While spending the holidays in Boston, a Ghost of Christmas Past visited me. Though I am far too young, cute, and Asian to resemble Ebenezer Scrooge, I too was surprised at the unexpected presence of a ghost. The spirit in question was my ex-fiance Adam, with whom I spent four years in a relationship, and who I hadn’t spoken to since breaking up in highly argumentative and angry circumstances in 2001. The last time I had glimpsed him was four years ago at a café—where I sat down to have lunch, and he called for the check in the middle of his meal.
In the five years that have passed since our breakup, a ghost would materialize in moments I remembered our shared past. When I bought the collector’s edition of the Trainspotting DVD, I remembered watching it with Adam on the big screen at a British Film Festival held in Manila. If I ever looked at a picture of Elle Macpherson, Adam’s instructions of pronouncing her surname properly with an Australian accent automatically came to mind, softly drawling “Muck-fuhr-son.” Whenever I peered at friends preparing barbecue grills during summertime, Adam’s anecdote about his uncle Ian singeing his eyebrows off promptly motivated admonitions to take care with the lighter fluid. Though each memory is benign as well as endearing, the ghost accompanying it would hiss, “You’re no longer on speaking terms.”
Like a stoic determined to carry on, I did my best to stop thinking about our old relationship. Especially when the ghost said he hated me, and would never forgive me for breaking off our engagement.
Yet that ghost wasn’t present over the Christmas holidays, nor was it uttering internally cancerous words. The spirit that had haunted my memories was nowhere to be found in the delightful text message reply on my cell phone, nor did it characterize the warmth in Adam’s lower-sounding and gravelly voice while we spoke for ten minutes in a long distance call from Australia. No chain-wielding ghost could have interrupted as we laughed at how a box of sex toys we’d given as a wedding present for the newlyweds to open in private was instead opened by the bride’s mother-in-law, marveled at how our younger siblings were now young twenty-something adults instead of perpetual sources of adolescent irritation, and winced at entering our thirtieth decade. If a black spirit had been present, our goodwill would have drowned it. Especially upon recalling the time Adam and his friend Wayne threw away a plastic shopping bag’s worth of marijuana down a garbage chute.
Though Adam elicits thoughts of my younger years like the Ghost of Christmas Past, his presence wasn’t terrifying or painful anymore. Nor did he resemble Dickens’s abstract concept of the spirit itself. Adam was simply himself in human form. He is the guy I met at a debate tournament (and who I unsuccessfully competed against); the man who earned many Steven Seagal jokes for carrying a resemblance; the friend whose company, love, and outlook were invaluable. His voice no longer registers with the hatred, rage, and bitterness I heard in our last arguments together, a tone the ghost expertly mimicked and manipulated. Instead, I hear him saying, “I’m glad to have your friendship back.”
A few days ago, before midnight struck last New Year’s Eve, I opened every door, cabinet, and window in my apartment. My parents encouraged the custom every year, saying it released bad luck while welcoming good to take its place. But as I walked through my house, I realized that one hateful avatar was no longer present in my heart, and that several walls were gone. When midnight rolled around, Adam was the first person I sent a text message greeting to.
Though I write and share this story without a particular moral to speak of, I wish to emphasize something I feel: joy. The word feels foreign and strange to use in telling this story, for it has been years since Adam and I could welcome it appropriately in regard to one another. Yet there it is in three letters, dancing in my heart and bringing tears to my eyes: I have one of my best friends back.
An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.
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1.8.07 @ 10:34a
A few days ago, before midnight struck last New Year’s Eve, I opened every door, cabinet, and window in my apartment.
What a great tradition.
This year we could have done that too, without even waking the furnace.
1.8.07 @ 11:57a
What kind of a stupid name is Adam?
1.8.07 @ 12:58p
This is beautiful, Alex, just beautiful. Although, for a minute there, I was trying to figure out when Adam K started copping an Aussie accent.
1.8.07 @ 5:46p
Ah Ken, heaters and furnaces don't count with the tradition. But your refrigerator door does.
According to behindthename.com, Adam has several meanings, among which are "man" and "to be red". The second one's unexpected, since every Adam I know is pale, white, and and ghostly. Which brings us back to the Ghost of Christmas Past. (Even with you being Jewish, Adam K!)
I don't believe I've ever heard Adam K cop an Aussie accent or elicit any Steven Seagal jokes. But hey man, he broke the law. (That's, like, exciting. Very "man.")
1.10.07 @ 11:04a
Well, the actual derivation of "Adam" is the Hebrew "Adamah" meaning Earth, I believe.
So "of the Earth," more or less. Which explains "Man" (as in 1st) and also "red" (as in Sonja).
It all goes back to God creating man from the dust of the earth or something.
1.12.07 @ 12:26a
There seems to be a lot of letting go of the past, moving on, etc., this year. Nice.
A shopping bag's worth of weed? Sigh. It must be nice to look back on an ex and not hate them.
1.12.07 @ 7:12a
Adam, as you know from my other comments, your manliness is not in dispute at all. I suppose, however, that "red" applies from no sunblock in the summertime.
Hi Robert! Yes, it was a shopping bag's worth of freshly acquired weed- and the boys were crushed when they realized couldn't dumpster dive to rescue it.
Our ex-significant others give us relationships that define the standards we want, as well as the things we hope to never see. Some, like Adam, were worthy lessons of love and growing up. Others were scarring, yet lessons handy to learn anyway.
At the end of the day, I can choose to keep a ghost, or I can bury the hatchet and stop shadowboxing. I'll never be able to completely excise a ghost; there are things with every relationship I'll remember, good or bad. But ghosts don't have to howl.
1.12.07 @ 7:42a
While you demurred about the moral of the tale, I would like to point out that there are actually two morals: time can indeed heal most wounds and forgiveness is divine. (I use "divine" metaphorically, of course!)
A very poignant and valuable story.
1.12.07 @ 6:10p
Thanks Sandra :-)