So I read this post over at Theo Black’s. You should, too, before reading the rest of this one.
I’ll wait…I know, it’s long.
After four years, I honestly can’t remember how much of the Belle and Thumper back-story I’ve written about here, but I have been exactly where Theo is now. The best, most advanced geo-positioning device on the planet couldn’t find any space between where he is now and where I was once upon a time.
When I first met Belle, she was married to a nice guy. They lived in a nice house and he had good prospects and it was likely they’d live in an even nicer house someday (even though Belle always says, “No, this is the house I’ll spend the rest of my life in,” whenever she moves into a new one). She had married him out of college, as was expected, and things looked pretty good for them. Then, one day, Belle had a car accident. It wasn’t too serious, but she was shaken up and I, who worked about 15 feet from her office door but barely knew her as anyone other than that new girl who was kinda loud, poked my head in to see if she was OK. That was the point at which Cupid shot Belle. He didn’t get around to me until later.
Flash forward a while. I can’t remember how long. Months. Not a year, I don’t think. I became socially friendly with Belle and her husband. This was almost entirely Belle’s doing as I am, evidence of this highly personal and explicit blog not withstanding, a pretty introverted guy. I had dinner at their house, hung out with their friends, etc. At some point, I became aware of how Belle felt about me. I can’t recall now (but I’m sure she will) if it was something she said or if it was just that I’m a dumb guy but, given enough time, anything can soak through the denseness. Either way, I knew.
Flash forward a little while more. Belle’s husband learned he was being sent overseas for a year. It was a career development thing. Good for him. Means that nicer house was probably closer than ever. Belle said she wasn’t comfortable living in the current nice house alone. Could be true, maybe not. I’m not sure. In any event, I chose that approximate time to quit my job and go back to school (and by “go back to school” I mean “go to school in the first place and wait tables at a pizza joint”). I could barely afford my apartment. Belle had the idea that I should live in their house, thereby saving money and providing Belle a sense of security. At this point, I have no idea if the husband knew how Belle felt about me or not.
Flash forward a bit more. I was living in the room across the hall from Belle. I’d painted the walls orange (but a tasteful orange) and Belle and I had opened up to each other about ourselves to the point that she’d watch gay porn with me. We also watch a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation while laying in my bed with only the tops of our heads touching. Cupid had yet to return and finish his job with us, but I was on his list.
One bright morning, I rolled out of bed all groggy and bedraggled while Belle was about to leave for work. I will never forget the next moment for as long as I live (and if I ever do, I don’t want to live past that point). Standing in the big kitchen, light streamed through the windows and onto Belle in a lovely green silk dress that nicely showed off her curves. She turned to say goodbye and the light made her beautiful green eyes sparkle and it happened. I fell in love with her. Right there next to the stove. I don’t know if you could tell by looking at me, but it just kinda punched me in the stomach. I was in love with a married woman in whose house I lived.
Small flash forward. We went to dinner at an Italian place at the Mall of America. Doesn’t sound especially romantic, but we’ve retroactively labelled this our “first date” (you know, for the kids). We shared a bottle of wine over food and went home. Somehow, I ended up in her room. I was sitting on the edge of her bed. We were just talking. Talking about how we felt. I held her hand. I told her hand many things. I started to massage it. I found myself kissing it. Just her hand. Then a bit more. Then, we had sex.
I slept in her husband’s bed that night. We woke up the next day, naked, together, under the sheets. I had to pee so bad, but couldn’t find the courage to leave the bed. I didn’t want to break the spell. I didn’t know what would happen once the previous night was officially over. So we laid there, quietly looking at each other under the sheets, me with a painfully full bladder.
The spell didn’t break when I finally got to pee. It only got deeper and more involved. I started sleeping in their bed every night. We had a lot of sex. I came up with the name Belle Fille about this time. We shared our secret with a few of my friends. One night, while walking over to our friend’s house in the rain, I stopped her in the pool of a streetlight and told her if she was ever in a position for it to happen, that I wanted to marry her.
Then she went on a prearranged vacation with him and her family. I, of course, stayed behind and took care of the dog and cried and stood in her closet and smelled her sweaters. Then she came back. The spell wasn’t broken, but the fragility of it was exposed. I was a mess. A blithering disaster that she had to deal with while inching closer to the end of her marriage.
Eventually, she told him. I moved out and he came back and I didn’t see Belle for a long time. That’s the part, right there, that’s exactly like Theo’s current position. It was horrible. I know it was horrible for her, too. Of course it was. It was a horrible time for everyone. I was living on the couch of the friends who knew and every night was me just tearfully gushing my sorrow and fear and crushed and smoldering wreckage of my feelings for Belle. I’m sure I was a very annoying house guest. I knew inside that I’d be with Belle again. I knew it was coming. But that didn’t make any bit of it easier. That didn’t make me stop worrying that somehow it was all going to come crashing down around me and the pain of the divorce and the selling of the nice house and everything else would prove to be too much for her and I’d end up alone again. I had been alone for so long and my fear, after finally realizing how I felt for her, was that I’d be alone again. That might be my greatest of all fears even to this day. I never want to be alone.
But it ended up alright. She moved into a duplex with her sister and I eventually moved in with her. I stopped the “going back to school” thing and have not, to this day, received any kind of higher education (more than a semester here and there). Belle decided at one point that she wanted to get away from everything and took a job in Boston of all places. She just told me this over lunch one day. “I’m taking a job in Boston.” I remember asking, “Can I come, too?” And then we moved to Boston for a year. The only thing I cared about was being with her.
Flash forward again. A year was spent in Boston. We moved back to Minnesota when we decided to get married and have kids. Not a year after that, we were standing on the Pacific Ocean exchanging vows. I cried then, too. Could barely choke them out. Our path to that spot for that event was so circuitous and I realized as I openly and honestly told everyone most important to me that I loved her and wanted to be with her for my whole life how precarious it all seemed back when I was sleeping on the friends’ couch. How lucky I was to have made it there. With her.
Of course, there’s more to the story than this. But reading Theo’s post made all these old memories and feelings come back in a way they haven’t for years. This is equal parts reassuring homily for Theo and cathartic reminder to myself of the strange journey we’re on. I’m getting choked up just writing this post. Even after 15 years of marriage, I can’t help but think of how it could have gone. How so many things change (houses, kids, sexual dynamics) but the really important things stay the same. I am so happy to be with my Belle.