June 3rd 2015
Story originally written and experienced: February 7th 2012
We hummed as our three wine glasses collided in harmony—one filled with Pinot Noir, another with Merlot and mine with the sweet and potent taste of Prosecco.
“To us! And this damn city…” I said to Leah and Danielle.
“To us!” they agreed, gripping their glasses and holding them
We ducked into a tiny tavern on the Upper West Side. Accidentally opting for overpriced drinks. Cozied up in a corner on a Tuesday. Tealight candles fLiCkErInG on the tables as it rained RoGuEly outside.
We needed it.
We were all going through random shit—enough to prompt an impromptu reunion in the first place. Job things. Relationship things. Money things. Rainy day things—things we sort of just needed each other for.
“Should we all grab a drink after work and catch up?”
The conversation started seemingly normal. I went first. Told them how I was dealing with the city life less than year in. That I felt a little selfish…but also satisfied that I was doing just about everything for myself these days, and I kind of felt fine. And then Leah went on about her break up and how maybe if she would have done things differently with Neil. Or him with her. Things wouldn’t have ended a little better than they did.
It was what it was.
We didn’t expect Danielle to understand.
She was a world-class listener, but never the person we thought to relate to about romances. She had been in a relationship for the last 7 years. En route to finally moving in with him. Perusing puppies they wanted to get. And booking their vacations very well in advance.
Without any warning.
She asked us this.
“Have I…ever told you two about Chantal?” she shakily inquired, taking a generous sip of Merlot before pressing it firmly against the table.
“…Chantal?” I responded. “Hmm. Wait. Is that the friend you worked with over the summer back in the day?”
“Yup. That’s her.”
“And you’re still friends now, right?”
“Yeah she lives in the city. Well actually…we’re not really friends anymore. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Oh no…what happened?”
“Well. It’s…kind of complicated. We became really good friends—very close. Got along really well and before I knew it we were texting each other 24/7. For years. Up until about 3 weeks ago.”
Leah and I looked at each >> << other
“What happened three weeks ago?”
“She called me and said she didn’t want to talk to me anymore.”
“She said she had fallen in love with me.”
“…………………………………And you said?”
“That I didn’t feel the same way. That I was with Tom. And that was that.”
“Yeah but…there’s more.”
She admitted, taking another substantial sip of Merlot. Asking the waitress for more. And then continued on.
“I feel really bad.”
“Why? You can’t help the way you feel. If you don’t love her, you don’t love her.” Leah reassured her.
“No…that’s not what I feel bad about…I feel bad that I gave her a reason to think I was interested.”
“How did you give her a reason? Talking to her every day? You had no idea. Friends talk all the time,” I stated matter-of-factly.
“I know but. Even though it was the first time she had said that to me in words. I had an idea before. And I gave in a little before that too…we did things. A lot of things…the kind of things that would make her think that I wanted it too.”
“…While you were with Tom?”
My Prosecco was practically gone as I consistently sipped throughout this confession. And Leah’s glass was also dripping dry. We weren’t sure what to say.
But we had to ask.
“Danielle…do you think you’re a lesbian?”
“…I think…I might be. In some way. Maybe not all the way. But. In some way…at first I thought it was experimental and fun. Then I realized I was toying with Chantal’s emotions in the process and living a lie with Tom too. One that I didn’t even realize I was living.
Until I met her.
I liked the attention.
That’s what I kept telling myself, at least. Felt like I could get the best of both worlds that way. But…now I’m here, three glasses of wine deep, on a hiatus with Chantal and in turmoil with Tom too. I don’t know what to do. I was so selfish. But I didn’t mean to do it.”
I told her we all do selfish things sometimes. Get so caught up in our own happiness and needs that we don’t realize the seesaw effect it can have when others are involved. That very few people do selfish things on purpose. And there’s not a single person on planet earth who hasn’t done something out of character in a moment they weren’t entirely proud of.
“It’s hard to draw that line,” I told her. “And the worst is when a massive consequence accidentally draws the line for us. But I’ll tell you what, you’re figuring it out. You’re doing it. You know how you feel about it. And you’re changing it. And most bittersweet of all? You care enough to be both brave and remorseful. You feel bad but you want to fix it. You did something strange but you’re owning up to it. You faced your fear and you’re fighting it. An impossible juggling act for most.”
We stayed in that tiny tavern for a long while. Talking about it all. Paying our checks and investing in elongated hugs before the three of us < parted ^ ways >
And a lot of life-altering things happened to Danielle—days, months and even years after that conversation.
And I promise, I’ll confess it all to you soon.
But just as a teaser.
I’m happy to tell you that I what I found out through her accident and outcome was this:
It all works out.
And it all gets better.
Accidents don’t define you.
Not if you handle them. Own them. And become better for them too.
And I’ve got a hell of a success story to prove it.