I just found out that my ex is dead. They found his body this morning. No one knows what happened yet but if I had to guess I'd say alcohol poisoning or another substance-related mishap. I don't know how to feel and I really need someone to tell me.

We dated for three years, lived together for one. I was his first girlfriend and, I think, his last. He was exciting and weird and bright like a star or like the sun - red hair, crazy laugh, always talking. He was totally fearless. He was a poet and a poseur and a pretentious ass and a sweet guy who loved me as well as he could, which wasn't that well. I was demanding and perfectionistic and ready to grow up so I dumped him.

We drank together all the fucking time. I got sober not long after we split, after a failed attempt while we were still dating (he told me there was nothing wrong with me and encouraged me to keep drinking). We were drunk for most of our relationship, honestly - sometimes it was fun and sometimes it was awful but it was always there.

I didn't think about him too often over the last few years. He went on to grad school, still struggled to hold down a job, and kept drinking. I know he was mad at me for dumping him and didn't want to stay in touch. I always kind of thought we'd at least exchange pleasantries at some point in the future. Maybe we'd reminisce about some of the good times we did have, talk about how our lives had changed, hug, and then feel at peace with how it ended.

But he's dead. When I found out I stared at my phone for a couple of minutes and then burst into hysterical tears. Now I feel very confused. Terribly confused. I'm not kidding when I say I want someone to tell me how to feel.

Do I get to be sad? I dumped him, I wasn't a great girlfriend, and I still felt superior thoughts sometimes about how he just wasn't very talented at his chosen art. I was kind of a dick to him. I suspect our mutual friends (whom he kept after the breakup) probably heard terrible stories about me. Did I give up my right to mourn him?

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Do I get to feel nothing beyond the shock and sadness I feel whenever I find out someone has died? Have I been long enough removed from his life that I can go on as though nothing has happened? That sounds the easiest but I think I'm mostly just kind of numb so this might not be a viable option once that wears off.

It hadn't occurred to me before that he might stop existing in the world. That there would be a time that he would just be gone. I was okay never speaking to him again, but I thought he'd still be there, desperately trying to be Jack Kerouac and never washing the dishes.

Last night in the car I listened to the Cure. I hadn't listened to them since we broke up (they were his favorite band and one of mine) and I busted out their greatest hits. I thought about him. I listened to "Just Like Heaven," his ring tone for me and I thought it was sadder than I remembered. I listened to "Love Cats," his favorite of their songs, and thought what a fucking shame it was that So You Think You Can Dance used it last year for a routine I hated. Then I listened to "Cut Here," a song about realizing you lost your chance to make things right with someone. I thought about him and how I hoped there might be a time we could get back in touch. Then I thought about how the song could be about someone REALLY being gone. I cried thinking about the road I didn't take.

He died last night. Please tell me how to feel.