Searching the internet is like going to Target. You often come out with a lot more than you were planning to get.  When I meet a new person, I often look them up online later to find out more about them- it’s much easier than just asking them about themselves. I find profiles from old jobs, LinkedIn, Facebook and other affiliation directories. Once in a while, I’ll find something juicy like a blog or a collection of photos from amateur modeling. Usually, the search is only moderately fulfilling.

And while I’m already searching, I also browse the aisles for the “lost boys”– boys I had a crush on in school, boys who had a crush on me and of course, ex-boyfriends. Not all exes- just the nice ones and specifically the ones who are nearly not findable. They are not on social media. They may not be local anymore. They may not be alive anymore.

There’s a guy I dated after college who worked long hours at one of the top law firms and spent the rest of his time drunk or on his way to it. He left the city to go work for a small start-up called Paypal. I’m happy that this chance opportunity probably paid off well and left him in a better and perhaps more sober place than he was when were together. I found him online looking older, though definitely alive and back in a buttoned-up corporate firm.

There’s a guy I dated after a long relationship ended. I met him online. He was a rebound with potential for more. But after a few months it was clear I wanted more for him and his career than he wanted for himself. It would have bugged me forever. So I ended it. I hope my online search for him finds him in a new job or living abroad. I still only see the decade-old photos from Okcupid and Facebook show up. He’s still missing.

And then there’s the last guy I dated before I met my partner. I would not have chosen him for a relationship but the universe chose him for me, putting him in front of me at every turn. Dating him taught me that there is such a thing as a partner who makes you too high of a priority. Every day, I was his sun. At first, it was charming. But then I couldn’t breathe. But I also couldn’t leave. He was so deeply in orbit I was worried about what he would do if I left. So I stayed. Then I left. Then I half came back. Then I quarter left. I couldn’t close the door. And then I finally did. And the next day, I met my current partner. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I got everything. He got despair. I worried about him but knew I couldn’t reach out. I had to let him heal.

So I searched, more in the first year, then sporadically when it came to mind. I wanted to find him on a dating site or on social media or with people or in a new job. I kept finding the same LinkedIn profile. Every year I searched again, nothing.

Until yesterday.

Still his LinkedIn profile, but it’s a different photo. He looks happy and it looks like someone else took the photo- it’s not a selfie. He has stubble on his face, but in a cute way, like maybe he has a lady friend who told him she likes him with a bit of a shadow. I was relieved. Here he is. Not broken. Smiling. And selfishly, I could go of the guilt I had for leaving and the fear that I had broken him.

I know the internet is still not able to tap into far-reaching places- I know this because I looked myself up and came up with many mysteries. But I hope that the lost boys are finding their way and if I can catch glimpses of them from time to time, I’ll always be happy to see them.

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