No. 177
Article by:
Wen Hsiao

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 Laila at a house party.

Well, “house party” is a bit of a stretch. It was me, my best friend, and Laila in their De Baarsjes duplex apartment, splitting a bottle (or two) of Albert Heijn wine.

I’ll admit: I was a little jealous of Laila. Before we met, my best friend Erika could not go a day without talking about Laila. All that ever came out of Erika’s mouth was how great of a person-slash-roommate Laila was. When I finally met her, my worst fears were confirmed — she was really that great of a person.

Laila had been dating a woman named Victoria for three months at that point, and they were inseparable; if they were not together, they were on the phone with each other. 

It took a long time for the pair to develop that closeness, though.

When Laila first met Victoria, she was quick to find out that she already had a girlfriend.

Despite Laila’s attraction towards Victoria, she took a step back out of respect for her relationship. Victoria went out of her way to convince Laila that her relationship was over the second they met, and that she was for Laila and Laila only.

One night out, one too many drinks in, the two kissed. Laila knew what she was doing was wrong, but it is so hard walking away from someone that you suspect may very well be the love of your life. 

From the outside looking in, you couldn’t tell what was going on and what was going wrong. Last summer, I praised them for being the most perfect couple of the pandemic.

I was wrong. I didn’t know what was going on beyond the surface.

At the height of the pandemic, their relationship was hanging on by a thread - if that. Despite Laila’s best efforts, she couldn’t control what was happening on the other end of the screen. Victoria was never satisfied, ​​she was always longing for more. 

When people say “once a cheater, always a cheater”, they probably had Victoria in mind. Just like Laila, Victoria met the love of her life — but again and again. She found herself whispering the same sweet nothings, the same sweet nothings she told Laila just a year ago.

Victoria broke up with Laila a few days before her birthday. On the brink of her 21st, Laila stayed on the phone all night as Victoria let her down one last time.

If they could do it to someone they loved, they could do it to you too.

"At the height of the pandemic, their relationship was hanging on by a thread."

When you start off on the wrong foot, you ought to trip and fall - maybe not immediately, but eventually.

People always say “a relationship is built on trust,” and not without reason. Trust is fundamental to a healthy and growing relationship. It seeps into every aspect of your relationship, from “honesty, open communication, vulnerability, and respect.”

If you were “the other woman,” even when you become “the” woman, you couldn’t help but wonder if there are more women out there. If you can’t trust them, because you know you were once their mistake, where can your relationship go from there?

Maybe I am too superstitious (I am), but when someone has an all-too-recent ex-girlfriend, I feel like I will get bad juju from the ghost of the relationship’s past.

Laila and I have had countless conversations about Victoria, over bubble tea, over matcha lattes — over any type of beverage that is socially acceptable to be caught walking and drinking in broad daylight, of so many what-ifs. What if this didn’t happen? What if this happened differently? What if this was my fault?

There are a million things Laila wanted to say to Victoria, but they don’t talk anymore.

Laila spent most of the year trying to walk out of the relationship. Even though Victoria no longer lives in Amsterdam, Laila saw her in every girl she ever met; she would catch herself falling for one of them, and pull back in fear of getting hurt again.

Why should Laila — or anyone else for that matter, run away from love because someone else can’t decide who to love?