There is a certain comfort that comes from having the name for something that you are feeling. And the name for what I am experiencing is Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or so the Internet tells me so. This phenomenon is also known as the frequency illusion, it’s the name for when the thing you have just experienced or noticed, suddenly appears everywhere. It’s when the song you just heard on the radio follows you into every grocery store and shopping mall. When the car you just bought is suddenly parked on every street you pass, or for me it isn’t so much my own car but the car of my last boyfriend that seems to be haunting me.
He drove a red Volkswagen Jetta. And every time you closed the driver’s door it squeaked. It was a noise that I could hear from my apartment, and caused me to look out my window to see if it was really him in the parking lot. When we were together it was a noise that made me smile, and when we weren’t? Well, it caused a sharp pain to shoot through my body. The red Jetta is long gone. It lost its life in a car crash while the boyfriend and I were separated by thousands of miles and several countries. I was on a train when I heard the news, and it took all my self-control to remain calm in my seat. I listened while the phone rang several times, and watched the green landscape continuously flash by me.
“Hello?” It was a quiet, hushed voice on the other side of the line and the greeting immediately helped me to release a breath that I had been holding in. He was fine, but his car wasn’t. I no longer heard the squeaking, and we no longer lived in the same apartment complex. Now the two of us aren’t even together, but I can’t seem to escape the red Jetta. After our breakup I came home to take refuge, and found healing in a rescue dog named, Peanut. Peanut and I take walks every day and that is when I noticed it, the same red car. There was no smile this time, or sharp pain, just a strong impulse to drag a key along the side of it.
Suddenly, I couldn’t escape this car. A block up from my house, there it was. When I went two street overs and bent down to pick up dog poop, there it was. It’s a car that shouldn’t mean anything but for some reason it meant something. In the short route that Peanut and I take around our neighborhood there must be three of four different red Jettas that are almost identical to the one I used to see parked underneath my window. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but before I had a specific name it was more as if I was being slapped across the face by the universe. But Peanut and I still walk, and I still see the same car out in the world, and each time I see one it becomes a little easier. I now even say his name out loud, and when memories float off the shelves from the back of my mind it doesn’t make me want to walk into oncoming traffic. Broken hearts are fickle that way, something as mundane as a shitty car can throw you into a tailspin.
I’ve managed to stop spinning long enough to know that a car is just a car. A shitty ex should remain in the past, and that when you finally have a name for something you can learn to let it go.