A ghosting lesson

A relationship ends abruptly, then 20 years later, his daughter appears

Joey Garcia

Joey Garcia

Back when I was a student at Sacramento State, I fell hard for a tall, 20-something general contractor who had ditched college to start his own business. After a few perfect dates and after he asked me to be his girlfriend, he disappeared. No warning. No justification. He didn’t respond to my phone calls, either.

I mentally shifted through memories of our conversations but couldn’t pinpoint why our connection ended. Whatever happened was apparently none of my business.

Months later, there was a late-night knock on the door of my Midtown apartment. The contractor stood on my welcome mat, and began a careful apology.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said. “There are things you didn’t know about me, things I couldn’t tell you.”

He was an alcoholic, he said. Since our last date, he had joined a 12-step program and had stopped drinking. He was committed to a new life.

“I didn’t even know you drank alcohol,” I said, wondering what else I had missed. Then he explained how he had kept his addiction from me.

It takes courage to do a personal inventory and to accept responsibility for harming others. So I thanked him for showing up and filling in the blanks. We can build a future together now, I thought. I had just been invited to a fraternity formal. Should I cancel my date?

“There’s something else,” he said. “I’m seeing someone I met in my program.”

“Gah! Relationships are so complicated!”

I wished him luck and meant it. We went our separate ways.

Fast forward 20 years. It’s day one of a new high school year and I’m a teacher. My students settle into their seats and I begin the roll call.

“Here!” a teenage girl says. Then she adds: “You dated my dad.”

Giggles, questions and salacious comments shoot through the room.

“My mom says that you and my dad dated before they got married and—”

“Let’s talk about this another time,” I interrupt.

“When?” she asks. She seems genuinely curious.


Note to self: Ask men you date not to tell their future daughters about you.