past relationships: Rachel (part 1 – the beautiful beginning of falling in love)

Much of my relationship with Rachel is scattered about my blog. She has been an important person in my life for many years. For writing about her, I’m going to take a lot of what I’ve already written about her, stitch it together under one series of posts, tweak it for flow (and fill in any important events or situations that I hadn’t already written about), and then have a cohesive set of posts to link back to, that highlights the highs and lows of this extremely important relationship.

Is my relationship with Rachel truly totally “in the past”? No, not quite yet. Though some recent developments have caused me to realize that it soon may well be. I want to discuss those in my blog, but before I discuss what is happening now, I wanted to have a cohesive series of posts detailing what came before – I think that will make the “now” much clearly and better understandable, with the history before now also accessible.

So here I go: I met Rachel through mutual friends. I actually knew of her and generally who she was for months (if not years) before ever really speaking to her. As she was close friend with Jessica, and the people who I originally met this group of friends through didn’t care for Jessica, I ended up not talking or interacting with Rachel at all for a long time. This wasn’t a completely deliberate thing; My group of closest friends didn’t have any overlap with Rachel’s group of closest friends, so though we were often at parties thrown by our overlapping friends, we never really talked.

That changed randomly during a small party where Jessica (and most of Rachel’s friends) as well as Anna Marie (who had detested Jessica and had moved to New York City with her new husband) and most of my friends were absent. I remember this party really well. The weather outside was total icy shit. I’d been tempted to text and tell the couple throwing the party that I couldn’t make it. But they only lived a few blocks away; I didn’t even have to drive on the icy streets and I felt guilty canceling.  So I went.

When I got there, I learned that most people had bowed out because of the weather. Only about half a dozen people attended. And as I looked around, I realized that – though I’d been hanging out with this group of people off and on for several years – there wasn’t a single person who I knew well there.

I felt flustered. Embarrassed. A little weird. As I was slowly taking off my boots and sizing up the dynamic, I saw that there was one couple sitting together talking, a couple people in a group talking and one woman sitting alone, reading and looking like she was waiting for someone. As I was watching her, she looked up and gave me this shy smile. It was curious, welcoming, and a bit self-conscious. She looked embarrassed in the same way that I did – here I am, supposedly at a party thrown by good friends, and I don’t know anybody well enough to just saunter up and talk to them.

So I sat down next to her and said “hi”. It was a tiny explosion of a word. “Hi” I feel awkward. “Hi” I do too. “Hi” Omg we both feel weeeeeeeeeeeeird. Both of us scrambled for something to say. I finally came up with “I really love your bracelets”. She was wearing these beautiful thin, deep blue translucent bangles. I actually love bangle bracelets.

Turns out, so did she.

We started talking bangles and it moved on to…I don’t remember. A million subjects. The next thing I really remember was realizing that I’d stayed way later, that we were actually the last people at the party, and that our hosts had been trying to gently engage us in a “We’re really like to go to bed, so you need to go home” conversation for at least a few minutes.

We both blushed. We both scampered off, apologizing for being so oblivious. Our hosts were more amused than annoyed and just shook their heads indulgently and wished us good night.

Our homes were in separate directions, so we split on the stoop, but looked each other up on Facebook, and quickly transitioned to exchanging email addresses, phone numbers and texting/calling/emailing and hanging out all the time.

We were head-over-heels falling in love.

A few months after we started our relationship, Rachel abruptly had to leave her apartment. There were some major structural issues that had been found, and the place was being rendered temporarily unlivable. Around the same time my roommate decided to move back to her hometown to be closer to her family, so I had a room free. To our mutual delight, Rachel moved in.

Looking back, it’s funny how it didn’t even occur to me to be worried that living together wouldn’t work out. At that point in my life, I’d only lived with a significant other once, and that was years prior, when I was monogamous. So in theory, living with someone else who I felt so much about should have made me nervous. I think I wasn’t worried partly because I have spent most of my adult life living in two (or three) bedroom apartments. It’s easier to save money if I share rent. The vast majority of my roommate experiences have been neutral – if not positive – and Rachel and I had already spent a lot of time together, having sleepovers and cuddling if it got too late to go home. I knew about how clean she kept her place, and how clean I kept mine. I felt like I knew her boundaries really well.

Also, at this point, we were mainly thinking of each other as “really close friends”. We said we loved each other. We held hands. We made each other a priority. We slept (as in, actually sleeping, not a euphemism for sex) together regularly. We were both monogamous; at least that’s what we called ourselves. We were both enjoying each other’s company enormously and not questioning that or trying to figure out “what it meant”. Moving in together, during this time when neither of us had a romantic significant other, sounded like a marvelous idea. We’d save money, be able to spend time together more easily, be able to cook together (we both loved to cook and experiment in the kitchen), it’d be much easier to take care of each other’s cats (we each had a cat at the time, and would look in one another’s cats when one of us was traveling).

This is probably a good time to mention where Jessica was during this time. I was – during this part of me and Rachel’s relationship – completely oblivious to how important Jessica was to Rachel. How could that be, given how much time Rachel and I were spending together?

During this time when Rachel and I were getting close, Jessica was dealing with some major work problems. She was also involved in a romantic relationship that probably got too serious too quickly (this isn’t conjecture on my part, I started seeing more of Jessica towards the end of that relationship, and she herself talked about how if that relationship hadn’t moved so quickly, she would have realized that maybe it wasn’t the best relationship for her, and broken it off earlier, before she felt so invested in it). The relationship was rather volatile – not in a physically abusive way, but in a “frequent passionate arguments/oh god, we’re too different to make it work/no! our love will overcome all and we will make it work!” kind of way. Between work and that relationship, most of Jessica’s time was completely booked physically. So she rarely came over and Rachel rarely went to her place. They did keep in touch with a lot of texting, phone calls, and emails. But as I didn’t keep track of exactly who Rachel was talking to when, I had no idea that there was another person in Rachel’s life who was so deeply important to her.

In hindsight, it is odd (and has always bothered me) a little bit that Rachel said close to nothing about her relationship with Jessica. The weird thing about it was that I learned a lot about Rachel’s two closest childhood friends (one of whom is still a close friend to this day). I learned a lot about her friends in general, and the important past relationships in her life. But she never mentioned her passionate and deep relationship with Jessica. I don’t know if maybe she thought I’d be offended or jealous or upset to learn that she has someone else in her life that she was extremely close to. I wouldn’t have. And if she’d told me, I wouldn’t have felt blind-sided the way I did, when she did finally talk to me about Jessica and how important her relationship with Jessica was.

As I think back over this, and I think of what I know of Jessica, I can only thing of one really good reason why Rachel hesitated to tell me, and that is what I suggested over – that she thought I’d become extremely jealous. Jessica herself is an extremely jealous person at times. And she’s not afraid to express her jealousy in terms that make it clear that she expects Rachel to “make things up to her” and keep “making things up to her” until Jessica decides that things are “even” (that was a behavior of Jessica’s that I immediately nipped in the bud when we started to become close. I let her know on no uncertain terms that I didn’t cater to behavior like that. After the first few times that she tried to pout at me and was met with a brick wall of unimpressedness, she quit). So maybe if the other person in Rachel’s life who was extremely important to her behaved that way, she expected me to behave that way too. I don’t know. All this is conjecture, and getting a bit ahead of itself, and in the end, I’ll probably never know.

The main thing is that during this time, I was unaware of Jessica as anything other than a good friend because Jessica’s work and relationship commitments took up too much of her time for her to be physically around much. And though she and Rachel had an intense (and constant) communication going through emailing, texting, and phone calls I didn’t pay specific attention to who Rachel was talking to, how much, or think to question her on that. Honestly, why would it be any of my business, so long as I felt like Rachel and I were meeting the relationship needs that we’d established between us? I always assumed that if there was someone enormously important in the life of someone who I loved, that they’d tell me about it – volunteer it – themself. It didn’t occur to me to ask.

So that is where Jessica and Rachel were with each other when Rachel was moving in with me. I was oblivious to that facet of Rachel’s life, and mainly focused on being thrilled that Rachel and I would soon be living together. It seemed like a wonderful step along a beautiful journey of becoming closer and closer to someone I loved.

This seems like a good place to pause for the moment. I’ll resume in Part 2.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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