The Following Is A Love Letter
The following is a love letter:
The day we met, we showed up with two suitcases each. Our first bags (checked), were different: someone had broken my heart 72 hours earlier, and someone was breaking yours.
Our carry-ons were the same—like one of hundreds of black Aways on the arrivals belt at JFK—America had just elected an orange hellscape as president. Just 12 hours earlier, on opposite ends of the island, we watched it play out between whiskey shots and sobs. It was the drunkest I’ve been in recent memory; I should’ve been hungover—I sobered up the second I saw you.
An hour before our proposed meetup at the Angelika Film Center on Houston, I texted you to see if we could postpone our plans. I didn’t feel like enough of myself to share with someone else. You told me it was the only free time you had that week, maybe it would be a “bright spot.”
A thought: we could name our daughter Angelika but it’d look like a weird homage to Bette and Tina from The L Word and everyone knows they were the worst couple? Like we all forgive Bette for the hot carpenter?
Trump’s victory hung over the city like a dark cloud; I wore my mom’s L.L. Bean raincoat to ward off God’s literal tears, and my “Make America Gay Again” t-shirt (a mistake—at quick glance, some subway riders mistook it for a victory lap).
The first time you painted me, the proportions were off. Now my parts come easily for you: the lifelong tattoo on my neck, the new one on my arm.
The first breakfast you made for me was eggs cooked in bacon grease.
The first time we had sex, I bragged about how little time I’d take. I knew I wasn’t coming so I got nervous.
The first time you said “I love you,” I wouldn’t let you say it. I knew it was coming so I got nervous. We’d go to Sweetgreen right after on the gift card I’d received for Christmas, and I’d make you tell it to me again, between every bite of our shared Harvest Bowl.
A friend had set us up—you needed a woman to work on your film set, it bugged you that your teacher had assigned you an all-male crew. It bugged me too. I came in blind, unprepared, knowing only your first name, completely unable to pick you out of a crowd. A planned meeting with a stranger would usually send me down an intense research path, and I’d come through with: your mother’s name, which high school you graduated from, our mutual friends (that totally authentic I-knew-nothing-before-asking-this question: “So where did you go to school? Omg so you know, um… ____?), a cute quip about your company-wide Linkedin portraits. But my crisp breakup had prompted me to deactivate all social media to avoid seeing my ex.
I never thought I stood a chance. It’s getting harder to know for sure. I miss the days when low Docs and Carhartt beanies were a dead giveaway. Now we talk with your dad over red wine (the Cabernet Sauvignon he buys in bulk for cheap by claiming he’s a co-op) about how queerness can be used for social capital, to claim wokeness—he has a lot to contribute, he’s a journalist after all.
You spotted me, the sting of heartbreak so fresh when I pulled out the headphones blasting 22, A Million to shake your hand. I spotted you, low Docs and thrifted plaid pants, my own Lea Seydoux waiting to break my heart in a 3+ hour lesbian drama of our own.
Topics covered at our first date: your boyfriend of 3 years, my ex-girlfriend(s), your thesis, my thesis (and how it launched me into a four-month period of self-loathing and required a complete restructuring of my relationship with my mother—we’re good now, but it took me a year to talk about it without crying).
I remember it was really hard to leave your side. I told you I was starving. You walked with me down Bleecker Street, I pulled you into an Indian sandwich shop I sweared you had to try (a choice). I offered to buy you one, you said you were a celiac (will I ever meet a girl who can eat gluten?). I nervously double-fisted two sandwiches (why is it so easy to talk to this girl?) while I awaited the instructions for our next location like an excited kid on an Easter egg hunt.
I walked you from Soho to your apartment, an industrial building off Canal Street (your parents’ place, now my second home), I noticed the “Space Explorer” patch you stuck onto your backpack to conceal the Fjallraven logo (too many people have them now). You were already different.
Your friend was stopping by to pick up the robe she had left at your house after the Coney Island Mermaid Day Parade (you’ll later tell me that friend, the one who makes you eskimo siblings with Timmy Chalamet and with whom you shared a threesome soundtracked by Sylvan Esso’s self-titled album, was your first girl—my antenna will go up). You called the elevator to head upstairs, telling me gently that I had to stay in the lobby because your dad’s cancer and recent stem cell transplant had left him immunocompromised—a stranger like me in the apartment probably wasn’t a safe bet.
You mentioned you were attending the Trump protest march that night. I walked it alone, hoping I’d run into you.
Since that day: Our nudes have been flagged on our joint instagram account. We ran a marathon together, raising $6k for your Dad’s obscure cancer, the one he got from reporting on-site during 9/11—he’s a journalist, after all. Your celiac-ass knows how to categorize IPAs based on smell.
My friends make fun of me for falling faster than a meteor shower. But I’d be really friggin’ bummed if we don’t spend our lives together. Of course, there will be the phase where I miss men (we agree that “There’s just something about getting fucked”), you’ll understand. There will be the phase where I’m not butch enough for you and you enjoy a brief affair with a strong-jawed androgynous beauty who also works in film (we’ll have mutual friends, we might even be friends, but it won’t be messy).
A week later, you’d tell me about the assault you endured (mark it under the list of things I can’t type without my blood boiling), and I’d pretend like I hadn’t already overhead you mentioning it to your friend when you thought I wasn’t listening that first week. I’d show you self-harm scars to offer some vulnerability of my own, knowing very well that it couldn’t match the trauma of the scarlet letter you never chose.
On days where my anxiety gets too much, you hold the pressure points on my wrists and sit with me as I self-medicate with 20 minutes of binaural beats.
You were 20.5 and I was newly 22. But it was you, in the back of that Upper East Side bar at 4am on a Tuesday night, who asked my permission to kiss me. I stumbled when I said you could.
All my love,
The girl in the L.L. Bean coat who needed saving.