When asked what had inspired her to embark on this topic of twenty-first century “ghosting,” Rosie Walsh attests, “I wanted to write about a universal dilemma – an experience that almost all of us have had, but few of us have been able to navigate successfully. Then, one evening, I had dinner with a friend who’d just been ghosted. As she hypothesized the likely reasons for his disappearance (serious illness, a broken phone, death, even) I knew this was it. I went home thinking about the number of times this had happened to me, and how dismaying my loss of emotional control had been each time. I knew I wasn’t the only person who’d reacted this way, but I realized that I didn’t know anyone who’d been ghosted for an acceptable reason. My real challenge, moving forward, would be to think up a reason for Eddie’s disappearance that Sarah, and my readers, could understand, maybe even forgive – but never guess.”
As I peeled open the front page of this ostensibly short book, the introductory quote certainly captured my attention. It read, “We can perhaps only ever fall in love without knowing quite who we have fallen in love with.” This excerpt from Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, resonated quite heavily with most of my romantic experiences, so, naturally, I purchased the book. Upon departing from Boston to Charlotte on my weekly business trip, I proceeded to delve into the first chapter, and found myself instantly lost in this novel. Eddie and Sarah, the two principal characters, fall quickly in love shortly after meeting alongside a road that held painful memories for them both alike, whilst this very commonality between the two had yet to be revealed. Instead, they find this encounter to be merely coincidental. Sarah recounts, “I laughed, and he kissed my nose, and I wondered how it was that you could spend weeks, months – years, even – just chugging on, nothing really changing, and then, in the space of a few hours, the script of your life could be completely rewritten. Had I gone out later that day I would have got straight on the bus and never met him, and this new feeling of certainty would be no more than an unheard whisper of missed opportunities and bad timing.” In this very line, Sarah encapsulates the sheer fragility of human experiences, and how drastically they may alter our existence; the dire anguish and immense love that life catapults our way are brought about by split-second actions or decisions.
Following a week of a profound and extraordinary romance, Eddie seemingly evaporates into thin air. As his silence settles in, Sarah incessantly calls, messages, and even tracks down some of Eddie’s friends for a mere hint of his whereabouts, all to no avail. Sarah had officially been “ghosted,” yet not in the dastardly manner many of us would expect. Nonetheless, she reflects, “I had seen friends do this. I’d watched in amazement as they claimed that his phone was broken; his leg was broken; he was broken, wasting unseen in a ditch. They insisted that some careless comment must have ‘scared him off,’ hence the need to ‘clear up any misunderstandings.’ I had watched them shred their pride, break their heart, lose their mind, all over a man who would never call.”
As a personal aside, I’ve been there. That is, ghosted by a handful of individuals, ranging from mere acquaintances, to a partner of one entire year. The former is impolite, unprofessional and insulting nonetheless, yet the latter is simply more jarring, noteworthy, and calamitous. Reflecting on this experience, a man who I had loved, spoken to on a daily basis, and had discussed a future together with, had parted ways with me through a “peace” emoji, and abysmal silence thereafter. To be ghosted by someone new in your life is contemptible and degrading, yet a “ghosting” from a loved one is incomprehensible. The lack of closure only made the breakup more unbearable. I nearly dreamt of a story like this one, in which there was a tangible rationale for my then-partner’s abrupt and seemingly irrational disappearance. I was devastated to find that this was not the case. There was no intricate story as there is in Rosie Walsh’s novel. No excuse, no explanation. Only a narcissistic human who couldn’t bare a difficult conversation in exchange for another human’s mental health and sanity. Ghosting, after all, is so incredibly selfish and cowardly, regardless of the context. If you are incapable of explaining a lack of interest in a certain opportunity, friendship, romantic relationship, or anything beyond, that says far more about you than the individual you are precipitously extracting from your life.
Through this novel, Rosie Walsh facetiously adds a level of mockery to the entire concept of ghosting. In lieu of a commonplace rationale-lacking ghost from a week-long-romance, she devises a convoluted account of manslaughter intertwined with romance (sparing any spoilers) to justify this unforeseen disappearance. After reconnecting and understanding each other’s connection, Eddie benevolently expresses, “It was love and fear that made her wrench that steering wheel. The same love and fear that, right now, I am feeling for her. I would do anything to keep her safe. I’d block a hospital car park. I’d break the speed limit. And I, too, in that same situation Sarah found herself in, in 1997, would have swerved left, if it meant saving the person I loved most.”
Finally comes the portion of this piece in which I hope to instill a mere ounce of inspiration in my readers. Eddie says, “We are not just victims of our lives. We can choose to be happy.” If you have found yourself a “victim” of ghosting, whether it be to a lover, relative, friend, coworker, or distant acquaintance, don’t think of yourself as a victim, and do not speculate over what you may have done. It is the “ghoster’s” responsibility to disclose any grievances, as opposed to simply veiling their emotions through the lack of an explanatory message. Compassion amongst humankind is a scarce resource. Consider yourself lucky to have not wasted more time with this individual, and recall that as one door closes in your life, another opens, as cliché as that sounds. As long as you don’t remain fixed, awaiting the already-closed door to reopen, you’ll find yourself all the more gratified by the new door that’s agape with invigorating promises.