“Just because you know someone is manipulative, doesn’t mean you’re immune to it.”
– Tina Colleen
There was a long pause after I sent that text message. Even though it was just a text, I could feel the weight of that pause. I agonised over how Sunshine might reply to my admission.
She responded to my text without directly responding to what I said in the message. She never said the feeling was mutual, but she was shocked—she wasn’t sure where my feelings were coming from. To be honest, neither did I. I mentioned to her the few times she came on to me (I even had text messages to prove these instances). Her response: “I was just joking.” Sound familiar? Like with Dwayne just a few years prior, I believed Sunshine when she said was only kidding, even though my gut told me all of this was bullshit. To avoid making the situation more awkward, I dropped it.
At that time, I thought my infatuation with Sunshine was only sexual. After all, she was the first woman to whom I was truly attracted. I still identified as straight when it came to my sexuality. I wallowed in denial; I theorised that perhaps these feelings were the result of the devastation and vulnerability I experienced from Dwayne abandoning me.
Two weeks later, Sunshine and I traveled with a group of people from both our offices to a retreat. Sunshine and I sat together on the bus; I was determined to keep my head out of my feelings, and to keep my focus on the retreat. I was also still in graduate school and had a deadline that weekend. She was sitting to my left by the window. I had my laptop out on the bus, working on my assignment. Sunshine was getting annoyed. Any time we were together, she always demanded my full attention, regardless of what else was happening at the moment. She kept nagging me to work on my assignment later. I told her that once I finished my assignment, I’d talk to her. Then there was a moment where she slid her soft hand across my thigh and began to caress me. I froze. My heart jumped into my throat and started racing so fast. I turned my head to look at her and she was smiling my favourite mischievous smile as she continued to caress my thigh.
I closed my laptop.
The bus ride turned into us getting to know each other in ways we never really discussed prior. We were sharing our passions with one another for the first time. She shared with me the love of her favourite painter, and I shared my love for the Columbian band Bomba Estereo. It’s still one of my most favourite memories of us — I guess because it fed into my fantasy of being with Sunshine romantically.
When we initially arrived at the retreat, we sat together every chance we got. I remember there was another young woman, Maria*, with whom I’d recently developed a friendship. From day one, Sunshine exhibited jealousy anytime I gave Maria my attention. The retreat was no different, and Sunshine snubbed Maria anytime she would try to speak to me. Instead of being concerned about how possessive Sunshine was (especially considering we weren’t dating), I thought it was cute that she was jealous. Because jealousy means they like us, right?
One of the things I recall most vividly about that Friday was something Sunshine said to me. I won’t ever forget how Sunshine would say to me that one day she’d be making enough money to take care of me, to take care of us. It was like she was referencing a future of her and me together – a potential future that was becoming more and more concrete in my mind.
I was excited to learn we might be able to spend time alone because I had my own hotel room. We talked about her coming by that night after everyone else had turned in. She never said yes to visiting me, but she didn’t say, “No,” either. Having sex crossed my mind, but honestly, I just wanted to be near her. I wanted to have her to myself, away from suspecting eyes. I asked her to text me if she wanted to stop in.
The text never came.
The following morning, Sunshine avoided me and sat with other people at breakfast. In fact, for the rest of the retreat, she didn’t really interact with me. My ego wouldn’t allow me to ask her directly why she didn’t hit me up, nor would I allow myself to beg for her attention.
When it came time to head back on the bus, I told her that I was going to sit with someone else. I felt rejected and upset, and I just didn’t want to deal with the fact that she was so hot and cold over the weekend. Sunshine was annoyed, and expressed her irritation, even though she had ignored me the entire weekend. In one of the few times I didn’t give in to her, I sat with someone else on the way home.
That following week, she came by my office to tell me what happened during the retreat. She told me she had gotten into a fight with the woman she was sleeping with, and hadn’t been in the mood to deal with anyone. I was pretty pissed. No — I was jealous as hell. Although she told me it was only sex between them, I knew there was more, and despite Sunshine’s mixed signals and red flags, I still wanted her. I wanted to be the girl who had Sunshine’s attention, the one who could emotionally affect her.
As time progressed, every time Sunshine and I tried to make arrangements to meet outside of the office, something out of our control would prevent it. For example, we had RSVP’d to an event that was cancelled out of the blue. Or, one of us would have life obligations – like school projects, tests, or work deadlines - come up unexpectedly that would interfere with our plans.
Now, I really should have taken the hint from the universe, but in 2014, I was much less spiritually attuned as I am now. I remember literally praying to God to stop blocking us. There’s a reason that the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for,” because unfortunately for me, He listened.
We made plans to spend the day at the museum, and finally, nothing got in our way. We spent the entire afternoon walking around the museum, talking, laughing, getting to know each other even more deeply than before. Following the museum, I took her to an Ethiopian restaurant. After dinner, I put her on the train that night. For me, the whole day was pure magic.
That was the day I knew I was in too deep, this wasn’t a phase. I wasn’t vulnerable because of Dwayne. I finally admitted to myself I wasn’t straight because—
I was falling in love with her.
To be continued…
*Name changed to protect identity
Profile Photo Credit: The Divulge Project