My first real girlfriend was The Conductor. We first met when I was in college, and she lived in a punk community house with a friend of mine. I was immediately smitten, but it took a few more years, until we were both working at the local bookstore/coffee shop, before we got together. We dated for almost three years. Most of that time, we were in an open relationship (and it was awesome). Some of that time we were just friends who slept together. We never lived together. We never talked about having kids. We were 22, 23, 24, and we rode bikes and drank coffee and talked about politics.
I loved The Conductor deeply, although I feel more clear that I was never ‘in love’ with her in that terrible, consuming, soul sucking way. I loved her, and I still do. And probably because we had such a lovely, mostly easy, free spirited friendship-relationship, it was pretty easy for us to stay great friends after we broke up. For a long time, she lived in a house just two blocks over from me, and I’d stop by to sit on the porch and drink coffee and eat day old bread.
The Conductor taught me a lot of things: how to true a wheel and fix a bike chain, how to cook a really good soup with just the vegetables that Whole Foods wants to throw out, how horrific the insurance industry is when you have a life-long chronic disease, what it’s like to be the shorter person in the relationship (at 5’11”, once I came out I thought that ship had sailed . . .but The Conductor is 6’1″), the difference between kindness and niceness, that you can love love but hate romance, how to show up as yourself wherever you go. The Conductor loved weddings (though she was a terrible girlfriend in the traditional lovey-dovey way and will likely never get married herself) and happily agreed to be our wedding stage manager/coordinator.
A few years ago, The Conductor started dating her partner, B. I’d never seen her eyes light up like that. She hated to be in love, I could tell, but she was. It was that kind of can’t escape, soul sucking, follow you wherever you go love. She tried to stick with her sensible reserve, but she couldn’t. For better or worse, she did things she never would have done before because she was in love. By the time The Conductor and B were together, we weren’t hanging out as much. I was married and pregnant and we didn’t live so close together anymore. But we kept in touch and I knew she was a goner for B, that she was full scale in love. And I knew that, for that reason alone, B had to be a pretty remarkable person, because The Conductor’s head doesn’t turn for just anyone. (Not ever me, not really.)
A little over a month ago, The Conductor took B to the emergency room because some things were seeming unusual. While in the ER waiting room, B had a seizure. And then another and another. The doctors put B in a medically induced coma to help stop the seizures, or at least their damage. And they ran tests and tried treatments and still, B was in a coma. A week ago, they tried one last thing to get the seizures to stop. It didn’t work. The seizures had so badly damaged B’s brain that she could no longer breathe on her own.
So, a few days ago The Conductor and B’s family decided to withdraw care. B will die.
My heart is busted for my friend, for the person who taught me so much about love and kindness and taking care of each other. The Conductor took her love to the hospital and then . . .that was it. B went from, in many ways, totally fine to coma to unable to live in the space of a few weeks. B is 30 something. B was healthy. Everything about the situation is heartwrenchingly sad. It’s sad in the tangible sense of my dear friend losing her love. It is sad in the theoretical sense that yes, really, it CAN happen to anyone and yes, fucking awful tragedy happens all the damn time and no, it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair. It’s never fair.
Last night I went to a queer parent networking dinner, hosted by a great organization and organized by one of our only friends here. We broke into small groups to share what’s up in our lives, and I mentioned this story – it’s weighing heavy on my heart. And two of the 4 people in my group said, “You knew B in Denver? We are her friends too.” I’d almost forgotten that B moved to Denver from Seattle and of course she’d have friends here, of course the tragic unbelievability would ripple this far west. They knew B very well – I just knew her in passing, as my friend’s great love. But it still felt important that the universe had brought us together. But the echo of just how small and deeply entangled the queer community is also felt a little heartbreaking.
Today, L and I celebrate 5 years since our Big Gay Love Extravaganza Event (aka the B-GLEE, aka our wedding) It’s a big deal, somehow in my mind, to have been married for 5 years (I mean, we also got for real married about 3 years ago but I can’t even really remember the date because it was on a whim when the 9th circuit ruled another state’s marriage amendment unconstitutional. And there was the civil union on May 1 2014. But, I digress.) And it feels somehow heavier, more important to acknowledge the fleetingness of all love, all life. I feel even more deeply in love with my girl, and our boy and the tiny fetus Tiny, too. But I also feel scared. I guess that’s what love is, tenuous and fragile and scary.
Say some prayers for my friend, won’t you? And the vast community in Denver who is mourning for B and trying to handle the reality of this impossibility. They need some extra light right now.