I'm pathetic enough to remember the exact date that I found out: July 21, 2009. My girlfriend at the time had visited me the week before while I was interning in New York. The trip went well, but there was one moment that I couldn't shake. She wouldn't check her email in front of me. Although I was a possessive, jealous psycho, my reason for finding her reluctance suspicious wasn't even unreasonable.
We were on my bed, she made a reference to something specific in her email and when I asked to see it, she refused with this nervous apprehension. I didn't make a fuss about it. She had, after all, flown across the country to see me, fucked me constantly and been cool about the fact that I had no money and a terrible apartment. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but after several days passed once she returned home to Chicago I still felt weird.
My desire to know the contents of her inbox became an obsession. Unanswered questions haunted me. This was the girl who'd blindly given me her college email password back when we were at school, so I could print something out for her. This was the girl who didn't even have a passcode on her phone. Why would her formerly lax behavior towards digital privacy change so suddenly? I made it a priority to find out by any means necessary.
It only took a few minutes of searching Google before I had everything I needed to pull off a phishing scam. It only took slightly longer to execute it. It was that easy. I created a fake Gmail login site and a fake Google corporate email account. I sent her an email from that fake account with some phony security message about how her account had been compromised and directed her to the fake login page where she had to "confirm her identity." Serious hacker swag. No more than a few hours after the initial plan had been hatched, I had her password.
I'd been paranoid before and crept her shit without completely devastating results, so I wasn't expecting anything to materialize on this particular occasion. Outside of a few minor breaches of trust, she'd been pretty loyal and given me little, if anything, to worry about. The purpose of this scheme was to simply confirm that I was being irrational and reclaim my sanity. And I got exactly what I wasn't planning for.
I didn't even have to do any light digging. The very first email was from this bro she was having an affair with. My stomach dropped. I was physically sick over a fucking subject line. He'd seen Facebook photos of her visiting me in New York and was clearly distraught. He asked her, "Did you go see your ex-boyfriend when you told me you were visiting your grandmother?" She denied it and said the photos were from months ago. He didn't buy it and he couldn't comprehend how she could lie to him like that. Today, I totally understand where he was coming from.
I called in sick to work that day and I wasn't lying. I had to get my fucking life together.
This was all especially fucked up because this was a dude who I had been suspicious of for a while. Even when we were on campus the semester before that summer, he was tagging her in pictures and commenting on her wall, but she always said he was just a friend of a friend and it seemed believable. Once I knew the truth, I had immediate flashbacks to this one night right before I left for New York. I had called her a thousand times, left a hundred desperate voicemails, sent a million texts and still didn't hear from her until late the next day. Her story was that she was with her sister, but when we hung out the next day I saw driving directions to this random suburb in her browser history. Once I saw the emails with him, it became all too obvious that she was, without a doubt, fucking dude that night.
When I called from New York to confront her about it all, she denied everything. When I presented proof, she confessed that she was, indeed, at his house that night and they kissed, but it didn't go any further than that because she was thinking about me. Classic response. The conversation didn't go anywhere, so I hit up the guy on Facebook asking if he'd had sex with her. I had to know what really happened.
He hit me back the next morning and said that he did have sex with her and expressed how he was shocked because he didn't know anything about me at all and gave me his phone number. I called and asked for every horrific, disgusting detail. How many times did they fuck? 10-15. Did he come inside of her? Yes. Did he come in her mouth? Yes. What positions? All of them. It was surreal. I always thought of getting cheated on as some abstract concept that couldn't actually happen to me. I called in sick to work that day and I wasn't lying. I had to get my fucking life together.
Over the next few weeks, my now ex-girlfriend and I had a lot of intense, dramatic phone calls filled with screaming and crying. I definitely called her a slut and said that her dad had left her because she was a whore and I might have threatened to kill her. It's embarrassing. I was, undoubtedly, at my worst. When I got back to school a month later for our senior year, it only got worse. But we also fucked again the first time we saw each other and many times after that. We said, "I love you." We said, "I hate you." I even humbled myself and tried dating her again because I couldn't ignore that I was also a dishonest, unfaithful piece of shit.
What she had done to me had to have been some type of karmic revenge for me sleeping with so many other girls during our relationship. She knew nothing of my dalliances, but I told her in an attempt to try and settle the score. Naturally, it didn't work. She was forgiving and still wanted to make it work, which says a lot about the resilience of women, but neither my admission of my faults nor her acceptance of them made me feel any better about what she had done. Sure, it was selfish, but it was, for once, honest. I still thought about what happened every single time I saw her. I couldn't listen to Soulja Boy rap, "Your girlfriend sucked on my dick and it felt like she had no teeth" without becoming completely incapacitated and overridden with anxiety.
But today, I'm a better, stronger person because of all of that though. Experiencing the depths of human nature when it's at its most depraved taught me a lot of difficult truths. It ripped me out of the fantasy world that was my teens and brought me into the cold, hard reality of my 20s. And, because of that, I can never really be caught off-guard in the same way again. In the time since, I've talked to so many guys who had the same thing happen to them and realized how shared an experience getting cheated on actually is. I've slept with a lot of girls who had boyfriends and tried to better understand the thought process of their actions. Sometimes, it's about the thrill of having sex with a new person. Most of the time, it's a temporary solution for a deep-seated unhappiness in their current relationship. You start to learn that if the person you're with isn't getting regular validation and reassurance from you, they'll eventually seek it elsewhere.
These revelations might seem like common sense, but in the moment they're not—the complete opposite in fact. It's only in retrospect that you gain enlightenment and apply it moving forward. And time really does heal all wounds. I hardly ever think about what happened that summer anymore and not because it was so fucking traumatic that I've suppressed that shit, but because, at this point, I truly couldn't give less of a fuck. On the off chance that I do relive it, like now, I laugh about how crazy everything was and how utterly insane I became. And it's only made the relationships after it better because I've learned how to actually be in one. I'm glad that I got cheated on.
Ernest Baker is a writer living in New York City. Lyrics about rappers fucking his bitch don't make him upset anymore. Follow him on Twitter here.