Every Woman I Have Ever Loved, Submission #4
Description: Reader submissions about women they’ve loved– all of them, or just a memorable few.
She had a quiet smile like a cat and an enormous scowling frown. She had an uproarious laugh like no one else. We began following each other around in eighth grade, especially in P.E. Good company was key to survival and we were each other’s good company.
We both loved Orlando Bloom, and she lent me her special edition DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring so that I wouldn’t miss any of his appearances in the 30 hours of extras. We blew soap bubbles on the litter-strewn schoolyard and in the filthy bathroom. I poked her waist just to hear her shriek. We laughed at everything, and everything was a collaboration. Sometimes when we were alone, lines from “All The Things She Said” ran through my head. I wasn’t sure what that meant and it made me uneasy.
She got assigned to a high school on the opposite side of the city but we didn’t give up for a while on following each other around. I wrote a poem in our English poetry section about the wind carrying her away while she laughed and laughed. Some days when her school had a half day, I would turn around in class, and she would just be there, in a spare seat in the back row, grinning at me.
She had traveled the world but never been to school before. I leaned my head out of bed towards her before I fell asleep and told her nonsense stories about bugs and fish and stars and snow. I slept and slept and slept that winter. She coaxed me out of bed to go on late-night walks when depression shut my mouth, and we’d come home and burn her contraband incense and boil water for tea in the dim glow of our Christmas lights.
She took pictures of me that made me want to learn how to take pictures. I told her secrets that scared me and she told me things she was ashamed of too, so I wouldn’t feel like the only one with her guts spilled out on the ground. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I tried my best to distract her away from studying.
The last nights of the year we had to unbunk our beds and we pushed them together. “Is that weird?” she asked, about sleeping side by side that way. “No, my sister and her roommate have their beds like this,” I told her.
Surrounded by women I loved, in the cloud of triumph over our forbidden midnight underwear run across campus, I invited a boy over Facebook chat to meet me at the nearby playground. Swinging next to him on the swing set, I stared at the stars wheeling overhead and didn’t want to kiss him at all.
Two days later, I hugged her goodbye. She would not be returning in the fall. “Don’t forget about me, about our adventures this year,” I said into her shoulder in the parking lot. Somewhere there were other words to say – there was something else to do. I remember she was about to cry and she said, “I couldn’t.”
We wrote letters for a long time. I made her worry, then got better and one day came out. I visited her several times at her parents’ home in the New England mountains and she and her husband visited my city. In some ways thing were the same, before she married and before I came out. I went to her wedding, and for the ceremony her sister read a poem she had copied out and sent me once in a gift. “i carry your heart with me…”
I didn’t know how to make women I loved stay. I thought that being sick and sad might help. I told her too much and she listened and did not get angry. We rode the streetcar to the beach on a colorless August day and drank coffees in the sand. She told me to try riding her skateboard and held my hands to balance me.
Later she told my sister that I needed help and my sister told my parents, but I cared too much about hanging out with her and getting texts from her to be mad at her. I stole a boy’s longboard for a few hours to teach myself, just so I could tell her that I had. Later I bought the cheapest one I could find on eBay and spent the flaming days of Midwestern autumn, the cool floodlit nights, getting as far from my life as I could.
Things became less intense as I dealt with my shit, but some nights still she would roll up to my house at ten or later and we’d hunt out an Indian buffet that was still open, or return to that coffee shop by the beach.
We found each other on a forum for sick girls. Something stronger than hunger kept us in touch, dancing in orbit. I told my parents that she was sad and her parents were mean and there weren’t any jobs out in the country where she lived, and she moved in with us. She was sarcastic and drawled and wore toe socks at night. For a month we watched TV and ran errands together and walked around the city, the park, froze in the fog at the zoo, soaked up Indian summer’s days and the peculiar clarity the air gets in fall there. We fell asleep on the floor in front of the heater. I took pictures of her and cut bangs for her, badly. She dyed her hair blond in our work sink and missed her cat terribly.
She drew the covers aside and made room for me to crawl into her bed with her when my father made me cry. After I had cried a while she asked, “Want to go outside and see if the wind will blow us away?” We brought my comforter outside and her DVD player. She counted the stars she could see from our city backyard: seven. The wind did not blow us away.
We went to get our collarbones pierced together before she left. She went first and kept her face still so I wouldn’t be afraid of how it hurt. I took more pictures, of her ponytail, the piercings, her freckles, her wrapped up in a blanket, drinking tea out of a miniature tea set, the two of us wrapped up and dancing around in tinsel garlands. She flew away back home when October came, and all that fall and the next, I missed her so much I didn’t know what to do.
She sent me a message on OkCupid. I was in another country, across the sea, and I had changed my location in advance of my return. She invited me over to her tiny apartment one evening, and we sat in her room listening to music and talking. I lay back and stared at the ceiling when she put Dustin O’Halloran’s piano solos on, and she said, “Ah!” and then, “Close your eyes.” She shut off the lights and when I opened my eyes, the ceiling was awash with stars. We leaned our knees against each other and pressed our noses together and when the time came for me to catch a train back home, I didn’t know how to make myself get up.
She let me direct her and her Rabbit up Highway 1 to the farthest most wide-open place I could think of. I ran into the January sea because living in the closet in my parents’ basement was doing a number on me, and when I came back out she traded me track pants and woolly socks for my soggy dress and fed me trail mix. She rested her fingers in the crook on the back of my neck and asked me if she could kiss me again.
When she double-parked in front of my parents’ house that night, I was too afraid of being seen to kiss her, so three weeks later I came out to my parents, ahead of schedule. I left them a letter and fled the city with a backpack full of wine.
Wine and unemployment yielded to spring and anxiety and poetry slams and being madly in brand-new love. We passed a summer of transit strikes and fog and queer dance parties. In August I struck out on my own and she brought sunflowers to inaugurate my brand new room. Two years and a bit later, she joined me.
She makes us breakfast every Saturday. When I forget food on the stove and burn it, she hugs me. We talk to our cat a lot, and on sunny evenings we put a purple harness on him and walk him out in the yard together. I wake up to her warmth. It has been three years and five months now.