I felt a sense of urgency with Rob from the start. I was sprinting, racing against the sand that was rushing through an hour glass that turned upside down the moment we met. I needed to do and say everything as I felt it in every moment.
The thought, “If I sleep with him now, what will he think of me?” persisted.
Then on the flip side, “Who the fuck cares, I’m already in love with this guy.”
He pulled away to look at me with those mint green eyes fringed with dark lashes, and I asked, “Do you normally do these kinds of things?”
“Never.” he replied with such sincerity that I felt it in my bones.
We went back to kissing until he stopped and said “Let’s talk for a while.” and led me to the couch.
Rob was my cousin Ryan’s* best friend. He was dating Rob’s younger sister Megan and my Aunt Diana set us up. I hadn’t known Rob existed despite him meeting my family the one year I was out of town for Christmas. Timing is everything.
From the moment we met I knew there was something special about him. I loved the way he carried himself, the elegant way he spoke, the thought-provoking questions he asked, and the kindness that shined out from his gaze.
We had dinner at Apres Diem, my favorite restaurant. He admitted to being nervous which I found charming. It was two days after Valentine’s Day.
He mentioned during an epic five hour phone session that he loved the taste of chocolate and raspberries together. I got him a chocolate bar with bits of raspberries buried in it. I had tucked it away in my purse, waiting to give it to him when we got to dinner.
When he parked and turned off the ignition I said, “I have something for you.”
I reached into my purse and he said “Wait. Before you do that. I just want to say I normally don’t show up to a date empty-handed. It’s just this time, I wanted to show up as myself.”
“It’s ok.” I nodded recalling him telling me things he had done for ex-girlfriends whose expectations wore him out.
I wanted him to know I was paying attention, and that I cared. He had shared that he didn’t feel appreciated and it was all he wanted.
“Ok. I’m ready.” he smiled.
I handed him the bar and he laughed. “Oh my God, this is great! Thank you!” He studied it, turning it over. ”We’ll have to share it later.”
The restaurant was packed. We waited twenty minutes before we were seated outside. People buzzed around us as we marveled at each other, paying little mind to the menu.
He reached for my hand and I held his, giggling out of nervousness, at allowing him to see me. My toes curled in my shoes, and I shifted in my chair. I did my best to look him in the eye and hold still, breathing in the intimacy I felt.
“I’m intoxicated by your perfume.” he admitted.
I laughed. “Thanks? I think?”
“No, it’s a good thing. A really good thing.”
He ordered a rib-eye and I ordered my usual salmon sandwich. I returned my hand to his as we waited for our food to come. Our conversation was endless and effortless. I laughed in a way I had not done with anyone. There was a freedom to the sound of my voice that originated somewhere in my gut, and floated out of me.
Afterwards, we walked back to his SUV. He unlocked the door, and turned to face me, slipping his arms around my waist, pressing his lips to mine.
I melted into him, wrapping my arms around his neck, with butterflies in my belly as we stood there kissing.
“I need to get you home.” he whispered.
Hesitation pricked my skin, and I smiled my response as he opened the car door for me.
I was a deer in headlights as he got into the driver’s side. I thought we’d continue our date at a wine bar, but as our kissing resumed, home sounded just as good.
“Your place?” he asked.
“Sure. But I’m not going to tell you how to get back.” I grinned trying to stall. I wasn’t sure how good he was with directions.
He pulled into the driveway ten minutes later without so much as a wrong turn.
“Well here we are.” I laughed and spilled out of the car.
We stayed on the couch talking until midnight, and then we had sex. It was lovely in its awkward, fumbling first time sex way.
I’m not sure when the idea came, but it was shortly after that night that I wrote him a letter detailing the sex we had in the form of a short story. I told it using “he” and “she” instead of “you” and “I” to remove myself, and try to figure out our connection. I wanted to understand and communicate the intensity I felt.
It took several drafts, to get to a final one mailed off. I enjoyed the process of reliving all the details and sensations of our first time, turning it all into sentences. Rob lived in South Carolina, two hours away from my Atlanta home. I was giddy thinking of him receiving my story. I was hoping that through the description of our physical intimacy I could portray the depths of my feelings. I had not shared myself like this before.
“Thank you for the erection in the mail.” he said days later on the phone. I could hear him smiling.
“Oh you got it! I’ve been waiting for you to say something!” I perched on the edge of my bed, legs tense with the anticipation of his feedback
“It was great. Really great. I liked the way you described the setting and your choice of words.”
I was plotting the next one and how I wanted it to be a regular thing. I was so determined to write my way into defining this mysterious relationship we had.
Rob disclosed deeply personal and intimate details of his life, his thoughts and his desires. I had never experienced a man who was so open and forthcoming with his emotions. I welcomed these stories, didn’t shy away from anything he shared, and didn’t fear much.
Except one thing. It was something I never mentioned. Not to him, or anyone. It was an intrinsic knowing that while we were tightly bound, connected, and full of love, something unsettling was poking at me like thorns on a rose stem. I felt this relationship was going somewhere, but not down the aisle like I wanted.
I wanted marriage to anchor him to me. I wanted the safety and security I felt I could receive in that kind of union. Opposing thoughts ran through my head as well. I thought that no matter what, marriage or not, as long as he was with me, it was fine. I didn’t need to get married to love someone this much, but at the same time, it was all I could think about to dispel the troubling thoughts about our relationship having an expiration date.
He drove down every weekend. He met my friends, I met his family. He made me laugh so hard one night, I fell off the bed. I told him about the dark things that happened to me, about what scared me and what filled me up. We talked about compulsions and former relationships. He was a civil engineer and loved his job. I was a hairdresser, and the love I had for the beauty industry was fading.
I continued to write and mail him stories. He delivered compliments, constructive feedback, and encouragement.
“You need to publish this stuff!” he exclaimed.
I laughed. “No, it’s only for you.”
I entertained the notion of sharing it with the world because I felt humanity, (Americans especially), needs this kind of love and pleasure in their lives. I didn’t want to share our personal stories, but I enjoyed the idea of exploring through fiction.
I thought about what my family would think. I was raised to be concerned with the thoughts of other people and their perceptions of me. I had gone through my short adult life feeling like a robot with multiple personality disorder, trying to please and care-take the feelings of everyone I encountered until I met Rob. He fostered my authenticity. He made it ok to exist when I felt I wasn’t allowed to do so, when I felt like I was too wrong, too much, too little, never enough, and always brimming with self-hatred thinking that was the way to self-love and acceptance. He was giving me permission to live my life on my own terms.
“I still think you need to do something with this ability of yours.” he reminded me.
“We’ll see.” I said.
As an attempt to keep Rob at arm’s length because I had no idea how to be loved, or seen for the person I was, I told him about the plan I had set into motion before we met.
“I’m moving to Chicago.” I told him over coffee.
“What?! No way. I finally meet a girl I like and she’s moving?!” he replied, eyebrows raising.
“I’ve been wanting to leave for a while and I fell in love with Chicago in the fall when I went with my best friend Kat. I started job hunting in December. I have my fourth interview next month.”
I was concerned with the amount of relief I felt at admitting I was moving, at knowing I was intentionally keeping him at bay. It was the first time I looked at my issues, with letting people get close to me. My body was screaming at me to trust him, it knew he was a solid, honest and a perfect fit. My analytical brain posted red flags everywhere reminding me my body was not to be trusted, that it would just take over and threaten the status quo.
As we kept seeing each other I felt pulled to put Chicago on hold. I almost bailed on my interview. I was used to pausing my life when I fell for someone. Despite wanting to keep moving on my original path, I struggled with the decision to fly out there.
“You have to go.” Rob said over the phone on his drive home from my place. “Remember? Chicago makes you happy. We’ll figure everything out.”
“The weather is so shitty though. I’ll probably get delayed. It’s such a short trip, plus I have to work on Saturday.” I couldn’t believe how fast I could come with excuses.
“You have to try.” he said.
I went. I was delayed flying out there, but only briefly. The interview went well, and I knew instantaneously that I wanted to work there. It was such a beautiful salon and I felt at ease. I was asked to come back in early April for a second round with the other managers.
Rob trekked to Atlanta to see his family while I was at work on Saturday. We agreed to meet for dinner when I was done.
“I really want some “man food”.” he told me over the phone before he started driving down.
“I’ll see what I can do.” I smiled remembering him telling me how much he loved steak.
I tried not to run down the hall when he knocked on the door, his tall, broad silhouette was waiting for me on the other side of the glass window two hours later. I was used to suppressing my energetic nature, never wanting to come off as too eager. I would never tire of seeing him standing there, of knowing that within seconds he would be in my arms.
“Hi!” I threw the door open and leapt into his arms, relief engulfing my body at his presence. The day, the clients, my feelings of exhaustion dissolved. Nothing mattered except for right now.
He kissed me, and I kissed back, hard. I hadn’t even let him inside the house yet. We grinned as if we were seeing each other for the first time.
“Hey.” he said. “You look amazing.”
My gratitude was expressed through more kissing. I was forgetting about dinner, pulling him inside, and down the hall, into my room.
“Hang on.” he said. “Let’s just talk first. At dinner.”
Mild disappointment deflated my excitement. Didn’t he know I was on a mission to figure out how to explain all of the things I was feeling? All of the things I was trying to describe. I for once wanted to let go, give zero fucks and well, tear his clothes off. I felt safe with him, like I could say, do, or be anything and he would love me anyway. I wanted to express that physically as well as with words.
He was my reason for writing, for exploring my sexuality in a way that I had shied away from. He was open and limitless. I felt I was playing “catch up”. I wanted to meet him where he was. I wanted as much as I could possibly fit into this experience.
I grabbed my purse and we left for dinner.
As we walked to the Highland Tap, a cavernous underground restaurant that served steak, burgers and beer, he slipped his hand into mine. We passed other couples, people walking their dogs and or their children. The buzz of the weekend crowd infiltrating the bars and restaurants was palpable.
We were seated in a cozy booth, across from each other, my hand in his, two beers between us.
“How did I get so lucky?” he asked, squeezing my hand.
“Why are you so sweet to me?” I replied, squeezing his back.
I looked at him as if I couldn’t believe he was real. Who was this benevolent person who wanted to love me, who was showing me how to be open, how to honor myself and the things I wanted?
I was raised on a healthy dose of fear and trepidation when it came to relationships. I learned that boys only wanted one thing and would leave as soon as they got it. I was to keep my feelings, emotions, and desires to myself. I was to play “hard to get”, a game I was a complete and total failure at. I was to respond to whatever my partner wanted, instead of initiating anything.
In reality, if I liked someone, I wanted to see them. I wanted to talk and to listen. I sometimes wanted to touch them. I pushed everything away in favor of what I thought they wanted from me. I had no idea how to trust that I was enough. When they ended things by finding someone else, or ghosting on me altogether I was confused. Did I not do a good job? Was I a shitty actress? Surely you wouldn’t want who I really was. I couldn’t let anyone see that person.
“We should get you a dress.” Rob said as we were traipsing down N. Highland Ave, the evening before Easter Sunday.
The store we were passing was LaRaine’s, a wedding dress shop that displayed an array of elegant gowns on the regular. I was certain I would find a dress there one day when I got engaged.
“A wedding dress? For Easter?” I laughed.
My cheeks reddened. Most men I encountered didn’t broach the topic of weddings, or marriage. I couldn’t find the words to tell him how much that meant to me, that maybe we were on the same page about the subject.
I wrote other letters besides the sexy ones. I expressed myself better by putting words on paper instead of speaking them, so I sometimes saved sharing the intimate details of my insecurities, fears and the like for those letters. He appreciated it all the same, thanking me for sharing and offering comfort and hugs to which I loved, but also was afraid of. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for him to turn on me, to leave. I didn’t believe I could have what I wanted.
One night at the Brickstore, my favorite bar in Decatur, he slung his arm over my shoulders and said “I love you” in my ear.
I kissed him. “I love you too.” I said against his lips my heart pounding with elation.
A part of me felt it was too early to feel this, to say those words, but I couldn’t help myself. The relationship had already taken on a life of its own and I was along for ride, heading for a destination I couldn’t see.
I flew to Chicago on the first Thursday in April and wandered around the city stopping in cafes every so often, trying to imagine my life there. My second interview was the next morning.
That night, after getting situated in bed, the feeling of Rob leaving was so loud that this time I couldn’t shake it. I stared out the window, willing it to go away. I tried to distract myself with a novel, but it was so persistent that I called him.
My hands shook. “I have this feeling something is going to happen.”
“Listen. Everything is fine. Go to your interview. Be yourself. They’ll hire you on the spot.”
I continued to stare out the window, the uneasy feeling still hanging around like a stray cat wailing at my backdoor. “I love you.” I said quietly.
“I love you too.”
The next morning, I was up with the rest of the city, on public transit, heading to the salon in Lincoln Park. I perched on a bench in front of eleven managers and educators and answered their questions with Rob’s words running through my head.
“Be yourself, and they will hire you on the spot.”
It was the most fun interview I had ever had. I laughed, was honest, and as real as I could possibly manage. I was hired.
“There’s something I want to tell you.” Rob said when I returned home. He had just arrived and we were sitting on my bed.
My heart stopped. “Here we go.” I thought to myself, this is what my gut has been warning me about. Whatever he’s about to say isn’t going to be good.
“I think we need to slow down. This is going really fast and yeah, I just think we need to slow it down.”
“No.” I blurted. “We keep going, or we end it. I’m not going backwards. We’ve had sex, we’ve said I love you, we talk for hours on the phone, you know more about me than most people. I will end it before slowing down.”
All my protective parts were pushing against him, volleying for their position and refusing to back down. I felt my internal walls go up in an attempt at self-preservation, in anticipation of him leaving at my request.
“I don’t want to end it.” he immediately replied. “Not at all.”
“Then what are you saying?” I demanded.
“I don’t know. I guess I’m just telling you how I feel.”
I softened, stood and planted a kiss on his forehead, my hands resting on his shoulders.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“About getting on a plane and going to San Francisco. I don’t know how to do this relationship thing.”
Flying away when things felt hard was the way I normally handled things. San Francisco was my go-to destination. It was clear across the country and was full of beautiful things, places, people and coffee. I would wander for hours, trying to hear myself think, get away from whatever was bothering me. Leaving was the best I could do in terms of self-care.
“I’d like it if you stayed.”
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m just saying that I want to leave when I get scared.”
Two weeks later I was on my way to the grocery store from work to get some turkey for sandwiches I was making for dinner when a girl in a little blue car pulled out in front of me. I crashed into her sending her across three lanes of traffic, totaling her car. My air bag didn’t go off, my face hit the steering wheel. I was less than a mile from home.
We were both ok, just shaken up.
After our cars were towed, I called Rob. He was still an hour away. I slowly walked home. I felt listless, dazed and not really with it, but I didn’t want to slow down, or be still. I started preparing sandwiches with brie, spicy mustard and crushed pecans with a salad, all minus the turkey I was heading to the store for.
From my kitchen window, I saw Rob park on the street. I smiled as I reached into the cabinet for plates. I set the table, finishing up as he was knocking on the door. My neck was getting stiffer and I was slow going, but the sight of him standing there, knowing relief was on the other side of the door made me feel more buoyant.
“Hi!” I fell into him when I opened the door.
He kissed me. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m ok. My neck hurts. How are you?” I stepped back to let him in.
“I’m good. Are you cooking?” he perked up at the smell of the sandwiches warming in the oven.
“Yup.” I walked back into the kitchen.
“You get into a car accident, and you still managed to make dinner? You’re amazing. Thank you.” he wrapped me in his arms and kissed me again.
Rob drove me to work the next day on his way to work on a friend’s boat. He said he would make dinner that night.
I had a tremendous urge to write him a letter and tell him how much he meant to me, how grateful I was he was in my life. I quickly jotted it down in the coffee shop next door wanting it to be more epic than it was when I finished it, but was still glad I wrote it.
That evening, Rob marinated chicken in Italian dressing, and sautéed some vegetables while I prepared a plate of cheese and crackers, both of us sipping red wine.
I was feeling agitated and couldn’t pin point what the problem was. I chalked it up to being tired. It was Saturday, the busiest and most draining work day.
When the chicken and veggies were done he served me first and then sat down with his plate.
“Thank you for making this.” I smiled.
“You’re welcome.” he lightly touched my hand.
We were silent as we started eating. After a few bites he set down his fork and said, “Who would you have in your wedding party?”
I looked at him, perplexed at why he was bringing this up. We had talked about rings a couple of weeks ago and he asked if we could stop because in the past, when it was brought up with an ex, it had led to an argument.
“I don’t want a huge wedding party. I’d be happy with just Kat as my only bridesmaid. What about you?”
“I don’t want anything crazy, but I do want more than one groomsman.” he laughed.
“I’m sure I could come around to the idea of something a little bigger.”
Then the mood changed and he was the agitated one. There was no more talk of weddings. I felt very far away from him and wanted sex to pull us together again, but because he expressed earlier how tired he was, I didn’t ask.
After we finished eating, I cleared away the dishes and placed our empty wine glasses next to the sink.
“I have a note for you.” I said.
He waited while I dug through my purse, pulled it out and handed it to him. I put away the cheese and crackers as he read it.
“You need to write more letters like this.” he said, folding it and putting it in his pocket.
I smiled, and kissed him.
The next morning, on April 20th, I woke up on the couch because of Rob’s legendary snoring. My neck was aching and I was pushing through a feeling of tension like swimming against a strong current.
I crawled into bed next to Rob and stared at the ceiling.
“Hey.” he said.
“Hi.” I said to the ceiling.
“What’s going on?"
“I didn’t sleep well. I don’t know. I feel crazy. There’s something bothering me and I can’t figure it out.”
“Is it me?”
“I don’t think so.”
I wanted that feeling of closeness, of safety with him like I had had this whole time, but it was elusive.
I rolled over and kissed him.
“We are not drowning our sorrows in sex.” he firmly stated.
I couldn’t tell him what kind of something felt “off” because I didn’t understand it. I wanted to be as close to him as I could physically get and sex seemed like the next logical step.
I didn’t move. He talked about wanting to get an early start at his best friend Caleb’s place to work on his Jeep Wrangler. I still wanted sex, and to not talk about work. I reminded myself that there would be tonight. I would see him for dinner and maybe we both would be in better moods.
He turned over, held and kissed me. He removed my t-shirt and shorts, and one thing led to another. I was getting what I wanted but still felt something had been severed. I tried to come back to the moment, tried to focus on touching and being touched.
I followed an urge to lace my fingers with his, something I had never done before with anyone. I stared at our hands, how they fit together as I moved against him, how warm his palm was, how well my hand fit in his.
Afterwards, he took a shower and I made oatmeal with a banana. I was lethargic and still searching for the cause of this weird energy threatening to take me down.
As I was putting my dishes in the sink, glancing at the wine glasses we used last night, Rob came into the living room wearing jeans, a blue t-shirt and carrying his overnight bag.
I joined him and wrapped my arms around his waist. There was no talk of dinner, of when he’d be done or back in Atlanta like there usually was. I practiced in that moment just letting go and trusting that I would see him later. My inner control enthusiast was screaming in my head to ask him all of questions so she could plan every minute of the day.
He hugged me. I pressed my face into his chest, his heart beating in my ear.
“I had fun cooking for you last night.” he said.
“It was so good. Thank you.” I said, not making eye contact. Part of me wanted him to ask what was up so I could try to express it, and another part wanted none of that because it was not something I understood yet.
“I’ll have to make key lime pie for you one day.” he said.
“Definitely!” I smiled.
“I love you.”
Something told me to look at him when I said it back and so I did. I stared into his eyes and said “I love you too.”
He kissed me, gathered his things and walked out the door.
I walked to the bathroom, started a shower and sat on top of the toilet and let out a rush of tears. I cried so hard I could barely breathe. The feelings in my mind said “You can do this alone. You can. You can watch sunsets by yourself.” I didn’t know what sunsets this part was talking about, but I was alarmed at how hard I was crying. For what reason?
I took a shower, got dressed for work and walked to the salon. I felt like my feet weren’t making contact with the ground beneath me. I felt disoriented while wielding my comb and shears through my clients’ hair. Finding words that I could string together in meaningful conversations was like searching for water in the desert.
After work, I walked home, trying to decide what to do next. I took another shower and put on shorts and a little black and red top before heading to San Francisco Coffee to write. I sat at the counter, facing the street with my journal and a cookie. I texted Rob asking when could I expect him for dinner and continued writing.
An hour later my phone rang, my parent’s number flashing. I picked up wondering which parent would be on the other end.
“Hey.” It was my dad.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m alright. How are you?” I twirled the pen around my fingers.
“I’m ok. How are you feeling?”
“I’m a little sore, but everything is good.”
“Where are you?”
This was odd, I thought to myself. He normally doesn’t ask rapid-fire questions.
“In a coffee shop.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes.” I glanced at the empty plate where the cookie was.
He got quiet. I could hear something rustling around. I waited. The rustling continued.
“Daddy?” I put the pen down.
“Hang on.” he was crying.
My chest burned as I slid off the chair and went outside. I sat on the bench in front of the shop and looked at the trees across the street.
“I have some bad news.” he managed.
“Oh, ok daddy.” I waited. I looked up at the sky, the huge fluffy white clouds and thought, “whatever he’s going to say, I can handle. I can do it.”
“Rob’s been in a car accident. He’s dead.”
But not this.
Shock and disbelief reached into my lungs and stole the air out of them. My mouth fell open. “What?”
“It happened about fifteen minutes ago.”
I couldn’t take in his words. I felt light-headed, and outside of my body, like I was watching someone else receive this news.
His words, “Jeep…malfunction….no seat belt….died instantly…we thought you were with him…” filtered in and out of my consciousness. I kept asking him to tell me what happened as if his words were a foreign language I was trying to decipher.
I stood and walked back into the coffee shop, my phone still pressed to my ear. I gathered my things and walked out, still barely able to breathe.
“Daddy, I’m never going to see him again. I’m never going to touch him again, I’m never going to hear his voice again.” I said over and over as I walked, willing one foot to go in front of the other. “I don’t know what to do. We were supposed to get dinner. I’m never going to see him again.”
He was quiet, because what do you say to that?
“Just go home and we’ll figure something out.”
I called Kat. She was at Limerick, our favorite Irish pub and I was about a minute away from it.
“Rob was in a car accident. He died.” I blurted when she picked up.
She raced out the door and I ran to her, plowing into her embrace, eyes squeezed shut, my mind hoping that when I opened them, this would all be some sort of dream I would wake up from.
“Let’s go home.” she said into my ear.
I talked her face off on the couch, babbling about I don’t even know what until she gently interrupted me and said “I think you should pack a bag and make some phone calls.”
I wandered into my room, where the bed was still unmade from that morning. A few of Rob’s hairs were on the pillow. How could he cease to exist when I was looking at his hair? When he was just here hours ago?
I pulled a bag from my closet and started putting random articles of clothing into it.
I called my manager, and close friends, leaving messages on everyone’s phone. “Rob died. Car accident. He died. He passed away. There was an accident.” Over and over the words tumbled out of me in a mechanical manner.
My Aunt Diana called and said she would pick me up. We went to Rob’s parent’s house. I hadn’t really cried. My chest would heave, I felt like sobbing but the tears wouldn’t come.
My parents showed up shortly after. I had never been so grateful to see them in all my life. They were still here. We were all still here.
“I think you should come stay with us for a little while.” my mother said.
“Ok.” I didn’t want to go back to my place yet.
The next night Ryan drove Megan, Rob’s other sister LeeAnne, and myself to Athens where we spent the night on our way to South Carolina to move Rob’s things out of his apartment.
“You guys, I have something to tell you.” I said and told them about the letters. “I want to find them before your parents get there.”
When we arrived at Rob’s I felt like I was invading his privacy. We all dispersed and walked around silently. I went into his bathroom, turned on the light and found his hair stuff and razor on the counter looking like he would return at any moment. I walked into his bedroom and laid on his bed and sighed. I wondered what he thought of us walking around his place.
We found all of my letters. Rob’s parents and some of his friends arrived and we worked together to pack up his things to take to a storage unit.
“I think we should bury him in this suit.” Megan said, bringing me the suit Rob wore on Easter Sunday, my misspelled name tag was still on it from the dry cleaners. He had left it at my place and I had it cleaned, giving it back to him the following weekend.
“Yes. I was thinking the same thing.” I nodded. Just weeks ago his body animated those garments.
“Megan is going to speak at the funeral. Do you want to?” LeeAnne asked while we were folding Rob’s clothing in his room.
“Yes, I do.” I said before I could talk myself out of it. I knew Megan was going to speak and that she wanted to tell funny stories. I didn’t have anything amusing to say, I just wanted to tell everyone how incredible it had been to share a portion of my life with him.
While talking with Ryan I said I was feeling unsure about speaking.
“Megan is going to be entertaining and I have nothing funny to say. I don’t want to say a bunch of sad things.”
“Look. This is a funeral. No one expects you to be funny. Be yourself. Tell your story.” he said, hugging me.
I sat with Rob’s family at the funeral, holding LeeAnne’s hand, my gaze shifting from the pastor to the casket every so often. When it was my turn to speak, I walked past it, holding my breath, and up to the podium. I paused, and looked out to the sea of faces. The sanctuary was now standing room only. I had never spoken to this many people, or at a funeral before. I smiled and relayed my story with all the love and joy I had experienced in this relationship.
A sweet friend said to me later, “Rob is a chapter in your story, but you are his eternity.”
I wondered how I was going to do life now.
I went back to work nearly two weeks later. I got my car back. I cried all over everything. I ran until my bones hurt, wrote until I was empty of words. I sometimes drank too much. I called Rob’s cell just to hear his voicemail. I talked to people more than I ever had in my life and oftentimes looked at my surroundings and the people that inhabited them with so much gratitude I thought my heart would burst. I was still very much alive.
Until I met Rob, I had been wrapped up in perfectionism, in trying to do things the “right” way (whatever the hell that was) that I kept missing the point. People, connections, creating, doing things our hearts loved, loving and being loved was the point of being a human.
I had been so afraid of loving someone, of allowing myself to be loved, while simultaneously chasing after it. I was petrified of being hurt or left. The worst thing had happened, and I was getting through it. My desire to live a full life, to let go more, enabled me to keep going, to keep loving in my loud, unabashed way. It pushed me to say what I felt, and to tell people how much they meant to me.
Seven months after Rob died, I moved to Chicago and started writing erotica. For a while I was consumed with writing through and about grief. Months would pass before I wrote something sexy. An idea usually popped into my head and if it stayed there for a day or two I knew it was something to go after.
Over the years, writing moved from something I did to honor Rob and our relationship to something I wanted to do to heal the shame drenched, guilt-ridden parts of my sexuality. My words reflected back at me where I was stuck in fear or trapped in beliefs that weren’t real. The more I wrote the more I learned, the lighter I felt.
To further push myself out of shame, I talked about what I wrote. I decided if I was going to pursue this, hiding or keeping it to myself wasn’t going to be helpful. As a result, people often talked to me about their sex lives. They disclosed intimate details about their fears, the things they wanted to try, and the ways they learned about sex while growing up.
While I wanted my work to reach women, to depict feminine pleasure, to entertain, to focus on the realness of sex instead of a pornographic fantasy, I found that men were the ones expressing their delight, their anxieties, and their gratitude for the stories I told. I hadn’t anticipated this and it lit me up. I loved that many of them were sharing they preferred reading to watching porn. Many of them started reading erotica as teenagers. They told me they liked the stories, liked imagining the act instead of being fed by images on a screen.
I believed that men were so visually focused, and driven by sex that written words weren’t stimulating, and that they could take or leave an emotional connection with their partners before having sex. I had no idea so many men struggled with performance anxiety and being able to let go and enjoy themselves without fear of what their partner would think about them. Listening has helped me to not only write, but to create a space for my partners to open up, to work through things together, to share my own insecurities.
I’ve encountered women who want to be touched, kissed passionately, fucked, and held, but have trouble finding willing partners. They’ve slipped into loneliness because they feel they are too much, that their sex drives are too much for the men they meet.
I’ve met men who want emotional connections with women and are afraid of scaring them off with their sensitivity. Many have expressed their desires, the things they would like to do with a partner, but are too afraid to ask out of fear of rejection or being seen as “weird”, or “abnormal.”
In my own life, I have felt trapped between what I wanted to do with someone and what I felt was “appropriate”. I waited to react to my partner instead of coming on to him, and or asking for what I wanted. I took whatever I could get with this idea that I should “grateful” he was gracing me with his presence instead of co-creating a sexual experience with him.
I’ve experienced vulnerability hangovers from opening up in a way that isn’t familiar. I’ve felt stark feelings of rejection and it stings but not like it did when I was existing as half of a person.
After Rob died, I wanted to live my life in a way that honored his. I wanted to do the things we didn’t have a chance to do. I wanted to find out who I was instead of clinging to an identity that no longer resonated with the person I wanted to become.
By communicating through storytelling and sharing my experience, I want to create a space for you to say and express the things you hold in. I want you to feel safe to let it out, and know that you are so loved.