It might seem strange to meet a guy in a laundromat, but that was where I met Henry.
“Do you know how to operate the washing machine? Sorry, this is new to me,” he said while helplessly carrying an IKEA bag stuffed with bedsheets, pillowcases, and floral cushion covers.
After he separated the whites and colours, we chatted about what we do for a living and what we do for fun. It was instant attraction.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” I couldn’t help asking.
At first, he shifted uncomfortably. Then, he confessed that he broke up recently. “It didn’t end very well, but you know how relationships are,” he continued with a forced smile.
After we exchanged phone numbers, our chats turned into hangouts, and hangouts turned into dates. We had the best time together, and I thought we were a pretty good match.
After two months of dating, the first crack of our relationship began.
One morning, I woke up to 16 missed calls from an unknown number. While I was going through my contacts figuring who it was, the unknown number called again.
I picked up, but the person on the other line hung up after I said hello.
It must be those telemarketers again, I thought.
After that, the person called me again and again. I was half-mad at this point because it was too early for prank calls.
I picked up the call again and said, “I’m not interested to buy any insurance, so please stop calling me.”
There was a three-second silence before a voice cracked.
“How about you stop seeing Henry? Then, I’ll stop bothering you,” she hung up.
I was shocked. Who the hell is she? How did she get my number? Why did she mention Henry?
I was feeling confused and nervous at that point and called my boyfriend. He better not cheat on me, I thought.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Henry said. “Are you sure she mentioned my name?”
“Henry, I was certain she did.”
After my boyfriend tried to calm me down, he told me to block her number. “You need to stop her from harassing you, whoever that is.”
After I blocked the number, my phone went silent.
Two days later, it rang again. This time, it was a different phone number. I freaked out because I wasn’t sure who this girl was, and why she would bother me.
Next, a stream of text messages came rushing into my WhatsApp.
You slut, I know you’re reading this. You better reply me.
Stay away from Henry right now!
If you don’t keep away from him, I’ll find you.
Deep down, I was furious. Who was she to call me a slut?
Then, I sent screenshots of her messages to my boyfriend and demanded that he explain the situation to me. Clearly, he was hiding something.
He confessed. “Shit, that’s my ex-girlfriend, Emily.”
Henry and I had a long talk about how to deal with the constant texting and missed calls from Emily. Part of me was angry that I was dragged into this situation. I hate being caught in unnecessary drama.
“You have to fix this, Henry. I can’t keep blocking her phone number like this,” I said.
At that point, she texted me with three different numbers. Her last text message tested my patience.
Bitch, pick up my fucking calls.
I hate being disrespected that way when I didn’t do anything wrong.
“Okay, I’ll go talk to her. For now, just keep ignoring her,” Henry advised.
That same night when I had the talk with Henry, my best friend sent a message.
Cheryl, someone named Emily added me on Twitter and she’s tweeting mean things about you. What’s going on?
I was shocked. I quickly went to Twitter and realised she added all of my friends to her fake profile. Every single one of my friends.
To my horror, she tweeted the same angry messages and every one of my friends was reading it.
Who the fuck does Cheryl think she is for stealing my boyfriend?
Bitch, quit pretending like you’re innocent.
You fucking whore, come out and deal with me in person.
There I was, reading helplessly while Emily was out there writing nasty things about me.
And all Henry wanted me to do was ignore her?
I called and shouted at him for not fixing this situation fast enough.
“How the hell am I supposed to deal with this? She added all of my friends and humiliated me on Twitter! And you’re telling me to not say anything?”
I was at wit’s end. At that point, I was so afraid that she would take the rant to Facebook where my parents and siblings are.
What would my relatives think if they found out about this? What would my parents say if they read a stranger calling me a whore? What am I going to do if that happens?
My friends started texting me personally and asking what the beef was about. That time, all I could say was “Please ignore her. I don’t know who the hell she is.” I even asked my friends to report her on Twitter in hopes of taking down her account.
While dealing with the shame from it all, Henry wasn’t offering the best help. “Cheryl, I did the best I can. I told her to stop disturbing you, but she won’t listen to me!”
My blood boiled and all I could say was, “Just fucking fix this, Henry! I can’t take it anymore!” I knew my reputation was ruined.
I was working in the local cafe that weekend. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and the cafe was filled with customers. I manned the counter that day and took drink orders as fast as I can. Dealing with frustrated and impatient customers were the last things I wanted.
After a regular customer paid for his caramel latte, a petite woman walked up to the counter. She had short hair, tanned complexion, and looked visibly upset. I knew I should have cut the conversation short with the previous customer.
“Hi, what would you like to order today?”
“Just a chocolate ice blended.”
“Would you like a small, medium or large?”
“With whipped cream on top?”
“Can I have your name?”
My marker stopped when I tried to spell out her name on the plastic cup. Wait, is she the same Emily who texted and tweeted about me?
My face went pale. She looked right at me and gave me a smirk. I tried my best to compose myself and pretended like I didn’t recognise her. I attempted to scribble her name on the cup, but it became undecipherable.
Fuck, how did she know I work here?
“Got it. That’s RM12.90 please.”
When she walked past me and waited for her drink at the pick-up counter, I panicked. I felt goosebumps everywhere. Is she seriously stalking me at my workplace?
As I took more drink orders from the remaining customers, her sharp and angry gaze didn’t leave me. Her eyes followed my every move. She even chose to sit at the table opposite the counter, attempting to intimidate me.
Once in a while, our gaze met, and I quickly pretended to look away.
Is she planning to cause a scene? Why does she keep staring at me? Is she going to hurt me like she said?
Thankfully, more customers poured in since it rained heavily outside. That left us with little opportunity to talk. I pretended her presence didn’t bother me, and continued taking orders until she left 45 minutes later.
Even in her absence, I still can’t shake the feeling of being watched. What if she’s outside the café, waiting to pounce on me? What if she’s watching me from afar? Was that her sitting on the bench, outside?
When my shift ended, I checked my surroundings and ran to my car before she could notice me.
I knew I couldn’t take it anymore and refuse to live in fear. I called Henry that night and ended our relationship.
Several days after I broke up with Henry, the missed calls and text messages stopped. Despite the silence, I was still afraid that she would show up at the cafe where I worked, but she didn’t.
She finally got what she wanted. A break-up between Henry and I. That was all she wanted, and it sucked to let her win.
If it weren’t for her, Henry and I would still be together. You might think that I should have stuck with him through thick and thin, but I can’t tolerate the humiliation that Emily had caused me.
She embarrassed and insulted me in front of my friends. The fact that she found out about my workplace and stalked me scared the crap out of me.
The relationship simply wasn’t worth it.
Part of me felt sorry for Henry for giving up easily, but I also felt he wasn’t doing enough to amend the situation either. Was it possible that Henry was afraid of her too?
Besides, the last thing I wanted was for my family (the last unaffected party) to get tangled in this unnecessary drama.
What I Learned
While the experience with my partner’s crazy ex-girlfriend wasn’t great, I realised the non-confrontational approach prevented me from worsening the situation. In some ways, Henry was right.
Firstly, remain calm
It’s a tough one to practice, but the last thing I wanted to do was add more fuel to the fire. It was clear that Emily had unresolved issues with Henry. She had to channel her frustration towards someone else, and that person was me.
Thankfully, I had Henry and my best friend to calm me down. Emily however, had to deal with her pent-up frustrations alone.
Having a support system helped me to remain calm and became the bigger person in the situation.
Secondly, ignorance is bliss
To be honest, it wasn’t blissful from my end, but ignoring her did help to defuse the tension.
If I allowed my anger to dictate my response, I would have lashed at her. However, if that happened, it would have opened up a line of communication between Emily and myself. So, nope. Ignorance is better.
Lastly, don’t fight fire with fire
I know the right thing to do is to stand up for myself, but in reality, I’m a non-confrontational person. That’s why I refused to fight fire with fire.
At the same time, I denied her the power to attack me. I pretended like it didn’t bother me, even though it did. Imagine how crazy our first meeting would be if I responded negatively towards her?
While the relationship was good while it lasted, I felt I did the right thing by moving on without Henry. Whatever unresolved issues they had between them, I hope Henry and Emily carried on with their lives peacefully today.
As for me, I’m just glad I never heard from her anymore.