The Exes Whose Numbers We Don’t Delete

Thought Catalog
7 min readJul 6, 2020
Ingrid Santana

They are there, whether or not you’re aware of them. In fact, you’re probably not aware of them — they have no bearing on you anymore. They’re the numbers of the dates that didn’t turn into anything more, the offers for drinks that we bailed on last minute, the exes and maybes and classmates and coworkers we had crushes on. They’re just there if you look for them. And we never do look for them. But if they’re hovering just out of grasp, why keep them around at all?

I came across my own roster while rabidly deleting apps and data and needless games from my phone in the hopes of making the necessary 5.8 gigabytes of room for the newest iOS update. As I parsed through years of photos and music and message threads loaded with gifs and pictures, I noticed them — the Numbers of Exes (and almosts) Past.

There was Chris, no last name, who initially stuck out at me because I am the kind of person who needs last names in my phone. And then I found Josh and Peter Penny Farthing, two guys I must have met at the bar of the same name God knows how many years ago when I actually went there. John Marine’s entry was the sole memento of when Fleet Week in New York was more fun than sad (when you turn 23, you suddenly begin to realize that all the men in uniform that flood the city in May are actually little more than boys in uniform and it becomes instantly sobering). On and on the list went, men whose faces I did not remember and whose text threads (if we exchanged any at all) had long since been deleted. I didn’t even remember exchanging my number with some of these names, though I suppose I must have at some point because there they were, taking up just as much extra space as former coworkers from old jobs and the classmates with whom I probably worked on a project in college once.

And of course, there were the real exes, or at least the almost-boyfriends I had either fizzled out on or with whom I had spectacularly crashed and burned. Some had numbers relegated to “DO NOT PICK UP” — there was a cluster of five of these seemingly identical contacts, differentiated only by the digits associated with them. Some were exes I am still friends with on Facebook, and though I know there are a few whose numbers I angrily deleted in a fit of self-preservation (I am always the kind of person who caves and texts back first) the vast…

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