Threes a crowd

I didn’t utter the words “I love you” again in a romantic context for more than two years...

Threes a crowd

by nyah


I have fallen in love with every boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. The same routine follows every time without falter: I hear about her in passing, He will tell me an anecdote that fleshes her out in real-time sonder, I will spend an evening combing over every woman in the city that even slightly matches her description, and finally I will spend months staring at her photos, fabricating a life I’m sure she’s living. It started as a means to make myself feel somewhat better – a friendly competition but as it goes on, I find a need to envelope pieces of her into myself as if the jealously of a relationship that both started and ended long before I wandered past their lives wasn’t enough, a jealously forms out of pure acknowledgement that other women with lives exist and excuse me if I will let that slide. 

The first girl, Emma was a tiny blonde little thing that studied mathematics and got confused for having a boob job – perfect envy material, if you ask me. She was funny and woke up on the left side of the bed and took her shoes to the cobbler once a month. She ordered those fancy lattes that cost upwards of $12 and had never stepped foot in an airport lounge. She had a photo pinned to her profile on vacation in the Bahamas, so I’d assumed that was her life; she did her equations and spent the afternoon lounged at some resort only to eventually get skin cancer in 20 years from all that sun damage. This is what soothed me. She had broken up with my boyfriend because she felt he was too immature for her, which was fair. He made money in some menial and probably nefarious ways and would constantly rave about late night TV shows and micro-dosing illicit substances, and he once told me, upon seeing me naked for the first time, I should ‘eat a burger’, so her reprehensive approach to being with him long-term always somewhat made perfect sense. Emma eventually would go onto meeting an investment banker and immediately falling pregnant with twins who’d be named Freddie and Eddie which sort of made perfect sense to me. She continuous to post photos of the four of them in the Bahamas and she recently posted on a blog about being ‘more content in her life than ever before’ and I know in my heart, she has no idea who I am, but still stings like a personal attack. I started ordering my own coffee under her name and even after he and I had long broken up with her ex, out of habit I still wait for her name to be called and my $12 latte to be waiting for me. 

The second girl, and perhaps the most influential was Haley. A strange girl with a strange name she stood at exactly my height and had the mousy girl look I so badly wished I could’ve pulled off. This boyfriend spoke of her with content, but I’d spend days of my life combing over her twitter profile, so I felt I had a better authority to decide she was perfect. She knitted and curated fabrics and she painted her own ex boyfriends which was significantly cooler than anything I had ever done in my entire life. She also had a proclivity to take a photo in the bedroom of every man she had ever slept with which I did spend an afternoon searching through until I found his which made me throw up on the sidewalk outside his apartment. For a project, I wrote a script about her only she was named Hannah and my boyfriend at the time had a similar alias name starting with the same letter. Cathartically, I wrote about their own breakup, the story he had told me about how badly she’d begged him to say ‘I love you’ after she’d said it first, only a month into their relationships. Apparently, it took weeks of crying for him to reply, which he shortly had taken back. When he finally did tell her he loved her, the words had lost all meaning -this also seemed to be the case when he told me he loved me which was something he reiterated when we broke up between horrible names and a statement of regret for ever meeting me. Admittedly, I didn’t handle it too well either when, several months later, he moved in with a girl who taught special-needs preschool. I didn’t utter the words “I love you” again in a romantic context for more than two years in solidarity with Haley, in hopes maybe she’d have done the same thing. 

Laura, the stocky little stand-up-comedian. I hated her for no other reason then I couldn’t really fathom how she previously fit into his life. She was about 7 years older than me and just as an idea, seemed like a terrible Seinfeld opening sketch, like what do you mean you dated this girl selling out shows at a festival? How would he look at her and look at me in a similar way? How could he think of us both as funny at the same time when her monologues begin in song and mine actually warrant a few laughs? I marched myself down to the soonest open mic night and paid a $20 cover to sit at the back and watch her set, just to know her better. She told a joke about hating the city, and something about politics before opening her set to the crowd, which was more than enough for me, so I sulked out the backdoor. My boyfriend’s best friend would describe her as ‘earnest’ as if that was an insult, so I quickly began to ignore any remarks made calling me the ‘favourite so far’, because I guess if being earnest is bad, I don’t really want to know what is good. One late night that had seemingly morphed into the morning in a matter of minutes and one too many gin and tonics I would hold my beautiful boyfriend’s face in my hands and tell him how I could never be mad at him. How he could never get on my nerves. How I would always adore him and think of him so highly. How even his smallest intricacies make me love him. He would laugh and tell me not to question his possible lack in experience, but “It’s the little things that seem to always be the undoing” and in that moment I knew she really would constantly be a piece of my relationship. Despite being utterly earnest and allegedly obsessed with my partner, she would always be the silent third – we would both constantly be thinking of her, and never actually acknowledging it. 

There is solace in this habit, though. For every ex-girlfriend I fantasise over and create elaborate life stories for, there is the potential new girlfriend doing the exact same thing for me. Maybe she rakes over the nameplate keychains in tourist stores for my unique lettering or she listens to the albums I leave behind. Maybe she visited my favourite city and a thought of me flickered across her mind. Or maybe she too is obsessed with Emma, Haley and Laura.


nyah's jealousy is all consuming and apparently brimming with inspiration. Good luck, babe!