Archive for August, 2007

Grace incognito

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Quite often, moments of grace arrive veiled in such a way that we don’t take them for more than face value for quite a while. The following piece was written about 5 years ago and it addresses a woman I met online before I met Elizabeth.

The story unfolds over a period of about 4 months, and as she was retreating, Elizabeth was coming forward. It was very much a one door closes, another door opens sort of time.

Brigit

In January 1998, I had to move back into the home I shared with my husband after having been separated for some time, and living separately for 6 months. He had gotten military orders to Iceland for 1 year and his household was set up, and there was no way there was room for the kids in my tiny apartment. I totally resented him for this being necessary, but there really was no way around it. The benefit of me moving back in was that the kids would not be uprooted and would be able to continue for the school year with no disruption to their routine.

I had Steven get us a WebTV unit, as it was much cheaper than getting a computer, and it would be cheaper than phone calls back and forth for him to be able to talk to the kids. We went looking and learned more about it and finally bought one. Only then would I agree to moving back in and we all packed up my stuff and it was a done deal. He left a day or so after that and although I was no longer comfortable in what used to be our happy home, he was not there and I was soon settled in.

I set up all the accounts on the WebTV and was soon surfing the internet and searching for this and that. At this point I had known I am a lesbian for about 4 years. I began searching for lesbian this and lesbian that to see what was out there. I found out about message boards and chat rooms and through that I learned about email lists.

One evening I did a search for lesbian email lists and came across a list of lesbian lists. It was truly a comfort to see there were so many options to choose from. I went from one to the next reading their descriptions until finally I came across one named MarBLes. It stood for MARried But LESbian. I was amazed that there were other women in my same situation and signed up right away. I was a little nervous initially, but soon discovered a great deal of
support and tremendous diversity among the group. When I joined, the group was 40 members and it was like finding my real family, as corny as that sounds.

MarBLes had its own chat room on an irc channel that with a little help, I was able to get into. Chatting was a good supplement to getting to know this group a little better, though I did not say much initially because I could hardly keep up just reading the screen.

Pretty soon I had a clear mental image of who I had common ground with and who I was comfortable talking to. The person I was most comfortable with was Brigit. She was close enough to my age, had kids, and was able to still be happily married, having an open agreement with her husband. This opened my mind to the same possibility with my husband, though deep down I think I knew he would never go for it and that it would not work for us.

Brigit and I fast became a couple and I learned an entirely different kind of relationship. I remembered with a laugh having seen a show on Sally Jesse Raphael about this very topic and thinking how ludicrous it was, people meeting online and thinking they had found love, but here I was getting a thorough understanding of it because it was happening to me. We would agree to meet at a certain time, our dates, and we would chat with the MarBLes group at weekly sessions, and email each other several times daily. There seemed to be no limit to what we could share this way even though there was more than 1000 miles between us. Soon enough I lost my cyber cherry and it only escalated further from there.

We decided we should meet in real life to see if what was happening online was something that was sustainable. Brigit thought it better if she came to Virginia rather than me coming to Kansas since her kids were grown and her husband was there to watch over them, and mine were not. A plane ticket was purchased for the last week in March and it was actually going to happen. There was a lot of nervous anticipation as the day of Brigit’s arrival grew near.
We thoroughly discussed all the possible scenarios we could conceive and agreed there would be no pressure and no expectations. At the very least we would be friends, but the possibilities beyond that remained open for negotiating depending on how we actually felt.

I am a rather touchy feely person, and when Brigit walked down the ramp, I first made sure it was her, and then I gave her a big hug and a quick kiss. We went to pick up her luggage and then we were on our way to my house. While I was driving I placed my hand on her thigh as this is my habit, and after a while, I realized how quiet we were. It suddenly occurred to me to ask her if it was ok that I was touching her. She said it was fine and that she liked the ease I had in finding an immediate comfort with her. I think she also mentioned that it might take her some time to adjust. I told her there was no rush, friendship was a given.

We developed into a rhythm of comfort, companionship I suppose. Our comfort level with each other was evident and continued to deepen. At one point, Brigit asked if she could stay longer. I had no problem with her staying as long as she liked because I really liked her. At some point I was concerned that the incredible sex we had had online was not incredible sex we were having together in the flesh, but I also thought it was something that just needed more time. I soon saw this to be true as on day nine, the tide turned and intimacy together was found. We had crossed some sort of threshold and our relationship was fortified. We began to make plans for when we might be able to see each other again.

While Brigit was visiting, a local radio station was giving away concert tickets and a bus trip to the show. You had to bring a bag of food to a location and this got you an entry in the drawing for one of 12 pair of tickets to go on this trip to see Sarah McLachlan. It was a kismet as far as I was concerned. Her music is something we shared and discussed at great length when we chatted and emailed.

It was a lovely morning and we went to the food drop off point set up at some store in Virginia Beach. We got there when it started at 10 and got our ticket. It did not occur to either of us to bring more than one bag of food to have multiple chances to win. Before too long there were about 100 people there, some bringing even 20 bags of food. The food bank was collecting a bundle, and we were getting a little less excited with each new person showing up with their donation.

At Noon, the radio DJ began to draw names, and he drew one name every 5 minutes for the next hour. Brigit’s ticket number was the ninth one to be called. She screamed so loudly that everyone around us jumped. This was the first thing she had ever won in her life. We were going to be on a bus trip to Baltimore to see Sarah in a few days.

Of course the concert was fabulous. Though the bus ride was 5 hours, it really was a perfect trip. On the way to the show, we watched “A League of Their Own” on the video monitor system of the tour bus. I had seen it before, but Brigit had not and it was a pleasant distraction. There was a toilet on the bus, but about half way to the show, the driver stopped at a rest area so he and everyone else could stretch and take a short break. We had noticed another set of lesbians, maybe a couple, maybe not. They sat in the front seat of the bus behind the driver and were so very proper and dignified. All the quiet people were in the front of the bus. There was almost an us/them feel of delineation from the front of the bus to the back with the radio station dj pretty much in the middle. Brigit and I were not the ringleaders of the rowdy set, but we were sitting in the back seat, polar opposites of those “other” lesbians.

We got to the show about half an hour before it began and saw that our seats, row 107 I think, were actually 7 rows from the stage. It was simply amazing. The opening act for Sarah was Lisa Loeb. I had not really heard much of her music but a song or two played on the radio. I really enjoyed her performance, especially her song called “Pulling Taffy”. It just cracked me up. She played her set and we were all revved up for Sarah to take the stage. The intermission was not too long, and then the lights went down low. She was a goddess. I was so very in awe of her presence, and we were so very comfortably enjoying this together. We thoroughly enjoyed each other on this trip and we were a couple. There was somewhere along the way a transformation that seemed to cement us together a little more tightly.

Another thing we did on this extended first date was to go get tattooed. I had already taken the plunge about a year prior and gotten a sun on my ankle. I am not sure if it was more to assert independence from my husband, or to spite him as he thinks tattoos are nasty, especially on women. Brigit had wanted to get a tattoo for some time and never actually done it. I told her I would get a second one and she could watch and then decide if she wanted to go through with it or not. I added a moon on the inside of the same ankle, and Brigit decided she would go for it. In preparation, she had my older son sketch a design for
a double-headed axe. They worked together refining it and had an excellent design for the tattoo artist to work with and once he added color, it really came out lovely.

During the tattoo experience with Brigit, I learned a new appreciation for the potential of eroticism that might accompany the process. To me, it was not as unpleasant as I expected. It was more like being stung repeatedly by annoying insects. For Brigit it was that pleasurable pain making her squirm in the seat. She was so flushed that the artist thought she might need a break. She told him to proceed because she was thoroughly enjoying herself. I was enjoying the show just as much. I wish I had taken a picture of her tattoo for my son to have in his portfolio. It really was that good.

A week prior to Brigit’s visit there had been a few wicked storms. I learned that these storms had sort of churned up the ocean and bay and sort of spit out a lot of shells up on the beaches. We went one day to the beach for the afternoon. Every few yards there was what looked to be a pile of gravel. Upon closer examination, I saw each was a pile of shells. They were whole miniature seashells, like you might buy a basket of at a décor store. I was content to just sit there and pore through them.

At one point, the boys were playing down at the water’s edge and Brigit was off walking near the surf, and I was still sitting there, running my hands through this seashell gravel. A woman came seemingly from nowhere dressed in flowing gauzy layers. She had long blond hair that can only be described as unkempt. She came within about 5 ft of me where I was sitting and put her bare heel into the sand and proceeded to enclose me in the center of a near perfect circle. It was very bizarre. She was softly chanting something unrecognizable and never took her gaze from me. Then she left as suddenly as she appeared. I was telling Brigit about this and that she had circled me 3 times and seemed to be chanting. Brigit told me she had celebrated my energy and it was like a ceremony to honor me or some such thing. I have not thought about that again until now.

After about 2 weeks, Brigit felt she had to go home. I think it was a sort of test to see how we would fare separately now that we had become a part of each other. It was a test we failed miserably. When our agreed upon meeting online came around, Brigit did not show up. When I posted a message asking her to contact me on a message board we went to, she did not respond. When I went to the group chat, she was not there. When I mentioned on the email list that I needed to hear from her, there was again, no response. I was beginning to feel that when Brigit physically left from visiting me, that all the intimacy left with her.

A few weeks later I saw her in the chatroom on group chat night and she was very distant. I knew somehow it was different, that we were no longer a couple. I did not understand it and I did not get any explanation from Brigit other than it is just her way of dealing with all the different pieces. I was hurt and felt rather discarded. Not something I was equipped to deal with because it had been wonderful and now it was just over.

I still tried to email and get further explanation, but heard little back from her. I soon realized that it was not a lot different than someone in real life not returning phone calls. No matter where a relationship takes place, a brush off is still a brush off. A mutual net friend had told me that it was her way, that all I would ever get would be a little piece of her, and that I would have to accept this. He told me she would show up when it suited her or when she was able. It was difficult, but I soon enough moved on.

A few months later I came to realize that my time with Brigit was a spiritual awakening or discovery of sorts. That was the purpose of our paths crossing, I suppose.

I learned from her a lot about myself in a short time that I still am digesting some 4 years later. Every once in a while I would send an email to addresses I knew were hers or were maintained by her, but if I got any reply back it was a short few words. My interest was one of friendship, not love pining away. I had already played that game once before and knew it has no happy ending.