My boyfriend left me while I was in the shower. Years later, I heard someone recount my wild breakup story at a party I was hosting.

Woman putting soap in her hand in the shower
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  • Years ago, I was in a tumultuous relationship with a man I lived with.

  • One day while I was in the shower, he unceremoniously left me.

  • I didn't think about our breakup for years until I heard a friend retell the story at my own party.

"Are you Vince's friend?" a dark-haired man asked me at our mutual friend's raucous performance at a local dive bar. A sort of hipster bon vivant, I was intrigued immediately, and we hit it off. We started dating quickly, but our courtship was tumultuous. Despite the initial allure, his darker side soon became clear; he had a history of substance abuse, and used everything from alcohol to heroin.

Still, we decided to move in together rather than pay rent at two apartments, since neither of us was flush with cash. I was the main breadwinner, working short-term assignments as a secretary. The jobs didn't exactly pay top dollar, and at the time, he was unemployed.

We moved in together and created a home

We eventually managed to save enough money to move into a small basement apartment in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. The place was dark and moody, and our decorating style included Catholic icons coupled with midcentury chairs and a late-Depression-era parlor sofa. Plus two cats: The black one came when anyone whistled "Ring of Fire," and the enormous white one was built like a small sheep. It was our own little slice of heaven.

We fell into our own banal routine. I was overworked, and he asked for Snapple money every morning. I went to my menial office job, and he went to the movies all day to get out of the heat of our non-air-conditioned apartment. I dropped subtle hints about him getting a job; when it became clear my hints were too subtle, I asked him to get one outright. But he was too busy trying his hand at being a musical genius to be bothered with earning real money at a "normal" job. Yet I stayed with him; I trusted that things would change.

One day, he left while I was in the shower

Then, one week before my 30th birthday, I was getting ready in the morning and everything changed. I stepped out of the shower and walked into our dim living room to complete silence. Though this wasn't too unusual, I couldn't shake the feeling something was off. I looked around our dark-green bedroom to find clothes clean enough to wear for the day, and I slowly noticed a few things were missing. His suit jacket wasn't on the usual hook. There were no men's shoes by the dresser. All of his guitars were removed.

After noticing our largest suitcase missing, I realized he was truly gone. Judging from the number of his possessions missing and the length of my shower, I deduced he had slowly, methodically, been moving out over the course of the previous few days without me even sensing anything was amiss. He had done the breakup equivalent of tunneling out of prison, one chip at a time. I turned to the cat looking for answers and was met with the feline equivalent of an eye roll, the implicit message being I should've known better.

I learned of his whereabouts after a couple of weeks of frantically calling all our mutual friends. He'd left me and moved in with another woman, who became his wife later that year. I wasn't devastated; in fact, I wasn't even that surprised. But I was a bit annoyed at the cowardly way he went about it, packing up and leaving while I took a shower — and it wasn't a long shower; I didn't even shave my legs.

He didn't have the decency to have a conversation with me about our breakup. It was especially humiliating given that I had been thinking about leaving him but hadn't gotten around to figuring out what that would look like. I suppose sometimes life makes decisions for you.

I didn't think about the breakup for years — until I heard someone else telling the story

Years later I lived in the Connecticut suburbs with my husband of eight years and our two kids. We hosted Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas and New Year's cocktail parties, and the occasional dinner party. It was at one such cocktail party that my friend's husband started telling a story of a breakup he had heard about.

We were all slightly tipsy and the conversation turned to breakups, and we all had a story to tell. When it was my friend's husband's turn, he started telling a story of a breakup he had heard about secondhand: a friend of a friend was dating a drunk musician who left her while she was taking a shower. My ears perked up immediately as the details unfolded.

Yes — he was telling my breakup story at my own party. He had no clue he was talking about me, of course. He was just contributing to the conversation, telling a funny, shocking tale he had heard somewhere that was good fodder for cocktail parties. I nearly spit out my rum punch.

"That was ME!" I squealed between yelps of laughter. "My old boyfriend left me while I was in the shower!" I couldn't believe my tragically humorous breakup story was being rehashed to me, that it was making the rounds on the cocktail-party circuit.

Now I look back on my time with my ex with a sort of fond disbelief. I did love him, even though our time together was hard; I knew he had had a difficult past and imagined a future when we would both be stable, successful, and better. His great escape was the fitting end to our tumultuous relationship, and I couldn't imagine a more grand finale. Our relationship helped me develop a keen ability to recognize both good and bad things when I have them. And thanks to him, I will forever be known by a select few as the person whose boyfriend left while she took a blissfully ignorant shower.

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