Everyone says don’t Google your ex.
It’s strange, then, when you break down and finally type his name into that mystery machine. Sure, he’s deleted you on Facebook – months after you officially broke up (But we’re still friends, right?) – after you sat on your phone in the car and could only say, “Oh, heeeey. Sorry. Musta butt-dialed you. Bye.” And have a good life, fucktard. And then you deleted his name so that would never happened again. For the record, you’ve butt-dialed your boss at two in the morning and no, you weren’t drunk, you were bringing early-morning donuts to your friend’s wife who’s a nurse at the local hospital. Maybe you shouldn’t sit on your phone.
You’ve parked yourself in front of your computer and some shoulder-devil slithers down your arm to wrench your unwilling fingers into submission on the keyboard. You don’t want to. You know he married that random girl he brought to the ball a year earlier when he said they were “just friends” and you were in the desert 7,000 miles away. Never mind that you ignobly suffered seven long months of not seeing him when he was gone before you even went on your own adventure. You smirked to strangers, “Yeah, he’s deployed, but I’m sure as hell proud of him,” whenever they asked just how you did it. You wish you wouldn’t have followed up most of the time with, “And he’ll be the same for me.” Will he… bullshit.
But it happens all the same. No matter that it’s three years after you broke up because the little shit most likely cheated on you, there goes his name into the search engine. There goes the enter button. And voilá!
Except this isn’t your everyday Googling of an ex-boyfriend. You don’t see his happy wife and their happy wedding. You don’t see pictures of him on an exotic honeymoon, or at a country concert with his friends, all of them pretending to be cowboys even though none of them has ridden a horse in his life nor scraped cow shit off his boots nor entered a chicken into a county fair contest. Instead, you find an article, top hit, about a British Lance Corporal. What? His picture crops up when you explore further. He has a determined look on his face and learn he is a British paratrooper. There is a large chocolate mole to the side of his right eye and you can’t help but think what Austin Powers would have to say about it. He is wearing a dark maroon beret with some sort of gold star attached on the left and he is dressed in what must be British camouflage. His eyes bore into yours.
The first sentence of the article explains how this young Brit saved your ex-boyfriend’s life.
No one expects an article like this. You reread the opening line. The British paratrooper braved a hail of gunfire from Taliban insurgents to run over to your ex-boyfriend – three times! – to save his life. The article doesn’t say where your ex was shot or how many times. It doesn’t say what he was doing prior to the rescue or how he wound up in that awful situation. You think about when you were dating and the irresponsible things he would do: grabbing the keys after a few beers, driving recklessly over the speed limit, smoking too many cigars. You don’t want to assume it was his fault and it would be unpatriotic to say so anyway, right? Are you even happy his life was saved? You have to be. Even assholes need saving.
The grand finale is that our British hero was awarded the Victoria Cross. You don’t know what this is until you read on: the highest military decoration for valor in the United Kingdom. You learn this hasn’t been awarded to a living soldier in ten years; all the rest were posthumous. You Google “Victoria Cross” and see its equivalent in the United States is the Medal of Honor – that distinctive baby blue ribbon with tiny white stars sprinkled around. You’ve seen this worn by Sergeant Dakota Meyer and Corporal Kyle Carpenter. They’ve been on talk shows and YouTube and stuff.
You tap your phone and see the background picture of your ageless husband. You ponder the fact that you and your ex are coincidentally allied by the love you bear for your lucky British encounters. Two souls were saved by Brits, and yours was one of them.
You think that’s enough for one day. They were right. You shouldn’t have Googled your ex.
This story was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of The Pitkin Review.