This post is part of “Getting Over Maggie,” a series about a guy whose girlfriend has moved out. Brand new to the Maggie Chronicles? Start here.
In the fall, three months after Maggie moved out, a couple with two German Shepherds (just like the dogs Maggie grew up with) moved into your apartment complex.
Maggie would have loved those dogs. She would have developed a friendship with the owners (a deep and excited friendship! even if the owners were the most insufferable people on earth!) solely to get to know their dogs. The two of you would have wound up pet-sitting regularly, with at least one dog sprawled haphazardly across Maggie’s legs while she watched Pretty Little Liars on Netflix, taking up most of the couch.
She would forget to give the dogs food, so that part would be up to you, and you would probably have fought about it. (This kind of thing had happened before.)
But she would have been so happy.
Deep down, you know that if someone is gone for a long time, they change. They continue to have experiences. Maggie was off living her life, changing and having experiences, but you kept a version of her (your version of her, the person she had been when she was with you), and you carried her with you, like a doll in a child’s backpack.
She went with you to work every day. She went with you when your whole family went to the beach. She even went to sleep with you at night.
It was kind of like you were dating a ghost. Pathetic, but true. And maybe ghosts aren’t real, but at least they stick around.
You knew that if you ever saw her again — and you might, given that you lived in the same city — you would have to sort the imaginary out from what was real, to differentiate the real person from her ghost.
There would be a weird process of extracting Real Maggie from Maggie the Construct, the Maggie you thought you knew, the one you had continued to have a relationship with, inside your head, long after she had moved out.
But Maggie the Construct was fundamentally very different from Maggie the Actual Person, since the Maggie you thought you knew could never have left you, anyway. The Maggie who lived in your head would not have even thought of it.