An Open Letter to *NSYNC, My Ex-Lover
The nights have been long since you left. I don’t want these words to be confused with that of another pop song, because you are the only pop song. You are my only pop song. You are my song.
For years, people told me not to wait. They said, you’ve gone your separate ways; it’s over. Then we ran into each other at the Grammy’s in 2003. Remember? The night you were singing the Bee Gees tribute, and I was wearing that slinky black dress that looked like sexuality? I don’t know if you recall—at the after party. You were on your third glass of champagne and I was on my ninth and we were flirting near the door of the bathroom, talking about the first time we met. We were joking about how hot it was that night in 1999.
I looked younger then (like an Olsen twin, some have said.) But it was a night I’ll never forget. And then there we were, four years later, standing a hundred yards from Britney, drinking champagne more expensive than my clothes.
At the end of the night, we went our separate ways. I cried, a drunken pathetic middle-school girly sob.
The next couple of months I tried to move on. I decided if I could find some new lovers, maybe it would be easier. I went on dates with Dashboard Confessional, and hands down—he just wasn’t as youthful as you; I felt the tender kisses of Guster and swam in his patchouli musk. I developed an on-again, off-again love affair with Ryan Adams, and he refused to acknowledge that you ever existed.
I remember when I heard you were seeing someone else. That you’d split from your best friends, that you were making music, but it wasn’t the same: You were on my television and in my brain and suddenly you were everywhere. Something of you was missing, and maybe it was me, or maybe it was just that you didn’t seem quite…whole. You’d cut your hair, remember? All that damn mess of hair—you just chopped it off— and you started doing things alone.
You made new friends. They were people I didn’t even know that you knew — which really hurt, you know? It killed when you started showing up on movie screens and arenas again and you weren’t the same. But I still loved you. I loved the new you and I loved the old you. I loved all of you.
There was a while there where I gave up on us ever crossing paths again, where I decided maybe I should move on completely. I tried another spiraling mess of lovers. I went to dingy bars and played darts while crying onto my shoes with Elliott Smith; I wore suspenders and tried to learn the banjo. It was a desolate time.
In 2009, six years after the last time we saw each other, I finally decided to put my best foot forward and move on. I met someone —I won’t say who—but I started to really feel again, to really experience life the way I had with you. It wasn’t the same, but it was working. I moved to Nashville, and he came with me, only scoffing once or twice when your voice came through the CD player of my Honda Civic.
We almost crossed paths in 2010 after I felt like I’d finally found some peace, but I avoided you. I could see who you were dating. She was famous. She was beautiful. You were everywhere — but you still weren’t whole.
And then— I remember the day. It was late 2013. I was trying to figure out how to burn down the BuzzFeed offices when they leaked the news. I hate that I found out from them, that you weren’t man enough to call me. But I still wanted to see you, all of you: The you from 2003, not 2005 or 2008 or 2010. The real you.
I didn’t believe it to be true — almost no one did. I cried in my bedroom, looking around at the empty walls and wondering what happened to the pictures of us you that used to cover them so many years ago?
The night I knew I would see you, I tried to stay calm. I didn’t drink too much, and I waited. I remember when I first saw you show up, you still didn’t look like yourself. Not complete, something was missing. And then, suddenly, there you were. All of you at once. It was fleeting and beautiful and, yes, you had aged. But it was you. And it was me. And we were one.
And then, just like that, you were gone.
It’s been ten years, and I can’t forget you. I need you, all of you, more than ever. Our short foray into the heart of the past was not enough, I need you. I want you.
I want you back.