In Which I Ran Into My Ex-Boyfriend

Soooooo, last week, I was walking out of a restaurant, minding my own business…

In Which I Ran Into My Ex-Boyfriend

It was a beautiful Brooklyn evening, with birds chirping and cars rumbling down the street. Alex and I had just eaten dinner at a little Italian restaurant, Frankies Spuntino, where we’d shared a tuna sandwich and two tomato salads that tasted like summer on a plate.

Now walking home, we were chatting about this and that, when I heard a voice behind me say: “Joanna Goddard.” Even during my slow-motion turn from front to back, I knew who it would be: my ex-boyfriend, whom I had dated, on and off, for five years in my twenties. Our final breakup had actually been the impetus for starting Cup of Jo, as a way to distract myself in the evenings from all the complicated feelings. It had been a decade, a marriage and two children since I’d seen him. Riding his bike, he pulled up to the sidewalk to say hello.

(Side note: If you saw your ex but they didn’t see you, would you stop and say hello? Personally, I would keep biking like my life depended on it. Or duck behind a car? Maybe it depends on your personality. I’m curious to hear what you would do…)

So, on with the story: My face turned bright red and I gave him the most awkward one-armed hug in hug history. Alex shook his hand. I couldn’t figure out what to say or exactly how to move or position my mouth. A catalog of thoughts ran through my brain: How do I look? What is Alex thinking? Is my smile remotely normal? My ex said he was heading to Frankies. I managed to pronounce some words about how we had just been. There was an awkward silence while we all stood around and I imagined sinking slowly into the ground. Then he said goodbye and headed off.

What is it about ex run-ins that turns you from a normal, reasonably articulate adult into a bumbling, sweaty non-person? Even when you’re happily married, there’s something about how well this other person knows you, how much time you’ve spent together, how deeply important they once were to you, how the ghost ship is sailing by with them drinking a beer on the deck, that makes you slightly stunned and paralyzed in that moment.

In the end, the weirdness lasted only 30 seconds, and we all went back to our lives. Alex and I headed home, hand in hand, to have salted caramel ice cream and read in bed and debate whether he should stop moving his toes. And that, my friends, was that.

So! Now, you share: When’s the last time you ran into your ex? How was it? Where were you? I want to hear everything!

P.S. My sister’s awesome dating tip, and 10 great reader comments on breakups.