My boyfriend broke up with his ex-girlfriend and never heard from her again. When he moved moved in with her, he gave away most of his furniture and belongings because they didn’t fit in her apartment. Of course, their domestic bliss was short-lived. After a massive argument, he came back to their apartment to find it gutted. She had left and taken everything with her. Well, he still had his paintings and his flat-screen TV — his dignity was another story.
Last year, when my boyfriend and I decided to move in together, he arrived with two boxes: the artwork and the television. I pulled up to our apartment with a truck full of furniture. My worldly possessions made up the entirety of our shared space. I brought stacks of kitchenware, bins of clothes, rooms of hand-me-down Ikea furniture and a tired mattress-set that had been a graduation present from my parents. Some of it was junk. Some of it felt haunted.
Unlike my boyfriend’s, all my past relationships ended in sometimes nice, tearfully typical ways. One guy left me to join the Peace Corps; another wasn’t ready to settle down. I think one of them was—swear to god—secretly in love with his sister, who looked just like him in a wig. My heart was occasionally ripped out from my rib cage, thrown off the roof of a small building and smashed by oncoming traffic.
I’m still “friends” with these guys on Facebook. Sometimes they show up in my News Feed, updating their status and smiling in photos with their grad school girlfriends (or their sister). My curiosity has totally outweighed any rational argument to cut ties. I suppose it’s not right to stay virtually attached, but I rarely sever Facebook friends—and why cut someone off years after the fact, anyway?
I expect to see my ex-boyfriends’ faces on my laptop. I do not expect to see them hovering over my kitchen sink.
But when I moved in with my boyfriend last year, my exes were everywhere. The apartment felt haunted by memories of former flames. There was the small pan I burned one morning when I made eggs for an ungrateful boyfriend’s breakfast in bed; his face peered at me from the blackened metallic circle. There was the couch one ex helped me move from Brooklyn, and I swore I could see the indent of his bizarrely flat ass in the cushion. Even my unmatched towels reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who took me to the beach—when I dried my hands, I could practically smell his salty cologne.
The worst offender was the bed. Shipped straight from a Sleepy’s warehouse, it was chosen for its size (full), its cost (cheap) and its durability (rock-solid). A five-year-old gift from my parents to help me get started in the city, it was on its last legs. Like dust mites, the memories of ex-boyfriends collected on the mattress, weighing it down with something invisible that no vacuum could ever fully clean. It smelled like hot tears and sub-par sex. The dent on one side from an ex-boyfriend mocked me. I woke up to nightmares of random arms and legs attacking me.
I threw out the old pan and replaced the towels. I bought a new Ikea couch and chose the color with my boyfriend in my mind—I think the blue matches his eyes. I couldn’t afford to replace to old full mattress set, so I bought new sheets. I guess they helped. In time, the nightmares subsided.
My boyfriend thought that the transition to our shared apartment was difficult, but never realized I was playing my own personal game of Ghostbusters. We’ve been happily cohabitating for over a year, and the
mattress is still uncomfortable—but it’s no longer haunted. Now, the boingy spring in my back reminds me of the time we jumped up and down to celebrate my new job. The dent is from my boyfriend’s weight. The
bed smells undelightfully like us.
Eventually we’ll upgrade to a queen-size mattress. Either way, my ghosts of boyfriends past no loner haunt my apartment. They’re out of my bed and sealed off in a little corner of my Facebook—right where
every ex-boyfriend belongs.