The year is 2024. It’s snowing outside, and my carefully curated anthology of media about doomed romance tagged ‘#webweaving’ has just hit 2,000 notes on Tumblr. I’m on my second rewatch of Fleabag, and Andrew Scott is telling Phoebe Waller–Bridge to kneel. I know how this story ends. PWB kneels, and I watch on anyway.

“This is a love story,” she says in a previous episode. I misprinted it on a sticky note that sits on my wall: "This was a love story." My ex–boyfriend has more followers than me on Instagram. Nine of them are girls named Caroline, which I know because I looked it up after seeing him play the song “Caroline” by Briston Maroney three times in the last forty minutes on Spotify. 7/9 of the Carolines are blonde. I am not. I’m also not named Caroline.

(Why does even this matter? We broke up two years and three months ago, jfc.) Because I don’t have TikTok (addictive personality, fear of losing control, and getting my brain eaten by the algorithm), I watch Reels while girl–rotting in bed at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. An artist sketches stars around the phrase, “There is a perfect version of you in my mind that I sometimes miss / And an awful version of you that I resent.” My ex-boyfriend has already liked the Reel. He’s the only person who’s ever made me feel truly loved. He started dating someone else three weeks after we broke up. When he called me on his birthday, we both said “I love you,” to each other.

That was last February. We haven’t spoken to each other in nearly a year.

Despite the abundance of Carolines, none are in my ex–boyfriend’s latest Instagram post. There’s actually no girls tagged in that post. Also, I’ve officially been single for a year and change now, after a we–don’t–talk–about–him second ex–boyfriend. These facts are entirely unrelated. (Are they?)

On a school night, past my bedtime, my eyes are burning, but I’m still staring at a computer screen. What I should be doing: reading that 48–page sociology paper for class tomorrow. What I am doing looking through his latest Spotify playlists for any hint of myself.

(For context, I introduced him to the song “Lose It,” by SWMRS. The chorus (prophetically) goes, “Yeah, if all my favorite songs make me think of you I’m gonna lose it.”)

There are words for this behavior, ranging from unkind (desperate, pathetic) to aesthetic (yearning, longing). There’s a white girl with a Stanley cup in my head chanting, “delulu is the solulu.” And it is delusion that sets in when I find a playlist first made in November, last added to a week ago, half composed of songs he used to play in the car with me.

I go to bed, that sociology paper left unread. The sun rises, and I wake up. I walk to class, I don’t slip on ice, the sun shines on my face, and all I know is this: We used to be part of each other’s lives, and now we’re not. All I have of him is a Spotify playlist, an Instagram post from November, a Reel he liked, and a phone call that ended a year ago. Paint strokes in the bittersweet picture of it all.

But there’s this too: when I’m having trouble sleeping, I imagine we reunite in our late twenties and fall in love again. If I believed in soulmates, I would think he’s mine.

SWMRS sings, “There’s still some space for the rest of our lives.” The Reel’s artist goes on to doodle, “I hope we can be friends again someday.” Fleabag’s hot priest says, “It’ll pass.” I’m writing in my journal, “At some point, my longing turned into grief.” #webweaving.

One of my 2024 outs is ‘living in the past.’ I just wrote a whole essay about my ex. (Thank God it’s an out and not a resolution.) 

Before I try again (and again and again) to let go of the past, here’s a scene from last February. I’m at rehearsal for a play, and a take–five has just been called. Someone asks our director, “Do you ever really get over your first relationship?” I’m busy eating barbecue chips and miss the answer, but we’re sharing relationship stories now, and I’m eager to share mine. I go to speak, but the words never come. How do you tell a love story you don’t believe is over yet?

Like this, I think. This is/was/is a love story.