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The breakup started out as well as I could have hoped. I said I wanted to remain friends and I meant it. I still cared about him, the relationship had just run its course. It was sad but I was ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. But he wasn’t going to let me do that.
Hysterics followed accusations that I never cared about him. And when those were met with anger on my part, suddenly it was apologies and “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I just love you.” Every outburst became more and more absurd and then receded like the tide. It was happening so frequently that I made the decision to block his phone number and block him on all social media just for some sanity. I thought that he would let it go after that.
The series of events that unfolded in the following weeks resulted in my brain reeling for hours on end. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be capable of the things he was doing, especially someone that I had dated for two years and lived with. I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize telling me that the guy I had recently begun seeing was dangerous and that he had an STI. They claimed to be a girl that I went to high school with who happened to go out with the same guy and wanted to warn me. She went on to say that she had filed a restraining order against him, which therefore prevented her from telling me her name. I was skeptical. Not just because I liked the new guy and didn’t want to believe it, but because the texts I was receiving sounded like they were from someone who had never met me and just read a synopsis of my life. However, it obviously shook me. I started Googling places to get free STI testing done and texted friends and family to see if I could figure out who this person was. After concluding that this was not a real person that I went to high school with, I determined that my ex must be involved somehow. The next day when I tried to call the number that had been texting me; it was disconnected.
I got tested the next week, it came back negative and I wrote off the incident. But I ended things with the new guy I had been seeing anyway. The whole situation was wild but I didn’t think that it could get any worse.
Over the next three months, I got texts from six different numbers claiming responsibility or admitting involvement in these weird occurrences. All created using an iPhone app that allows you to make burner numbers and text from your phone so they can’t be traced (I know, I tried to reverse-search the numbers or look them up).
All assured me that my ex had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right. I also matched with a fake Hinge profile, who turned out to be my ex using someone else's photos to try to lure me to a restaurant we had gone on our first date. Every time I was contacted by one of these phone numbers or profiles, it got more absurd. I started to get paranoid that he was watching me. What was his end goal in all of this? Surely he knew that by doing all of this it wasn’t going to make me want to get back together with him. It was a case of the classic, “If I can’t have you, no one can,” modern edition. I believe that his goal was to make me so paranoid that anyone I might meet on these dating apps had the potential to be fake, that I wouldn’t participate or meet anyone ever. He knew that I was on these apps and relied on them for the majority of the dates that I went on and took advantage of that.
I cried about it frequently. Not out of sadness, but frustration. I knew that he was stubborn and that he wasn’t going to let me have a second of peace. All I wanted was for this to stop, I wished he would just let me go and move on. My thoughts became consumed with texts and messages. I tried to go out and get on with my life but I kept looking over my shoulder, afraid that he was going to appear suddenly. Then one night it happened.
Before we had broken up, I was living in Nevada. I moved there for him after I graduated from college. After six months, I had become discontented with my life and decided to move back to Colorado. I asked him to come with me and he declined. He said he could never see himself living there. So I picked up my life and moved back home. Leaving that place continues to be one of the best decisions I have ever made and will probably continue to be so for a long time. Several months after moving back, I was out with friends in Denver at a bar we frequented. I was having a great time when suddenly I turned around on the dance floor and saw him. It was a scene from a horror movie. My drunkenness blurred the rest of the people in the room and in slow motion all I saw for a brief second before my friend pulled me away and down the stairs was a serial killer-esque smile.
A smile that said, “I found you.” He later told my father, who called him in a rage, that he had ended up at the same bar as us purely by accident while in town looking for places to live. This was my worst fear come to life. Even after all that he had put me through, I still had some comfort in the fact that he didn’t live in the same state as me. I don’t know if he ever found a place, and I don’t know if I would know if he did. I’ve tried to isolate myself from him so much that now he just feels like a shark swimming beneath me. I can’t see him, I don’t know what he’s doing. The only way I’ll know is if he’s too close for me to swim away.
I went to the police after that night and was told that he hadn’t done anything criminal so they couldn’t file any charges. My only option was to file an information report, which felt was like a slap in the face after the emotional torture I had been through over the last 4 months. As insane as my ex was being, he was also being smart. He used technology to his advantage in order to ensure that I couldn’t prove to police that it was him. But in my mind, there’s no one else that it could possibly be. No one else would care that we had broken up and would want to make sure that we wouldn’t get back together. In the texts that I had received, there were little idiosyncrasies in the language being used that was identical to the language I had come to know from three years of texting my ex.
I was tired of recounting everything he had done over and over again and being asked if I had done anything to make him go crazy after we broke up. If I had done anything. As if something I had done could possibly warrant his behavior or excuse it. My mother encouraged me to change my phone number and get off social media and dating apps. That frustrated me even more. I know she had good intentions, but I felt like this would be letting him win. He wanted me to be alone. I’m certain this was the end goal. He had to know that there was no chance of us getting back together and he would rather me be alone if I wasn’t with him. And I was certain that after all lengths he had gone to to get to me so far, that changing my number wouldn’t stop him. He would find it another way. I wasn’t going to cut myself off from the world because of him.
Through the whole ordeal, I was constantly reminded of the power of technology. Location services allowed my ex to track my location and see who I was with. He could create as many fake phone numbers as he wanted as well as fake dating profiles without any repercussions in the eyes of the law. He never used the same number twice once I started to catch on that it was him. My small circle has become even smaller in an effort to protect myself and my friends from what was, in my eyes, an unpredictable person. I would like to think that he has finally given up but I honestly don’t know what he is going to do next. I have pulled back on who I accept follow requests from and who is allowed to view my location.
Technology makes it easier than ever for people to act crazy when things go south. As much as we shrug off our parent’s conspiracy theories about technology, they do have a point when it comes to some things. After all of this, I’ve had to be more conscious about social media dating apps and I’ve encouraged those I know to do the same. And it’s important to recognize the red flags early in relationships so your life doesn’t turn into a true-crime episode.
Molly Mortimer is a freelance writer based in the Denver Metro Area. She has been writing her whole life and is making the switch to freelance writing. She has been trained in journalistic and academic writing but also writes freely for her blog. Molly also enjoys vegetarian cooking, hiking, and traveling.