Ever the cliche, my relationship with Anna started (and ended) with a UHaul.
Emboldened by my upcoming move out of state, we exchanged a drunken kiss a week before I left, both knowing we had nothing to lose. In our years of working together, we had never exchanged more than a few cigarette breaks, but their surprising intimacy pointed to a much stronger connection pulling us together.
Looking back at our time at the restaurant where we worked, I remember our close-quarters conversations in the walk-in and conspiratorial drinks on the patio, and wonder how we didn’t realize we were falling in love.
Still, a week after our stolen kiss, I found myself behind the wheel of a van filled with all of my possessions, wondering why in the hell I was driving away from her and what I was driving toward.
The unfairness and cruelty of being brought together after years, only to have a few short days together, was unbearable. I arrived in New York, where I had planned to finally quit partying, grow up, and get my life together. But all I wanted was to be back in the small town that just weeks before I couldn’t wait to leave.
Despite our best efforts to be practical, Anna and I couldn’t help but stay in touch, and eventually planned a second date, the first of many trips between Texas and New York, just a few weeks after our first kiss. She packed her suitcase, got on her very first flight, and we spent New Year’s Eve toasting our time together, unsure of the future, but happy to be with one another.
For the next several months, we spent all of our free time traveling back and forth to see one another. I saw my old college town through new eyescelebrating her 21st birthday with a bar crawl at the old haunts I thought I had grown sick of, but enjoyed all over again with her. She came up to Pennsylvania to meet my family, and I met hers over drinks on the old-timey town square. We exchanged tearful I love yous after a night out, unsure of what a future of continued long distance looked like, but sure we wanted to move forward together.
Each time we travelled, it was harder to say goodbye, with no end date in sight. I’d come home to my empty apartment and open my luggage, all my clothes reeking of her perfume, and console myself with the specialty Texas vodka that reminded me of her. It started to feel like my real life was contained in the short spurts we spent together, and the rest of the time was just spent waiting for the next visit.
The romantic agony of being apart was no longer romantic, let alone sustainable. So, with the confidence of young love and the notion that we’d “figure it all out,” Anna moved up to New York with three suitcases, a southerner’s excuse for a winter coat, and no idea the mess she was getting into.
For two years we lived together, spanning two apartments, eight roommates, and five jobs between the two of us. With each passing anniversary, we joked that folks back home who had bets about how long we’d last had lost again. We packed our suitcases for trips to romantic getaways in nearby cities and made lofty plans for the future. Life seemed like one incredible movie montage set to a Billie Holiday song, and I found myself in awe that someone like her could love someone like me.
The good times were a blur of nights out exploring the city together, dancing in the dark, and champagne brunches. But then the bad times were a blur of late night fights, and regretful mornings. As the bad days started to outweighed the good, I continued to push aside the nagging thought that I had to stop drinking.
In between the good and the bad times, there was always drinking, and it always came first, before anyone or anything else. It was time to break up with booze. In fact, like most breakups, it was long overdue. I wondered if I would ever be able to love Anna the way that I loved drinking.
Just before our anniversary, Anna moved out. She packed up the same suitcases that brought her to New York, loaded up a UHaul, and it seemed that was that.
But true to form, Anna and I couldn’t help but stay in touch.
So often lesbian relationships end with some pieces still working, even when the big pieces don’t. When your girlfriend is your best friend, lover, style consultant, cheerleader, and party-buffer, it’s impossible to recast all those roles. How many of us know former couples who have remained friends, friends with benefits, or roommates? And who better to console you through a breakup than the one other person who knows what it feels like?
New in sobriety, I was incredibly fortunate to have Anna’s support and compassion, as we continued to stay in touch. And while many aspects of my life changed, one thing that didn’t was the constancy of her friendship, and how much it meant to know that she believed I could succeed. The excuses to see each other became flimsier and flimsier. She had forgotten to take an oven mitt when she moved, or the outstanding wifi bill had to be discussed. But those excuses were enough to get together and begin a friendship.
From friendship, trust blossomed. And while we met for coffee instead of cocktails, from trust came hope. And now with hope comes the the building of a foundation we didn’t have before, arrogant and overeager as we were to be together. Our relationship is very different, but the love is not only still there, but it’s deeper, surer, and far less rose-tinted.
Sobriety changed the quality of time we spend together, memories we make (ones I can actually remember), and what I was willing and able to provide. What had previously been an imbalanced exchange of encouragement, trust, and support, was slowly becoming more balanced. We were learning to rely less on each other, more on ourselves, and to value the support the other offered as a gift, not a demand or requirement.
Our second first kiss was equally changed. For one thing, I remember it. But more importantly, it celebrated the idea of starting over-without whitewashing the past.
It’s difficult being in a long distance relationship againshe’s in Queens and I’m in Brooklynbut there’s something wonderful about still packing suitcases with practiced regularity, now to spend a night at the other’s apartment. We still don’t know what the future looks like, but sure we want to move forward together, with plans for another UHaul sometime down the line.