishly asked “Is that…? Is that THE BODYBUILDER??”. Grimes looked over, chuckled mildly, and said “Yep. Sure looks like it.”. I felt like the ground beneath my feet was falling away from under me as a wave of nausea took over my body. I groaned just in time for the lights to go green and we had to cross. Walking as close as I could to Grimes (so as to keep out of the eye-line of The Bodybuilder), I found myself trying my best attempt to be incognito whilst, more than likely, looking like some sociopath who forgot her meds that morning.
Once on the other side of the road, Grimes and I had to part ways. He took the stairs leading under my building to the pathway that leads to his, and I frantically rummaged through my handbag looking for my phone to use as a distraction/way to avoid The Bodybuilder’s glare – which I felt burning into the back of my skull as if I were a tiny ant and he were a 6 year old with a magnifying glass. I rushed down the main walkway that leads to the entrance of my building trying very hard to seem calm and nonchalant (definitely looked like a loon off my meds) and threw myself through the main doors; leaving The Bodybuilder out at the crossing doing his very rewarding job of watching people cross the road and ensuring they’re not jay-walking (lest they be hit by a car). Scanning my security pass at the gates that finally had me out of his view, I realised I was shaking from the shock and adrenaline of this woeful surprise. What a loser.
Once the shock wore off (which took hours), I started the standard procedure for such an event; I texted my squad. Every one of them replied with laughter and comments about the awkward situation and (in most cases) how “it can only happen to you”. Fucking excellent.
Then it became a hostage situation. Well, sort of. I refused to go to the ground floor for any reason other than exiting the building at the end of the day. I found myself going to the cafeteria within our building to buy lunch (which is almost always terrible) to avoid the ground floor. What if he was there again? What if I got in a lift and he was already in it, on some weird Security Guard mission in the building? I’d be stuck for fuck knows how many floors having to pretend I was part of the wall. God forbid I look at him! And this was just day one!
That afternoon, I mustered all the courage I had at the end of the day to pick up all of my belongings and walk out of the building. I was nervous, spooked, cowardly. I just could not be arsed dealing with his existence. So the minute my elevator landed on the ground floor, I called the boyfriend (Gentleman Jack) to engage in some kind of conversation which would serve as a distraction as to why I couldn’t possibly make eye-contact with this idiot. How could I when I didn’t even ‘see’ him? I decided at that point that the best course of action was ignorance; just pretend you didn’t notice him. Ever.
I went home and vented to Jack about my day (he spent most of it laughing at my infantile response to such a situation) and we left it at that. But the next morning, as I got ready for work, I prepared myself for a potential repeat of the prior day. On the train, I thought to myself, Maybe he was just here for the day yesterday. Maybe today he’ll be gone.
Once off the train and walking through the tunnel that leads to my building, I looked as far ahead as possible to see if I could spot that offensive vest and the person it held. And sure as rain will fall, there he was; standing there, hands clasped together at the traffic lights ‘monitoring’ the walkers. And what appeared to be searching… He was looking at each and every person as they crossed the road. When it seemed he was unfazed by the faces he was seeing, he looked up toward the tunnel I was just about to walk out of and we locked eyes. I realised right then and there, it was me he was ‘searching’ for. FUUUUUUCK.
Obviously I went into a panicked frenzy – immediately looking down as if I hadn’t noticed him (he fucking knew I did!), fishing through my bag for my phone AGAIN to find something to be a distraction (which happened to already be in my hand – so I was holding my fucking phone whilst searching my goddamn bag FOR my fucking phone – GAH!). Realising I was holding it, I finally got to the lights which had just turned green for the walkers (thank fuck). I buried my face in my phone and pretended to be typing (which I was doing on an unlocked/black screen)… I sped down the walkway to the entrance of my building, again feeling his glare on my skin like someone was holding a hotplate against it. I rushed through the gates that got me out of view and walked over to the wall on the left and pressed my back to it like those women do in slasher movies whilst trying to hide from the killer; practically hyperventilating. The entrance gate Security Guard was so concerned, he came over to ask if I was ok. I awkwardly smiled and pushed myself off the wall “Yep! Never better… Neeeever better.”; looking around nervously to see if The Bodybuilder was now inside for whatever reason. After clearing myself, I walked over to my elevator-wing and went about my day.
That night I went home and vented my spleen AGAIN to Gentleman Jack. He laughed at how ridiculous I was and just said (in his very posh, English accent), “Darling, don’t you think it would be better just to bite the bullet and acknowledge him? Just say ‘Oh hi!’, get it over with, and move on. Be a grown up, please.”.
….well when you put it like THAT..
So on day three I walked through that tunnel with my head held high (still terrified as shit on the inside), no phone in my hands, looking dead-on at the traffic walkway. No Bodybuilder.
I walked out onto the street where the light was still red for crossing and I looked around; no Bodybuilder.
Ok. Now I’m mad.
I mean, I’m fucking READY, cunt! Where the shit are you?! UGH!
As I crossed the road I pulled my phone from my bag to check the time (wondering if the café was open yet – I was starving; as per) and noticed it was 7:15 am. Oh that’s right, I thought to myself, I took the early train this morning. Remembering how the world of Security works from when we dated, I figured he must start work at 7:30 am.
Which potentially means he finishes at 3:30 pm…
Which also means he’d probably be on a break between 11:30 am and 12:00 pm (which is when I need lunch – have I mentioned my love affair with food?).
This is GREAT news! All I have to do to avoid this guy forever is turn up BEFORE 7:30 am, lunch BETWEEN 11:30 am and 12:00 pm, and by 4:00 pm (when I finish work) he’ll be gone.
Best. Day. Ever.
I glided across the street and through the entrance gates and over to my elevator wing and up to my floor. I joyfully logged on to my computer, sang ‘good morning!’ to anyone who was in the office, and I sat down to begin my day. At 11:45 am, I decided to head out for lunch (I generally do this anyway to avoid the crowds – the lifts are FUCKED from 12:01 pm). I swanned over to the lifts, hit G for ground and hummed a Blondie song while I waited. Coming out of the lift, I headed to the exit gate (which is on the opposite side of our building in comparison to the entry gate) to scan myself out. As I did this, I raised my head to greet the lovely Security Guard who usually stands in front of that particular gate. Instead, I came face to face with The Bodybuilder. He was already looking at me when I looked up. I froze for what felt like FOREVER (it was like 2 seconds) and suddenly remembered Jack’s advice; just get it over with.
So I slapped on an awkward smile, walked the whole three steps over to him and said “Ha! What are you even doing here?”. He laughed and said “I work here now.”. Feeling my temperature rise, and the acute need for a cigarette, I said “Oh”.
“…like…always?”, I continued. He smiled said, “Yes. I have a contract here now. Five days a week”.
“Oh,” I said again, more awkward than the first time (if that’s even possible). “Since when? I haven’t uh…seen you around..before…today.” (suddenly my neck was itchy). He replied “About two weeks now. I’ve seen you! You’re always in early.”. Scratching my intensely itchy neck, I looked at him with mock-surprise “Two weeks?” I said (in a pitch only dogs can hear – why the fuck am I so awkward??), “I had no idea!”
Scratch, scratch, scratch.
Then I rummaged through my bag for my phone and quickly said “Well, I best be off. Nice seeing you!” as I walked briskly (practically ran) to the exit of the building.
Once outside, I took a deep breath of fresh air and calmed myself. Well, I thought, that wasn’t so bad. It was only when I lit a cigarette that I realised my hands were shaking and the itchiness on my neck was now a full-blown rash. Why? For the love of fuck, WHY is this man here in my building? Why do I have to look at him every day and become a complete idiot when he’s here? WHY CAN’T I BE NORMAL AND JUST IGNORE HIM LIKE ANY OTHER BITCH WOULD DO?! Arrrgh! So awkward. Anyway, I came back to the building ten minutes later (I generally eat at my desk) and he was nowhere in sight. Must be on a break, I thought. Well, thank fuck for that.
For the next week or so we would do the kind nod at each other as I crossed the road or came face to face in the building. Occasionally he’d try to make conversation which, OF COURSE, I managed to make awkward. But I survived. It wasn’t until a few days later, when Jack had come to visit me at finishing time, that things got more awkward (I know what you’re thinking; how is that even possible?).
I needed Jack to help me take event-materials down from the office to the car (parked underneath our building – which you have to exit through the front doors and walk onto the street to get to). It was just after 5:00 pm (I’d finished later than usual) and we were walking out through the lobby to the exit doors; arms stacked with boxes. Jack and I were chattering away as we walked through the door, when I looked up and saw that goddamn vest on that goddamn body. The Bodybuilder was on traffic duty again. What. The actual. Fuck.
I lowered my voice and said to Jack as we were walking, “Honey… See that man in the high-vis vest at the traffic lights?”; nodding my head in his direction. Looking over, Jack said, “Yes..?”. I said “THAT’S him. The Bodybuilder. My ex.”. I’m not sure what reaction I was expecting from him but this definitely wasn’t it:
*in a very loud cackle* “HAAA! Hahahaha! Oh darling! I am SO sorry!”
I stared at him in laughable horror.
“Hahaha!”, he continued, “My GOD have you upgraded!” as he slapped my bicep and continued to laugh hysterically.
Sigh. Thanks Jack.
Obviously The Bodybuilder had seen/heard us come out and looked over. I laughed back at Jack, rolling my eyes, and said “Shut up, you fuck.” and we continued on to the car-park.
The car-park exit is right on the street of that (now) infamous crossing and we had to sit at the traffic lights (right at the fucking front) while the pedestrians crossed the road. Longest thirty seconds EVER. The Bodybuilder kept glancing over to my car, slowly piecing together the fact that the man I’d just walked out with is now in my car with me and is more than likely my boyfriend. It was surprisingly interesting to watch – sadly, I felt quite smug about the whole thing. Yep, I have a person now and he’s so much fucking better than you! So childish. Will I ever grow up? Sigh.
After that I went back to avoiding The Bodybuilder. I cross that road with my head buried in my phone or whatever book I happen to be reading as I walk to/from the station. If he’s in the lobby when I come in or out, I just pretend I haven’t seen him and go about my day. The most ridiculous part is that I still look for plants to hide behind or walls to fade into just in case we’re in an unavoidable situation of being face to face.
Of course, I’m the laughing stock of the office. Particularly with Jerome (a friend and colleague in my building) who, if he’s not getting his way or I’ve said no to a work-related request, will gladly bring up the fact that my ex works downstairs and he STILL finds it hilarious. Just the other night at a social gathering, he brought it up and told everyone around us (who also happen to work in our building) about the whole thing. Thanks Jerome. You’re great. *rolls eyes* Even one of my girlfriends and fellow colleagues who’d heard about this laughed and said “Mel, he looks like he’s 12!”. THANKS GUYS! Very fucking helpful.
Anyway, my point is, surely I’m not the only freak who hides behind pot-plants and slinks along walls to avoid awkward encounters with exes. Equally, I’m sure there are more MATURE people out there who would have handled that situation much better. All I know is, this is my life and this shit is constant in it. Ex-boyfriends showing up at work, ex-lovers getting married after they’ve broken my heart, bumping into Tinder dates whilst out with Jack when they’re on THEIR Tinder date…
This. Is. My. Life.
Surely (hopefully) I’m not the only over-dramatic, ridiculous idiot in the world.
- Don’t be a dick (like me). Man-up and just get it over with. Say hello, get it out of your system and move the fuck on. Or, if the ex is particularly vile, don’t even acknowledge their existence. Just do you. I read somewhere that the best revenge is looking great. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and apparently happy looks good on me. Fuck that guy.
- Be grateful for the people in your life who support you through odd situations (Gentleman Jack – not all boyfriends would have reacted so reasonably – the friends that make fun of you because it makes you laugh and who hate him anyway because he was a fuck-tard). Be thankful for who you are now. That arsehole taught you so much about yourself and the life you want to lead now. He/she was a stepping stone to a better you, a better love, a better life. You do you.