Before you can reach the main hall of the building you have to go through another hallway, shared by The Italian on one side and His Ex on the other. This hall is a small space with a very high ceiling, no windows, filled with bikes, sports equipment and 3 doors: His, Hers and an old, heavy, squeaky door that leads to the main hallway of the building. I had my own set of keys and I’d been struggling with the old door since the beginning: when I finally figured out how to enter the hallway: I found out I couldn’t leave. The moment I stepped into the little hallway, his door closed behind me and the motion sensored light should’ve switched on like it always did. Except for that evening.
So there I was, trapped in a dark hallway in Madrid, jumping up & down in the darkness to the faint beat of a hairdryer, frantically waving my arms & trying to be as silent as I possibly could in this situation. Then suddenly door nr. 2 opened, a shadow jumped in front of me and the motion sensor FINALLY decided to grant me the wish of light. The sudden brightness surprised both me & the shadow, taking form of...His Ex. I stopped jumping mid-air, my arms above my head and I froze as her face fell when she realised I wasn’t The Italian. Then we just stared at each other for 3 really long seconds while the hairdryer behind door nr. 1 continued to play us the song of his people (old Italian people with good hair, that is) and it took me a while to remind myself to lower my arms. We entered the observation stage. His Ex was shorter than I imagined her to be, older, prettier, more athletic and next to her I looked like a pale giant. And although I first felt like I already ‘knew’ her after all the stories The Italian had told me, that changed the moment I looked into her eyes. It was obvious she’d been crying and that I was, without a doubt, the last person on earth she wanted to encounter right now. Let alone in her own hallway. We weren’t in my worst nightmare anymore: it was hers.
Her eyes fixed upon my face, she quickly took a step back when I broke the heavy silence by mumbling the obvious ‘thanks, I was stuck’ in a voice that didn’t sound like it belonged to me. She nodded, disappeared back into her apartment- but didn’t close her door. This would’ve been awkward enough, but NO, this was the moment that:
1) I still couldn’t identify the key that opened the old door to the main hallway.
2) The insensitive motion sensor failed me once more.
3) So within seconds I was standing in the dark again & this time I was openly being observed by His Ex.
4) Add some nervous laughter (mine to be clear) and she must’ve thought that I was-what I thought-she was. Crazy.
5) The sound of the hairdryer behind door nr. 1 abruptly stopped but was immediately replaced by The Italian who started loudly singing ‘But tonight…you belooohooong…to me’. Just great.
His Ex came back out to help me, the light switched on again and together we identified the right key. But even the right key wasn’t ending this strange situation: it got stuck IN the keyhole. We looked at each other and both said at exactly the same moment ‘this is….weird’, which made it infinitely weirder. After a minute of joint effort trying to free the key she looked at me and said with a trembling voice ‘Well…are you going to stay here…longer?’ I looked puzzled and she continued ‘I’m just asking because, eh, because if you are….you might need to replace this key.’ Part of me wanted to say ‘don’t worry! I’ll be gone in a day! And I’m not in love with him!’ but I knew this would probably give her false hope- I knew that even with me out of the equation her chances with The Italian were pretty much non-existent. I couldn’t look her in the eyes when I said, with an equally trembling voice, ‘well, ehm, we haven’t talked about that yet…’. Technically this was true since it never came up, because we weren’t even together. Then the old door startled us both by suddenly swinging open, abruptly ending this painfully awkward conversation. I thanked her again for freeing me and I then I ever so gracefully ran into at least two bikes & a doorpost -while tripping over my own feet- in my attempt to leave that hallway.
I realised two things when I met her. 1: I strongly disliked myself for judging her- based on what? The Italian. God knows what he’s been saying about me to his new ‘friends’. And 2: I felt sorry for her. Not in an ‘I pity her’ kind of way but in a compassionate way. I could relate to her. I’ll even go as far to say I’ve been in her shoes. I think most of us might have a ‘crazy’ ex somewhere in their past and there’s a chance you’ve been the ‘crazy’ ex at least one time in your life as well. I know I have. But the thing is, when you’re in love and whether it’s mutual or not: you might do stupid shit. You can’t really help it. For example; once upon a time, light years ago, when finding out I got cheated on and actually feeling like my heart was broken into a million pieces (feel my pain?), I removed ALL the light bulbs from ALL the lamps in his apartment when he wasn’t home. I am still childishly proud of it to be honest. Imagining him coming home at night and not being able to figure out why none of the lights would turn on nor to be able to find the bag full of light bulbs I hid under the bed still makes me feel better at times. It didn’t magically un-break my heart but this slightly immature revenge didn’t ruin his life either (just his evening), so no real harm was done.
When I got back to his place later that night, The Italian was still out and I thought about slipping His Ex the key to his apartment... Only for a couple of minutes, so she’d have just enough time to remove & hide all the light bulbs. It wouldn’t have made a big difference, but it might have made her feel better for a little while and sometimes that’s all you need to start getting over someone.
I wouldn’t have mind brushing my teeth in the dark for once.