We were teenagers. J. and I had developed a deep and deeply romantic friendship and it was completely platonic. [Except for that dream I had about marrying her. And the dream she had about me joining her in the bathtub. (I think Tom Petty was there, as well.) And that time we went camping with her mom and stepdad, and I was giving her a back rub on our sleeping bags in the back of the truck, and it was freezing, and it was the middle of the night, and I straddled her, laying my hands on her warm back, and she said,
“Mold me like clay,”
and I was so sexually aroused and so scared that I jumped off of her and had to wait til my heartbeat regained its normal tempo.]
J. was the first friend I came out to. Our heart-and-mind connection was beautiful and hilarious and mutually doting, and she was one of the first people in my life I had those epic conversations with about the nature of the universe and the nature of tiny, seemingly inconsequential things that were actually totally profound. We had been close friends for several years before I woke to the reality that I was utterly in love with her. I existed til then in that liminal passageway between the conscious and unconscious knowledge of my desire for other girls; our friendship and the erotic energy between us lingered in that blurry borderland between fantasy and reality, mutuality and unrequition.
I finally gathered the nerve to write her The Letter in 1991. We were both 19. She was in a relationship with a significant boyfriend, and had a good deal more sexual experience than I had at the time. In fact, my own exploration with boys to that point had been marked by a couple darkened living room gropes and botched attempts at fellatio. J. actually knew what being in a relationship meant, what love meant. Here I was, a 19 year-old who'd never even gone on a proper date, declaring my intense love and desire for J. in a letter laden with angst and written with such urgency and self-absorption that I almost forgot she had a serious boyfriend (a guy I really dug, by the way, and had no intention of hurting). There was urgency on her part, too, because when she received the letter, she immediately called me and we made plans to rendezvous at Denny's in Fremont (a reasonable half-way point between her house in the East Bay and mine in the South) to discuss these Weighty Issues.
I don't remember the finer details of our conversation that night, or if we ordered chicken strips or “Moons Over My Hammy,” but the gist of it was this: she had a boyfriend, and being with girls wasn't what she could do. But oh-my-god-if-she-didn't-have-a-boyfriend...could she maybe, possibly, fall in love with me too?
J. turned out not to be my first girl kiss, to my displeasure, though I was so looking forward to holding her and pressing her lips to mine in the vinyl booth of that most romantic of generic American diner settings. We shortly drifted apart into the adventures of our own early-20s lives and touched base now and again. I'm so happy to say that we reconnected over the years, and that we still totally adore and admire each other. Things turned out exactly the way they should have for us both.
But damn, that would've been something good.