I’ve been waiting to post this for a long time; it was inspired by this Girl on the Net post. When I saw that the Wicked Wednesday prompt was “Follow Your Heart,” I thought: it’s time. It’s non-fiction and not very wicked, but I can’t think of a more appropriate prompt for this piece.
At the time I met Banger*, I was deep into lesbian territory. I hadn’t been physically intimate with a man for four years and wasn’t planning on it anytime soon; however, when I opened my door and saw him standing there one cold February afternoon, I felt my heart leap in my chest. He was my type: Tall, bespectacled, bookish. At least – he was the type I’d had before I stopped dating men. I panicked and reacted to how handsome I thought he was by being overly cheerful and energetic. I didn’t really know what to do with my sudden and strange urges; it had been so long since I’d had them.
Over the next year, I developed a massive crush on him, but never said anything; he was always dating someone, and I was supposed to be gay. We became close friends and confidants; we worked together, shared an office, and lived in the same building, so I saw him all the time. We’d go out for kimchi stew or barbecue together and chat; a couple of times we went to a noraebang (private room karaoke), just the two of us, drunk on rice wine, and sang songs late into the night. He made me giggle. Not laugh – giggle. The kind of laughter you share with someone when you have inside jokes or find something hilarious that no one else would laugh at. We could be silly together and really honest with each other because we weren’t trying to get into each other’s pants. It was brilliant. Spending time with him was so easy – a breath of fresh air.
He went home for vacation that summer, and I found myself acutely missing his company. I could feel a kind of dull ache inside of me at his absence. When I went home for Christmas, he kept in contact with me the whole time I was gone. The night I got back, there was already a message on my phone welcoming me back to Korea and asking me to dinner. We spent the next three nights on his bed, watching 90s movies and drinking boozy hot cocoa. It felt like those times in uni where you’re trying to be physically close to a crush without admitting you like like each other, because what if the other person doesn’t feel the same? The second night, I asked if I could put my head on his shoulder. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had cuddled with someone, and it ignited something in my body that I was wholly unprepared for. My insides exploded with an unstoppable force, and my panties were literally soaked by the time I got back to my apartment. The next night, as I was stroking his arm, my brain stopped working and my body took over; I grabbed his face and kissed him, and it felt like everything fell into place in that one moment. My lust was a champagne bottle uncorked.
I went away for a couple of days after that; when I came back, we spent hours making out and exploring each other’s bodies before falling asleep. At first morning’s light, I told him that I desperately wanted him inside of me. I hadn’t had penetrative sex with a man for five years at this point; I thought I would need to take it a bit slow or that it might even hurt, but because I was so highly aroused, it felt so. fucking. good. Like eating an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day. Like the first time you try ecstasy and you find yourself floating in joyous spacetime. Like the first day of spring after a long, hard winter.
He called me; he asked me to spend time with him; he held my hand in public, and that’s when I think I fell. I moved to another city shortly after we first hooked up; it was hard going from seeing him every day to seeing him twice a month, especially now that we were being intimate. I found myself feeling lost in the behemoth of all these feelings I hadn’t felt in years – overwhelming waves of love and desire. I had a real libido for the first time in forever. I was drowning in hormones, and I didn’t know how to get to shore. I felt crazy. Suddenly I was being cautious with every word I said to him, scared that if I said or did the wrong thing, all of my joy would vanish. He would disappear like a magician into the void of a magic box. I tried to stop myself from feeling, tried to put tape over a waterfall, but I had already contracted emotional ebola and I was bleeding out.
Over the next couple of months, we had the most incredible sex I’d had in a decade, and I experienced orgasms I couldn’t even believe were real. We fucked everywhere in my apartment, cuddled next to each other on the couch to watch videos, and only came up for air to go out to eat and build up our energy reserves so we could make love again. If oxytocin is sex vodou, he was a houngan and I was ready to dance with snakes. He brought me back from the dead.
My friends were baffled. They said:
“I’ve never seen you this happy.”
“I’ve never seen you this way!”
“I’m surprised at how… mushy you’re being about this.”
“I never expected to hear you being so sentimental.”
“I’m impressed – not because it’s a guy, but because you like him.”
“It’s kind of nice to hear you say that you feel something again.”
And suddenly, I wanted to know what we were. Not where it was going – I knew he was moving back to England in the summer – but I wanted to know that he had romantic feelings for me like I did for him. That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t crazy. I told him that I had real feelings for him and that it was freaking me out. He said he hadn’t had romantic feelings for anyone in years and didn’t know if he could. I, meanwhile, was feeling ALL THE FEELINGS ALL THE TIME, and it was so completely isolating. I tried meditation, breathing, yoga, sleeping pills, processing with friends. Nothing could take away the anxiety of loving someone when I didn’t know how he felt about me. My pain started to become stronger than my joy, but I held on because the high was so powerful.
When I told him that I felt like I’d changed from someone he actually cared about to someone he was just sleeping with, his response was, “Yeah, I guess that’s just part of the changing nature of relationships, you know?” When I asked if I could say that we were dating, he responded, “I don’t know. I mean, you can say whatever you want, but I don’t know.” When I said that that had hurt me, he said he was sorry I felt hurt.
We kept having these amazing weekends together, but I was in pain all the time. It’s hard work loving someone who doesn’t love you in the same way; it takes everything from you. Confidence, dignity, pride, joy, sanity. Laughter. Self-worth. I knew that he cared about me a great deal; he wasn’t good at expressing that with words, but he showed it by doing things like serenading me with a song sacred to my heart that he learned just to play for me, or by choosing to spend his last weekends in Korea with me. But I was in a different place. I understood for the first time why people want to give up everything to be with someone. Why they’ll move half a world away. I wanted so much to spend my life loving him despite knowing deep down that we probably wouldn’t be compatible in the long run, and that was unnerving. He told me shortly before he left that he loved me – and I truly believe he did – but continued to introduce me as his friend, which was confusing at best and devastating at worst.
The day before he left, he asked me: “What now?” I don’t know, I said. I wanted to say that I wanted to be in a long-distance relationship with him while continuing to date other people here, but the idea of him saying no to that was too crushing to consider. So I just said that we’d keep in touch, keep loving each other, and hopefully one day down the road we’d meet again and create a second chapter in our story.
We tried to be friends after that, which in hindsight seems like the biggest mistake ever. His responses to me became less frequent and shorter; we still talked, but it wasn’t the same. I finally told him right before Christmas that I was deeply in love with him and that it was too painful to try to be his friend. That I needed a break. We talked for a long time and hashed things out – then emailed a week later and talked for hours again and hashed more things out – and in the end, he said he was still attracted to me, but didn’t know if that translated into romantic feelings. That he just assumed I was over him. That it would be logical to have romantic feelings for me, but feelings aren’t logical. That he didn’t know if he could be emotionally supportive of me. I got angry about it all and my anger hurt him; he thought I was diminishing the ways he cared for me just because his feelings weren’t as intense as mine. He loved me – just not in the way I wanted to be loved. We left the conversation on a positive note, and agreed that the friendship we’d had before was worth working on.
It took a long time and dating other people (and a thorough reading of More Than Two) to wade through the layers of love and loss I felt… but I made it to the other side, and when I did, I came out stronger. Not that defensive kind of stronger where you swear you’ll never let anyone in again, which is where I was before I met him, but the kind of stronger where you learn how to open your heart and love completely, accept and really feel your feelings, and vow to work on knowing what you want and how to communicate that. Where you breathe deeply and let your walls crumble to the ground around you in tiny pieces. Being that vulnerable and crawling through the darkness that came after were both transformative experiences.
I started writing this blog while I was seeing him because I wanted him to be proud of me for doing something creative; it has since turned into something I’m proud of myself for doing. I’m grateful for that. We’re still friends, and the friendship feels easier now. My heart feels so much lighter when I talk to him. He lives with someone he’s dating now; that was hard to cope with at first, but a month or so ago I suddenly found myself feeling genuinely and deeply happy for him out of the blue. We should all get to love in life and be loved in return – even the people who have hurt us.
*Not his real name, obvs. This is what a few of my friends started calling him after I initially and hesitantly told them I was “bangin’ a dude.”