In Between, the Lights Came On

My life has had enough romance to fill 50 romance novels. Lord, I’ve climbed every damned star, but it was H who brought the entire Milky Way down into my world. With him, every night came with s conversations that carried on until the sun rose and the birds started. I remember those birds well because that was when the dread came: the night was over. There were hundreds of nights ahead of us, but this one, this exquisite, perfect night, had ended.

H and I never talk anymore. One hour together and our clothes would scatter all over the floor. We know. We’ve tried. Over. And over. And over. The magic always comes back, so we nurture the distance out of fear.


I nearly married him twice, but glitter and feathers don’t make a relationship work. They only make it compelling. The rest comes from things he and I were too frightened to try—things like intimacy and honesty and trust. Brick-and-mortar permanence was too terrifying.

We were both too fucked up for intimacy in those days. That required more courage than we had.

When I began a relationship with E, I was determined not to make the same mistake, so I hid nothing from him. I had no idea that something so practical could create such a powerful obsession. My god, H and I had had good sex, but E on intimacy? That turned sex into some other creature, some “thing” that I thought belonged only in movies.

My favourite scene in the film, Take This Waltz, is of a couple on a theme park ride. There are flashing lights. There is blaring music. There is dancing and laughing and atmosphere and romance, but then the ride ends. The lights come on. The music stops, and everything vanishes into a stark and ugly reality. As often as I’ve watched that movie, that moment still makes me sick inside because it reminds me of all the in-between moments H and I had—those hours when reality struck and we could feel our lack of intimacy slowly obliterating our relationship. The birds signalled it. Daylight was coming, and with it came the dread.

There is nothing so desolate as romance without closeness. I never want to live that nightmare again.

These days, revealing all of me, even the most vulnerable and scary parts, is easy. E made it easy because he loved every single thing I was terrified to show. I will never forget that terror, and I will never forget the feeling of loneliness evaporating utterly for the first time in my life. E is the only man who’s ever loved me because he was the only one who ever knew all my secret corners.

Of course, that ride has ended, too, but E left me with something permanent: the knowledge that I am good enough.

And that’s why the lights don’t come back on anymore.


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