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The Subway Run-In

Sometimes when you go through a rough phase in your life, something happens to show you that the phase has ended and you’ve moved on. I’ve just had this experience and am overjoyed to realize that my crappy phase is behind me.

Yesterday, I ran into my ex-boyfriend, JR. Around six months ago, we went through a major breakup. We hadn’t seen each other since I showed up crying on his doorstep a week after we broke up. I was angry and upset about the situation for a long time and it was difficult for me to get past the breakup.

JR and I live three blocks away from each other and go to many of the same places. I had feared this run-in for some time; it was bound to happen eventually. When we first broke up, every time I left my house I was afraid I would see him. When I started dating other people and going with my dates to bars in our neighborhood, I was terrified that JR would show up. In my paranoid mind, this scenario always had him appear at the bar with his own, completely beautiful, brilliant date that he was obviously completely in love with.

As time passed and I didn’t run into JR, I began to relax a little. I went to all the restaurants, bars, and events he would typically be at, but he wasn’t at any of them. I was forced to drive past his house every day, but I never saw him going in or out. I started to believe that he had handed over our neighborhood to me. That he’d vanished from the usual places.

Although I still looked at JR’s house every time I drove by, it started to fall off my radar that he could be anywhere at any time. Even though I knew he was still lurking about my neighborhood, I didn’t think about it as often. I began to go about my business without anxiety of an encounter.

Then I spotted JR at a subway station. It was early in the morning. I was on my way to a class, he was on his way to work. I was standing on the platform when I saw him coming toward me. There was no expression on his face, but he had seen me and was headed my way. I stayed relatively calm as he got closer, my heart was only beating a little faster.

We opened our conversation with an update on his work and had an awkward hug. JR told me how he wasn’t completely happy with his new job and that he worked a ton. He told me that his brother and sister-in-law had had their baby. I told him I was no longer at the same job because I’d gotten laid off. We had further “catch-up style” small talk. When the subway arrived, it surprised me because I had forgotten we were waiting for a train. We got on the crowded subway and there were no seats available, so we stood and continued talking.

JR inquired about my friends and how they were doing. I asked about his family and his friends. I had liked his family a lot and missed them after we broke up, so I was particularly curious about their wellbeing. He explained that his family was doing well, but he hadn’t seen much of his friends. We reminisced about a vacation we had taken that had gone all wrong. He told me he’d thought of sending me a note on my birthday.

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The conversation continued. Then I noticed that I started talking a lot more than he was.

I told him about an interesting job I’d been offered where I would have been paid to play video games in malls. I talked about volunteer work I had been doing with our community and a festival I had helped plan. I told him about my new job, which is drastically different than anything I have done before. I even told JR a story of my friends and I attempting to go to an anniversary party at a beer hall, but being thwarted by traffic. This was a beer garden my ex and I had gone to a crazy wedding at, so I knew he would be interested.

JR needed to get off the subway before I did, so as his stop approached we quickly hugged goodbye and said it was good to see each other. I watched him get off the subway and walk away. The person who I used to sleep next to at night and say I loved had become an awkward hug and small talk. A strange thing.

I expected to feel sad and upset when I finally ran into JR. That it would be a reminder that although we had always gotten along smashingly, our relationship had failed, just like all my other relationships had failed. I expected that my day would be overshadowed by the morning’s subway ride. But surprisingly it wasn’t. When I got off the subway, I called a friend and told her about the encounter. After explaining what had just happened, we moved on to other subjects. I then went to my class and paid attention all day. My head only wandered to the run-in a few times.

It wasn’t until that night that I really stopped and thought about the encounter. It surprised me greatly that it hadn’t completely thrown me off and left me pining. I realized that although the chance meeting with JR had been anticipated for a long time, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t even feel any anger toward him.

I recounted our conversation in my head and noticed that he hadn’t shown any emotion or given any sort of real feedback to anything I had said. Not even a “that’s great!” when I told him about my career change. This had been one of the many downfalls of our relationship — his robotic-ness and inability to express any sort of encouragement or emotion. It had always frustrated me immensely.

Then I thought about the information I had shared versus what he had shared. I had a ton of things to say about my life over the past six months. It made me see that although my life has been tumultuous since we broke up, I have done a lot of fun, interesting things, and have a lot to say.

The run-in made me see that I had weathered the difficult time and come through a more positive, happy person. That I had taken control of my crappy situation and kicked its ass. I had reached the moment where I was able to look back on a bad time in my life, label it “completed” and see that I handled things well. I had moved on for the better.

The Subway Run-In

Stacey Goldstein

APA Reference
Goldstein, S. (2018). The Subway Run-In. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.