Where The Wind Meets The Water
Or: “If You Know The Color Of Their Eyes Then It’s Already Too Late”
I sometimes struggle with how much of my personal life I should put into publicly-viewable writing.
Some of my best work — and some of the most emotionally resonant for my readers — is deeply personal, veering into the confessional. Writing personal stuff is hard for me in a way I suspect it isn’t for most folks, and I feel like trying to push through that discomfort has helped make me a better writer. And, obviously, it’s helped me work through some issues by putting words to the thing I needed to get out of my head.
But there are times where I legitimately worry about the extent to which I mine my personal life for #content. I worry that I am both cheapening my own experiences and undermining some of the trust my readers put in me; if every experience of my day-to-day life is open to public consumption, then where does the brand stop and the actual me begin?
So, every time I write about my personal life, I always have to run this hazy calculus about how much of myself to put out there, and always with this worry that maybe I really should keep more of my own life to myself.
Sometimes, though. Sometimes something happens and I can’t help not talk about it. Sometimes I have to write it down because I can’t actually climb up onto every rooftop to shout it.
So. I met someone.
Wait, let me back up.
One chilly Sunday afternoon last November, I went over to my friends’ house to watch Doctor Who. I got there way early and they were heading out to their book club. I had previously offered to make dinner, so they let me hang out at their place while they were out and start prep work. (And spend time with their elderly matron of a cat, Byron.)
The front door opened a few hours later with me hip-deep in whole wheat pasta and cherry tomatoes, such that I was barely able to look up from what I was doing until one friend, B, bounded up to give me a hug. It was only then that I saw that they brought someone back from their book club. Someone I hadn’t met before.
“Hi, I’m Laura.”
After trying my level best not to embarrass myself in front of someone new, I realized I didn’t have enough of one ingredient to make dinner work. B offered to run to the store for me — which wasn’t too far — but Laura interjected and said she’d do it. We had literally just met and now we were on familiar enough terms that she didn’t mind running out to the store for me. 20 minutes later she came back with what I needed.
We had dinner. We watched Doctor Who. A neighbor unexpectedly dropped by to catch some of the episode with us; hijinks ensued. At the end of the evening I was getting ready to head off and had my phone out to get a Lyft when B caught my attention.
“Hey Laura, maybe you could give Bridget a ride home?”
I panicked. I quickly assured Laura that it was okay and that I didn’t want to impose.
“No worries, you’re on my way anyway.”
So she gave me a ride to where I was living at the time. The conversation on the ride over was surprisingly deep and personal; we talked about our faith (we’re both pagan), family difficulties, how we’re trying to find joy in a world that seems like it’s falling apart. By the time we pulled onto my street I found myself wishing I lived further away.
Did I mention she was cute? Because, gosh, she was really cute.
So much so that I fired off a quick Facebook message to one of the friends, C, I made dinner for that night.
I got to my front door, started to put my key into the lock, and stopped. I looked back out at the street and said, out loud, “no seriously, what just happened?”
I moved into a new home at the end of the month. A couple weeks after the move, I hosted a housewarming party that was also a Yule/Winter Solstice/Christmas get-together. It was my first time hosting a party in years; I was excited, and scared, and really grateful I could do this again after spending so many years in living situations where I couldn’t have people over.
I was also really, really hoping Laura would show up.
Even after guests started arriving and I was busy with host duties, I kept casting furtive glances at my phone and at the front door, anxious about when or if she would show up.
She did finally come, tagging along with the friends I met her through when I cooked dinner for everyone.
Some time after she arrived, she pulled me aside and told me she had some housewarming gifts for me — a sage wand, an amethyst stone, and a votive candle that a witchy friend made for her specifically for me. She told her friend a little about me and my recent move and the friend made this with all that in mind. Laura clearly put a lot of thought into this. I was struck. I almost started crying right then. I gave her a hug and then got pulled away for more host work.
Later in the evening we held a symbel in front of my new wood-burning fireplace. In one pass of the drinking horn, we honored our particular ancestors, higher powers we feel called to, and beloved dead. In the next, boasts about what we’re proud of from the past year. In the last, oaths to keep in the following year.
Afterward we all just sat in front of the fire, talking. I got to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in too long. But all the while I kept glancing over at Laura, wishing I had more time, wishing I could spend a whole evening next to her.
Life got in the way — the winter holidays and a death in her family — and I didn’t see Laura again for almost two months.
One Saturday afternoon I went over to her house. I had lost a lot of weight recently and my skirts didn’t quite fit anymore. She offered to tailor them so that they stopped falling off of me. While she worked on my skirts we kept asking each other Get To Know You Better questions. The day passed quickly and, as ever, I found myself wishing I had more time.
My birthday was a few weeks later. Because of schedule conflicts, I put two separate events together over consecutive weekends.
The first weekend I had people over to play board games. Laura was there. She brought homemade pico de gallo — it was amazing, obviously — and we played Ticket To Ride.
We had to wrap up early to appease my roommates and, again, I wished I had more time. But then, after the rest of my friends left, Laura asked if I wanted to go out to dinner.
We ended up at a small pub not too far away. The place offered dim lighting and warm cider and relative quiet. We shared a charcuterie plate and a bowl of mussels. All the while I kept thinking how this would’ve made a lovely date.
The next weekend a group of us went to see “Captain Marvel.” Laura picked me up early and we killed some time at a bougie housewares store nearby. We joked about hitting up IKEA next time to really take things to the next level.
She sat next to me in the movie theater. I found myself having to actively concentrate on the movie, because otherwise I would’ve been entirely preoccupied with how warm she was.
We all went out for dinner afterward — which ended up being a bit of a comedy of errors — and she drove me home.
We sat parked in her car for almost 45 minutes, engrossed in another deep conversation. We talked about dating. We talked about my transition. We talked about family; I said something about how I wished I had a better relationship with my sister, especially now, with me trying to figure out how to be a girl.
Laura took my hand. And didn’t let go for a long time.
Finally she did have to get going. I got out of the car and headed upstairs. As soon as I got in I just sort of leaned against the front door and stared off into distance, trying to remind myself to breathe.
Our online conversations over the next few weeks took on a different tone. Fewer questions. More in-jokes. Surreptitious flirting.
She mentioned that she finds the word “beeves” irresistibly hilarious, and that’s all I needed to hear. It became a running gag with us. We would message each other over the coming weeks with, simply, “beeves.” We would concoct absurd and increasingly elaborate scenarios about whisking away to far corners of Europe, in search of beeves.
At one point I messaged her and said, without even really thinking about it, “this is the weirdest flirting ever and I’m here for it.”
All the while I had been talking about Laura to a few close friends of mine — including C, who had quite literally been there from the beginning — in an informal group I called the Bridget Has A Crush Newsletter.
In one conversation, C and I came up with a joke idea for a lesbian twee folk band called Crush Gushing. We came up with a list of songs from our debut album. One of C’s tracks stuck with me.
If You Know The Color Of Their Eyes Then It’s Already Too Late.
One morning toward the end of the month, I woke up to a Facebook message from Laura in which she wrote me an entire poem. About beeves. It was ridiculous and sweet. I found out later that she was under ridiculous deadline pressure at work and put all that aside to write the poem.
Later that evening, B hosted a get-together at a restaurant whose main selling point is “margaritas as big as your head.” (They were pretty big, honestly.)
I had decided that day that I was ready to take another big step in my transition. After checking in with some close friends, I made a post on Facebook letting people know that I would be going by Bridget and switch to she/her pronouns. So, I was already on a bit of a gender euphoria high, long before I had a sip of margarita.
Laura wasn’t there — she was off with one of her best friends for birthday shenanigans — but we kept talking over Messenger. She had posted a selfie while out with her friend on Instagram. I had already had most of a giant margarita. I messaged her to say she looked adorable. She responded with something flirty. We both went back to our respective parties. I showed some of the messages to C, who found the whole thing utterly adorable.
As B’s party was winding down and folks were getting on coats to leave, I got another message notification from her.
“So just so we are clear. The other day when you said we are flirting… we are agreed that this is flirting?”
I saw the message, blinked, then held up my phone to C. She read it and looked up at me, wide-eyed and grinning.
“Oh my god! Is it happening?!”
With my hand over my mouth I choked, “I… think so??”
I looked at my phone again and took a deep breath. In that moment I remembered something a friend said earlier in the week.
Listen. Have courage when it comes to people’s hearts.
If you care about them, don’t lead them on or leave things vague or unresolved.
If you’ve been waiting to have a hard conversation with someone? Take this as my blessing. They deserve your bravery and so do you.
I took another deep breath and typed out my response.
“I’m in if you are.”
She replied right away.
“Ok, good. And yes. Very seriously. Yes.”
I suppose I could’ve stopped there. But my friend’s words about having courage with people’s hearts kept ringing in my head. Laura deserved better than my cowardice.
“So, full disclosure, I had been wanting to have this conversation for, oh. A month? Maybe two?”
“I mostly wanted to wait to do this in person but, like. This is fine too.”
“We’re both intoxicated, it still counts.”
And then I asked to show her something. I talked about the night we met and her giving me a ride home. Then I showed her a screencap of the message I sent to C. She said she was verklempt.
At the end of a very long and very charged conversation, Laura said she’d like to take me out to brunch sometime soon. I said I’d love that.
The next morning:
We made a date for brunch, roughly two weeks after our Messy Feelings Confession. It may as well have been twenty years.
In the interim we would talk over Messenger from morning to night. We’d go about our workday or tend to social obligations, and in the gaps and quiet moments in-between we kept finding each other.
The Monday before brunch was Rex Manning Day. Late that afternoon, she said she wasn’t looking forward to having to make dinner. I said — jokingly but not entirely so — that she was welcome to join me for pizza and “Empire Records.” She laughed it off.
About ten minutes later:
“So, hypothetically speaking, if I WERE to come up there…”
One hour full of frantic showering and straightening-up later, she messaged me again.
“I’m at the beach park, can you come meet me here?”
The street where I lived ended at Lake Michigan. There was a small park right on the shore — nothing fancy, but some nice green and a couple benches before stepping onto the beach and into the tides. I walked over and found her on the closer of the two benches. It was the first time we had seen each other since… everything.
We were both nervous. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to act. I didn’t know what kind of touch was appropriate and I was too nervous to ask so I just kept back a bit. We sat there, trying to come up with something to say, never managing more than a nervous giggle here and there. We had talked previously about doing a dramatic re-enactment of our Messy Feelings Confession; we gave it a good try, then, but we both kept stumbling over the words.
After a few minutes she suggested we head back to my place for pizza and movies. “In a minute,” I said. It was a lovely warm early spring night. A light but steady breeze came in off of the lake, and with it, the promise of warmer nights to come.
At length, she looked at me and took a deep, centering breath.
“So. I have something of a litmus test for this sort of thing.”
She took off her glasses, folded them slowly, and tucked them into her jacket pocket.
“Because I need to know for sure.”
She turned to face me.
“Can I kiss you?”
I had spent the past few months trying to figure out what, exactly, was going on. Why now? Why her? How deep in this am I?
“Oh, please do,” I said without hesitation.
In that moment, at the place where the wind meets the water, I found my answers. And I realized it never could’ve been anything else.
“All this time,” she would say to me later. “Here you fucking are.”
The next few weeks weren’t a blur, per se, but one day does sort of bleed into another and I struggle to keep the timeline straight.
We did brunch. She came over a few times and we made dinner together. Somewhere in there we made things Facebook Official. Somewhere in there we said “I love you” for the first time.
I end up sharing a lot of myself — with friends and, somewhat reluctantly these days, with the public. I’m in a place now where I don’t feel like I have to share everything with everybody. More and more, I’m in a place where I’m content with an audience of one.
A place where the wind meets the water.