Person looking through a keyholeI knew he was leaving my life for good. I couldn’t blame him. But after spending over six years together, I just thought I would still take someplace in his.

Despite him saying his leaving would be temporary and that I would see him again, I knew better because he was giving me pep talks for the rest of my life. There is a finality in such pep talks.

“Above everything be happy,” he would say in his soft, scratchy, Lebanese accent, “live happily.” He would tell me that without the poor there would be no rich and that the system is designed to keep people at the bottom, and some people spend their whole lives saving and could die tomorrow. “Life is not guaranteed,” he would say, “so live for the day. And live happily.” He would remind me how soft I am and how sensitive I am and how I am “de nicest gehrl in all de wehrld” and that people will magnetize to that to take advantage of that. “Don’t be afraid,” he would say, “I know it’s hard for you, but try to stick up for yourself. Be strong.” 

Around a year prior to his departure, I was sleeping on the floor of what would typically be the bedroom of our small, empty apartment, while he slept on the mattress in what would conventionally be the living room. 

Often I’d lay there staring up at the ceiling with tears streaming down my temples and soaking my hairline. I hurt for this person who didn’t know why he was sleeping away from me under the same roof. And neither did I. I hurt that while I loved him incredibly, I could not love him completely the way I was supposed to. I sometimes would allocate this unknown feeling to, among other things, being young and missing out on the typical college years. But I did not want to have sex with him. And so sometimes I passed this off as perhaps being asexual. But past instances eventually merged with voids and explicit dreams I desperately wanted to return to and my gut wrenched as if it were a towel being twisted dry. “I’m convincing myself of this. . .I’m just telling myself this.” Sometimes your mind wages war with your heart and so when my heart told me that this situation was neither fair to Ali or myself I faced perhaps the hardest thing I ever had to do and told him, “I don’t think I can be in a romantic relationship with you anymore.” My voice shook. When you are looking at the face of the kindest being you have ever been blessed to know, let alone someone who gifted you with such peace and calm and a sense of familial stability, the fear is comparable to impending death itself, I am sure.

My intention was to spend my life with him. But I also came to know, more and more, that there was something missing and it was what such a deep unknown sadness was stemming from. I came to notice that when I thought in terms of spending the rest of my life with him, this incredible person, my body would be overcome in panic for some reason. When I thought in terms of spending my life with a best female friend, as I had nobody else as a reference point, I had an incredible sense of calm.

Months later, I had found myself writing to a woman every night, all night, which came to be over a hundred nights of letters often spanning between nine and eleven pages long.

We had even talked on the phone for eighteen hours once. It became a whirlwind span of time. This person and I eventually met, as I would make visits down to Ohio. At 24 years old, I was with a woman for the first time and, suddenly in retrospect, everything spanning back to the time I was three made sense.

The timing and confusion, still, was too much to take in at once. I ended up going back to Michigan with who I saw as my best friend, this near-perfect human, standing with his arms outstretched. This marked the beginning of our last month together when we spent time travelling to Columbus, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Detroit. These were the drives when I would look at him, my only family, and sporadically burst into tears. And these were the drives I finally came out to him.

We were on a highway exit in Detroit as he was setting me up for his departure and I felt a massive panic attack sweeping over me. I started fumbling with the window and grasping for the door handle as my lungs went on autopilot. He asked what is wrong. Between the gasps of air and sobs, I managed to tell him I was with a woman and that I am gay. Tears welled in his eyes as we got out of the car in the parking lot of a grocery store and he came back with the most selfless response.

“Do you feel better now that you told me?”

I didn’t even know what to say to that. I was looking at the face of my entire last six years, this incredible person, my only family, my best friend. Beyond that, I felt guilty because I had inadvertently wasted six years of his life not consciously knowing that I am gay. I shrugged.

“When someone has a curiosity, nothing will stop them. And if you had kept it inside, it would have eaten at you,” he said. He then let me know he always had a feeling.

Eventually accepting defeat, he kissed my tear-soaked face goodbye, telling me it was temporary, and I watched him drive away from the balcony of our third-floor apartment.

I eventually ended up packing the little blue Mazda Protégé he had left behind, picking up rideshares on craigslist, beginning a two-year on-and-off stint of travel, as I had gotten rejected for financial aid after marrying him and all I wanted was to get through school. He had told me he would always help me with the school. However, he left me married for a year without even knowing where he was. I would not trade my travel experiences for the world, but I have been in survival mode for years.

I am completely alone now with no family and no support system. I eventually ended up in a three-year abusive relationship with a woman who stripped me of everything and I still am trying to pick up the pieces, feeling as though once-vibrant, essential parts of my spirit are stifled. I walk everywhere, feeling suffocated, only hoping to get myself through school on top of everything else I need.

If anyone claims that sexuality is a choice, my story is an absolute testament that it is not. Ali and I had an incredible companionship and I adored the person he was with every atom of my being. This dynamic was an element that one could only dream of in any relationship. And he was the only person in my life who loved me in a way that empowered me, made me feel like I could do anything, and set free who I was meant to be – that traveller who could leave on a whim and trust that everything would fall together