The rewards of burying myself in my career were many. I truly loved what I did and I was good at it. Even as I got promoted and moved further away from the classroom, it remained, and is to this day, the most intrinsically rewarding thing I have ever done. I relished the honor of teaching the most vulnerable and precious people I have ever known. My employer even helped pay for a Master’s degree in exchange for a two-year commitment to stay with the organization. What it lacked was monetary compensation. I decided it was time to move on when I found out I was getting paid less than a first-year teacher after ten years of experience, earning a Master’s degree and becoming a principal. I felt valued but, also, taken advantage of. I accepted a leadership position with the local public school district. The raise was a serious game changer, however, the culture led to antidepressants. And yet, the location brought Missy back into my life.
It happened on a random but, lovely, fall afternoon. I saw a familiar body get out of a car as I was leaving school for a home visit. Could that be Missy? After holding the door open as two small bodies got out of car seats, the mom turned around. It was Missy!
You know when your excited –so happy and scared and shocked — -that you might have to pass out or throw up? It was like that for me. We greeted each other warmly but shyly. She introduced me to her twins. They were two cute buttons of adorableness with big sleepy brown eyes and wispy blond hair. They were “big” little bitties who could climb out of car seats and walk all by themselves but still hid behind their mom when meeting someone new. They were at the school for a regular screening. I was running late and didn’t know what to say. I left my home phone number with one of the administrative assistants to give to Missy when she checked out. I left hoping she would call soon.
Weeks passed. Then we were upon winter break. I had given up hope of hearing from her when, low and behold, she called. We chatted long enough to make plans to meet for coffee. I was a nervous wreck. What would the blowback be from my partner, to whom I had promised I would not see Missy again, be? Blessed be, she was and would be out of town. I decided not to tell her my plans. There was a family emergency that required me to stay with my niece and nephews on the day we were to meet. We rescheduled our coffee date.
Finally, the day came. It was after the new year had started. Everything was cold and wet and dreary until we hugged among strangers and display cases of desserts-to-go. Yes, it was a little awkward but also warm and familiar, like coming home after a long and strained time apart from all that you know and love. Then we were off to the races again. Our conversation flowed easily, joyfully even, for over four hours. Occasionally, we would pause to just stare into each other’s eyes as if to soak in the moment: You are really here. I see you. I am seen by you.
We made a commitment to have a standing get together every Wednesday night and we kept it. It was as if the universe had opened the door to new possibilities just when we each needed a new door to walk through. My partner was frequently away for extended periods of time on business, which was good because we, as a couple, were not good.
Missy and her partner had just broken up but were still living together. She had moved into the basement. They were co-parenting their children who were two years old, almost three. We were both nursing a broken heart. Our time together was more than just a welcomed distraction, it was a reaffirmation of our friendship that could not be broken.
Rather than stew in our sorrows, we chose to have new adventures. We played darts and poker. We explored areas of the city we had not been to before. She had me over for a homemade dinner with her twins. I met her friends. We talked — a lot. She was on dating sites and would occasionally go on one. I didn’t love that but was supportive. I wanted her to be happy and I certainly wasn’t ready to give up my relationship to take a chance on one with her. Besides, we had not really talked about that possibility beyond the fact that she was available. Pretty soon it was not just on Wednesday’s that we saw each other but every chance we got.
When she took her kids out of town to visit family for a week I nearly went batty. Missy was all I could think about. Her laugh. Her skin. Her lips. Her hands. She was far away and I did not like it a bit. It was rude to interrupt her vacation, but I did when I called her to check in. “I miss you.” I said. She said it back. I believed her. The next time we got together I proclaimed my obsession with her. And my confliction too, because, well, you know, I was in a relationship.
We made rules. 1. No holding hands. 2. No kissing. 3. Not too much alone time with each other, especially in small spaces! 4. Stick to once a week. No more of this seeing each other all the time.
The brakes were on, but the bus did not really slow down. Well, we did manage to wait an entire week before our next get together. Go us for following rule number four! To celebrate (insert wink here) we played darts and then drove around town, just the two of us. We talked. We sang along with some music from our college days. I wanted more but she was not making any moves. Her quiet presence was calming, reassuring, gentle, loving even. It felt like she was with me- holding me with her heart but, not with her arms. Was this feeing real or there only because I wanted it to be true? Was it mutual? Was she giving me space to do what I needed to do, just as she had always done in our friendship?
Finally, shyly, and with get trepidation, I took her hand in mine. Her hand was big and soft and strong. My whole body sighed with relief and comfort and small tingles. I couldn’t have let go of her, even if I had wanted to. So, there we were, breaking half of our rules right out of the gate, and encroaching on the third every time I mentioned how I might/could make out with her at certain locations as we passed them… You know, if we were a couple, which we are not…because we are friends and there is that other person I am responsible to.
But, like I said, I couldn’t let go of her so, we drove around like this, literally, all night. Near day break I had to get ready for work. She took me home. I wasn’t even tired.
The next time we got together I had to pick her up because of some car trouble she had. That meant we were going to be alone in a small space. I was sweating before I even got to her. How was I going to be able to handle this?!
She gave me a CD she had made for me. We reviewed the rules. We said we would do better this time. I don’t remember what we did that evening because all I could think about was kissing her. I called it an evening rather early just to escape my growing need to press myself into her.
Missy was always respectful of my time and needs so, although clearly disappointed, she got in my car. We were quiet. A block or so from her home I swerved into a woodland park area, slammed my car into park and turned it off. I looked at Missy for a hard second, leaned in and kissed her square on the mouth. Our lips were soft and oh, so sweet.
Dana enjoys walking her dogs at dawn, vacationing with her wife and celebrating life’s big and small moments. She is an avid reader of lesbian literature.