When the dust has settled after a breakup, it’s often the items left over from the relationship that haunt, pester and drag you back into the past you’re trying so desperately to move on from. Here, four contributors tell us about an item they’ve kept from a past relationship.
Claire Brnjac // Contributor
I was 16, and I was having a meltdown in my ex-girlfriend’s bathroom. It was one of those ‘I’m-a-teenager-and-I’m-choking-on-my-emotions’ kind of cries, one that made one of her many cats meow at the door in confusion. My ex-girlfriend hovered nervously; I heard her footsteps go back and forth, to the couch, to the piano, to my door. I sat on the floor, face pressed up against the toilet bowl, wishing I could calm down. See, her crime was playing a song that I was extremely familiar with, the type of music I would hear playing at my grandmother’s house, just before she was in the throes of dementia. This was enough to barricade myself to the bathroom for the better part of twenty minutes. Feeling like a baby, I stole the soap from her sink and put it in my pocket before I trudged out to see her. It was lavender-scented and left a luxurious residue when you washed your hands with it, a welcome, heavy weight in my pocket as I left. In this moment, I felt totally in control of who we were—I stole the soap, she was rid of soap, and we were finally equal after many unbalanced conversations. I still have the soap, wrapped in many Ziplocs because evidently, soap starts to weep liquid when it hasn’t been used in more than five years. Sometimes I take it out to smell it, to remind myself of the bathroom and our backs pressed against each side of the door, waiting for the other to make a move.
The Brown Folder
Joss Arnott // Contributor
Buried deep within the bottom drawer of my Ikea cabinet lies a nondescript brown folder. A small cougar sticker seals the folder and protects what’s inside: the first and only love letter I’ve ever received. It’s from my first girlfriend; she gave it to me on our one year anniversary.
Against my better judgment, I can’t get rid of this folder. I’ve moved three times since she gave it to me three years ago, but I can never find the courage to throw it out. It’s a standoff between me and a fucking folder.
It’s not that I’m hung up on my ex— I’m hung up on her words. The letter is special to me because it’s proof that once upon a time, I wasn’t lonely. I was loved. Knowing that letter exists gives me hope that someday I’ll be loved again, that someone will come along who smiles at my dumb face and laughs at my awful jokes.
Even though the folder gives me hope, I know the letter’s words are likely sharp and liable to open up old wounds. I’m not the person that letter was written for, and I haven’t been for a long time. So despite my depressing reliance on this folder, I can’t summon the nerve to open up the damn thing again. That cougar continually taunts my ineptitude, but it’s probably for the best. Some things are better left buried.
I’m locked in this stupid stalemate with a brown folder. Unable to open it, unable to part with it. Perhaps one day, when I find love again, I’ll finally be able to part ways with this pesky relic. But until then, I’m stuck with my bland brown folder and it’s little cougar sticker.
Valeria Velazquez // Contributor
March 18 is my ex’s birthday. I wanted to paint a mural on his bedroom wall, but I couldn’t—it would be too time consuming, he would see what I was doing and it wouldn’t be a surprise. So instead I decided to give him two succulent plants and three hand-painted pieces of wood with a sweet message on the back of each. The plants would add some life, I’d thought, to his spiritless, plain white bedroom.
He put them on the window next to his bed and kept them there until it was time for him to leave. He wasn’t from Vancouver, and as much as we tried to find solutions to still be together long-distance, we decided it would be better if we just broke up. He would go to Sweden to do a masters program and I would stay here to finish my communications diploma. During the time the plants were in his room, they grew so beautifully and so much. I saw it as a symbol of how our love kept growing every day.
When the day came for him to leave, he gave me back the plants I gifted him so I could take care of them. I had to go to work that day and put them in my backpack. When I got home and opened my bag, I saw one of the plants was broken in half. It had fallen out of the small pot, with the roots hanging and just a few leaves left attached. The other one had just been slightly damaged. I tried to bring them both back to life but only one made it.
He is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met in my life, someone who’s taught me a lot through love. I still keep the plant on my bedroom window. I see it change and grow as time passes. For me, it’s a symbol of our relationship and a reminder that we’re both still growing—separately, but growing nevertheless.
Mixtapes and Memories
Kaileigh Bunting // Contributor
When I broke up with my boyfriend of almost three years, I was shocked at the sense of total weightlessness and freedom that accompanied the dumping. I found that breaking up wasn’t the hard part—the hardest part was when the endless stream of objects that had to be returned or evacuated from both our lives in the weeks following.
What I didn’t expect was for him to return all the little things I’d made for him over our three-year relationship: every birthday card, Christmas card, anniversary photo album, love letter and mixtape I’d crafted. He returned them because he “was going to throw them out otherwise,” and I think that was the most hurtful thing he could have done. I show my love through my actions and through the quality time I spend creating things for other people. These letters, photos and CDs gave him joy, and he threw them back in my face as if they had never meant anything at all.
Of course, almost eight months later, I understand that for him, it was because of that joy that these objects were too painful to keep. Now, I’m grateful he gave them to me instead of discarding them. To me, they represent a relationship I will always be thankful for.