We all have that one ex, don't we?
He's the one who absolutely tore your heart out and left you completely destroyed.
He's the one who casts a shadow over every relationship afterward.
Usually, it's the first one, before your heart starts to harden, and before your experience warns you about which ones to trust.
I was nursing a killer hangover on a beautiful Sunday, after a disastrous date the night before.
My apartment was a mess.
There were empty wine bottles everywhere, and my head was killing me.
I needed a distraction.
My phone beeped. An unfamiliar number was on the screen.
"Hey stranger," it started. "I know it's been a few years. I'm back in the country now, and I was hoping you would be free to catch up. It would be great to see you."
It was the ex.
My heart stopped.
It always does when I talk to him. In an instant, a million memories washed over me.
Before I processed anything, I quickly replied and told him to meet me at the bar down the road for a Bloody Mary.
I told myself I just needed to get out of the house.
Why not? I'm an adult. I'm stronger now.
I walked into the crowded bar and saw him instantly. He was sitting in a corner booth with two Bloody Marys in front of him and a look of sheer terror on his face.
As he looked up and saw me, his face split into that wide, familiar smile I know all too well.
After an awkward hug and a sh*t load of small talk about the weather, things started to feel normal.
This somehow led to us deciding to pick up some Thai food and watch the sun set from my balcony.
Part of me was still seething from that terrible date the night before. The other part of me was four Bloody Marys in.
All together, I was just enjoying the easy, flowing conversation and male company.
Warning bells were not yet ringing.
We collected our takeout and stepped into the elevator of my apartment building. I was laughing about something ridiculous, and he looked down at me with that distinct look in his eye.
Time actually stopped, and so did my breath. The first kiss was the stuff Disney movies are made of.
By the time the elevator arrived at my floor, his familiar hands had found their way into my skirt.
The sex was absolutely incredible. Bodies don't forget.
After being together and apart for five years, it was like no time had passed.
We collapsed together in a trembling, emotional mess.
His hands traced the curve of my back, and we whispered about our past, our history and all the other times we had been together like this.
Round two happened, and then round three. There were long, slow thrusts, eye contact and hand-holding. It was the whole shebang.
As I nestled into his chest, completely satisfied, I ignored the pesky voice inside my head screaming at me.
I didn't want to think about what this meant.
I just wanted to enjoy this moment of bliss.
I felt like I had come home.
He was running his fingers through my hair and telling me things all women want to hear, like how much he had missed me.
Just as I started to drift off, he abruptly moved out from under me and stood up.
"I can't do this," he said.
"This is f*cking with my head. I can't do it. I'm sorry," he muttered as he stumbled into his pants.
That's all it took: a soft kiss on the head, a whisper of "I'm so, so sorry" and the firm click of my front door.
I sat upright, partly in shock, trying to hold myself together.
How could I let this happen again?
I poured myself a stiff drink and lied down in the sheets that smelled of him, trying to force some sleep.
As I swallowed back the tears, I reminded myself, "I am stronger now."
"Tomorrow," I told myself. "Tomorrow is a new day."