I never expected to fall in love with her husband.
It's late at night and I spent the majority of my day traveling from New Jersey to Las Vegas. It was my first time visiting Vegas and I was about to take part in an intensive five-day leadership retreat that would change my life. That same night I met Tim. I looked a hot mess--sweaty, messy hair, and in desperate need of sleep. Despite all of that, when he and I shook hands, it was the beginning of our forbidden love.
The night we had our first kiss, we stood under the stars and my right leg bent and the spark felt more like fireworks. He and I went back and forth about why we shouldn't kiss. But gravity kept pulling us closer to one another until our lips met. He ran like a middle schooler who had just kissed his crush. We both laughed. Soon the laughter turned into deep breaths and moans.
I have to point out that for years I told my friends that they deserve to be with a man who would make them a priority. That they were worthy of being more than someone else's secret lover. Then I found myself falling in love with a married man. I know what you are thinking, "what a hypocrite!" That's why I am writing this piece, in order to shed light on something that has been considered taboo but so often the case in our society--being the other person is more complicated, nuanced, and less fabulous than Olivia Pope or Mary Jane make it seem.
The affair did not start the night we met. In fact, it would take days of talking about our lives and experiences before either one of us would admit to an attraction. It wasn't just that Tim was married. Tim was also a trans guy who never imagined falling in love with a cisgender gay Latino. There's also a ten-year difference between us and 3,000 miles separating him and me.
For the next few months we would speak daily. Exchanging text messages for hours. The three-hour time difference made it harder but he and I were committed to whatever it was that we had with each other. My close friends told me to cut him loose. I tried several times to break it off with him but my heart and mind were at odds. Logically I could justify ending it with Tim. Emotionally I was invested in him, in someone else's husband.
The next time Tim and I would see one another face-to-face would be in Los Angeles. I was there for a work event and he decided to take a road trip to see me. My friend told me, "it would start with concessions and end with heartbreak." But the time Tim and I spent together were some of my happiest moments of 2015. He introduced me to Jack in the Box, a burger joint--I became obsessed. Tim couldn't believe that we didn't have Jack in the Box on the east coast. I tried to introduce him to Indian cuisine but he wasn't a fan. We walked the streets of LA holding hands and the entire time I felt safe, excited, and cared for. He made me feel comfortable in a way that no other man had been able to. I could be physically and emotionally naked with him and he would still look at me with those eyes that made me know he thought I was hella special.
As much as he made me feel special, as much as we made each other laugh, the harsh reality was that Tim was torn between two people he loved. He loved his wife, the person who stood by his side during his transition and never stopped supporting him. Tim also loved me, the person he said helped him discover more about himself.
It was after our time in LA that I realized that our love wasn't enough to make whatever we had work. We would talk about the future but deep down I knew he wasn't ready to leave his wife. I also no longer wanted to be his version of Olivia Pope.
Loving a married man taught me that love is as fluid as our sexuality and gender. We can't control who ignites the spark in us but we can set the standard for how we should be loved. Regardless of our marital status, love is complicated. When he told his wife that he was in love with me, I told him to try to make his marriage work.
I was done conceding--my integrity, heart, and spirit demanded that I get back to loving myself. So I stood up from the table and walked away because Tim became complacent with serving me love on a platter of fantasy. He was not willing to face the fact that he would have to make a choice between his wife and me. I was no longer willing to ignore the fact that I was loving a married man.
I came to learn that I was worthy of someone choosing me, even if Tim couldn't.