Feature Image: THE POWER AND THE PASSION, ill. PAUL RADER
Amsterdam-based writer Wen Hsiao's dating & relationships column: "I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing."
Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
I hate hearing “I told you so” from my friends. While they have indeed “told me so,” it went in one ear and out the other, so clearly, the rebuke is meaningless.
Those who have known me since high school know that, up until a year ago, I used to almost exclusively write about my personal life (read: relationships). Whenever I found myself between a rock and a hard place — before I could even process my own emotions — I would go running into the arms of my editor with a pitch. I took the whole “write what you know“ thing quite literally.
I am always writing. I write for school, I write for work, and in the little time I have left, I write for myself. Somewhere in the clickety-clacks of my keyboard, I find a little comfort. Each story is like a long-overdue therapy session: everything I can’t bring myself to say, I have been putting into my writing.
This column is one of those pitches rushed off to an editor, conceived to capture the lessons we learn the hard way, with a little help from my friends.
I met Rye on the first day of class.
She told me she only sat down next to me because she liked my red hair.
We both met Asher when he decided to finally show up to class. It was halfway through the course, and an hour into the class already. He walked in hastily and slipped into the seat across from us.
In a class filled with fidgeting 20-year-olds, even I’d have to admit, a laid-back, cocksure, six-foot-tall brunette man stuck out like a sore thumb, and could crack the toughest of shells.
As he sat back and kicked his feet up on the desk, Rye leaned over and whispered to me, “Who is he? He’s cute.”
“He looks like an asshole.” I said, jokingly.
“That’s the point.” She said, not so jokingly.
And that was it. They never saw each other in class again. Asher continued not showing up to class, and Rye continued sitting next to me. As the fall semester ended, it seemed like that brief barely-encounter was the end of it.
Little did I know, I was wrong.
I found out that they were dating the same day I found out they broke up. Three months after the course ended, Rye texted me, asking me to come over, “no questions asked.” The second I showed up at her front door she dropped to her knees and broke down into tears.
Between her weeps and whimpers, I pieced together what had happened in the past three months:
Rye had found his Instagram after that very first class. After much (too much) back and forth, impulsivity won that round. Rye followed Asher on Instagram, and in just a few short minutes, he followed her back.
From there, Rye and Asher went on one date after another. She listened to all of his favorite songs and he watched all of her favorite movies; she told him everything she was too scared to say out loud, and he told her everything he was too proud to admit out loud. Every time she saw him, he was already planning the next. Rye wasn’t a relationship person, but she wanted to be for him.
Then suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her.
"She thought this time would be different."
Asher went over to her house that day — suitcase in hand, kissed her on the forehead, and broke up with her. He did it like it was a chore off his checklist, and he left to catch a flight — fleeing not only the pandemic but also the scene of the crime.
A key detail: Asher was four years her senior, retaking the same course for the third time, and wasted no time trying to convince Rye she was the one for him.
Things ended before they could even begin. The breakup spiraled, sparking the beginning of a much longer entanglement that bookended the pandemic.
Asher reached out again when Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped, he knew she had been anticipating the game for the last 8 years. It had just been a week after the abrupt break-up, and Rye thought this was his way of weaseling back into her life.
They spent the pandemic glued to their phones, joined by their fingertips. They couldn’t go a day without talking to each other. Asher was the first person Rye said ‘morning’ to, and Rye was the last person Asher said ‘good night’ to.
It felt like nothing ever happened, and they were getting a fresh start.
When Asher eventually announced to Rye that he was coming back to Amsterdam, she couldn’t help but get her hopes up.
She liked him so much. She thought this time would be different.
The same day Asher came back to Amsterdam, Rye saw him with his arms around another girl. A girl that looks just like Rye. It wasn’t the fact that she was also Asian that bothered Rye, it was the fact that she was also a goth girl.
Rye felt cheated on, led on, and lied to. She knew she wasn’t his girlfriend, and he wasn’t her boyfriend. She knew that her ego would never let her admit she was even pricked by seeing this, so she turned a blind eye and pretended she never saw it.
They continued talking, but she knew then, even though the pandemic was far from over, their relationship was far past over. Rye had stuck around through circumstances and red flags that would make any other girl run the other way. But as the disappointments fell into each other, one after the other, she lost sight of the man who she thought she could really fall for.
“I don’t think I ever loved him, but he still broke my heart.”
How can we be in love with someone who doesn’t even act as they like us?
Is it just a sick case of us wanting what we can’t have? When people leave us breadcrumbs, or even love kernels, just enough to keep us interested and string us along until they find someone else, biology and psychology indicate that this type of behavior keeps the brain on edge, dictating our rise and drop in dopamine.
"It wasn’t a relationship. It was a situationship."
Asher was hot and then he was cold. When he was hot, he melted even the toughest of shells, getting through to Rye when she had never even wanted a relationship; when he was cold, you couldn’t even get close without getting gaslit.
It wasn’t a relationship. It was a situationship. Wrong people, wrong time, who happened to be on the same boat. But just like one of, if not the most famous boat, Titanic, we only saw the tip of the iceberg, while she crashed into and drowned in its debris, circling the depths until they pulled her under.
Rye couldn’t bear seeing her confidence being rocked daily, and she didn’t have the heart to watch her heart be broken for a minute longer. He didn’t deserve her at her best and certainly did not deserve to come to collect at her worst.
Why should Rye — or anyone else for that matter, belittle themselves only to be reduced to a jester at a fool’s court?