When I met Maya* seven years ago, I knew that I loved her within about five minutes. She had an armload of party supplies and was wearing a tie-dye hoodie. She had worked at children's birthday parties painting faces and making balloon animals, and she brought all of her supplies with her when she moved to the resort we were both working at for the summer.
Ever since that day, I've been trying to figure out if I wanted to sleep with her, be her, or be her sister.
She was the most brilliantly alive person I had ever met. Her laugh was explosive, and she would do anything to make the people around her smile. She didn't seem scared of anything. She was outgoing and noisy and hilarious. I was hooked.
Maya and I immediately fell into a consuming friendship. At the time, I had a boyfriend who was jealous of what she and I shared. It was clear that our love was unique. We would get together and dance and laugh to the point of peeing. Being around her was like being on ecstasy. I thought she was the smartest, strongest, and most beautiful woman I had ever met.
Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I fought about her all the time. He got upset every time she and I made plans without him. I started avoiding her so that I didn't have to deal with the arguments. It was one of the most painful and stupid decisions I ever made.
When the season ended, Maya and I stayed in touch as much as we could, but I missed her fiercely. We spoke on the phone at least once a week for three years, laughing and crying together. We wrote each other funny emails, and she helped me plan my wedding to the jealous boyfriend. I often thought about kissing her, what it would be like to be her girlfriend, what her hands would feel like running along my spine. Sometimes I thought she might have been thinking the same things, but both of us had become experts at hiding those feelings.
Eventually, she and I were living in the same place again and able to spend lots of time together. Our boyfriends had become good friends, and it made it easier to see one another. There were a thousand times when I'd look at her and wonder what it would be like to kiss her, but I thought it could never happen in a million years. I also worried about how it might complicate our friendship.
For the most part, I just didn't know how I saw her. Sometimes I would look at her and want to marry her. Other times she felt so much like a sister. But from the very beginning, I looked up to her in so many ways. She made me feel brave. She made me feel happy and powerful.
The entire facade, the glances and lingering hugs and silly flirty texts, came crashing down while we were on vacation together in Europe — just the two of us. Jealous boyfriend was now jealous husband, and he was thousands of miles away. Looking back, part of me can't blame jealous husband for how he felt — my love for Maya is elemental, while my love for him skittered along the surface.
We sat at a cafe in Montmartre, sharing a bottle of wine and giggling about how much we adored one another, when I felt something shift. We were here, alone, together. It was a moment I had always hoped for.
I admitted to her that I'd wanted her ever since I met her, that I'd been burning for her since that day with the balloons and face paint. I was surprised and yet not surprised to find out she had felt the same. In fact, it had been while giving one another a foot massage six years prior that we simultaneously first realized that we were craving a deeper intimacy from the other. But we set that thought aside for six years, only to let it bubble up again over wine in the most romantic place we'd ever been.
It was sort of perfect, the way everything unfolded so gradually; our foundation was in a powerful friendship with one another. At the same time, some part of me wishes I had crawled into her bed on the night of the foot massage and never left.
On the train home that night, we held hands and nuzzled one another, and when we got back to our hotel room, everything had changed. We drank another bottle (or two) of wine, and we laughed and ripped off all of our clothes — and then remembered we were both in relationships. We lay with our legs spread, laughing, and let one another take a peek, but that's as far as anything went that night. We realized that if we ever wanted to take things further, it should be the right way.
We live in different parts of the country again. I'm separated from jealous husband now. Maya and I haven't seen one other since Paris, but we have slowly felt our friendship evolving into something powerful and messy and confusing. We talk about what it will be like when we have sex in the future, we send each other naked selfies, and sometimes we have phone sex — and then in the same conversation blab about our moms for an hour and support each other the way best friends do.
I don't just want to be her best friend, I want to be her sometimes-lover. I want our relationship in this life to go beyond a romantic one, so that no matter what our intimate life looks like, we support one another always. I want our relationship to go beyond a platonic one in that I want to know what her body feels like in my arms.
I thought that our friendship post-Paris would be messier, harder, but really it just feels more naturally "us" than we had ever been. It's easy to slip between friend and lover. I don't feel like I'm hiding anything from her anymore.
The biggest triumph in all of this is that we both feel the same way. She describes our love as "fuzzy around the edges." I want to believe that with a good amount of communication and tenderness we can have it all, making out, making love, middle-of-the-night sobbing phone calls when the guy doesn't call back, trips around the world, booty pics via text. I might be insane — there are probably lots of reasons why people keep friendships and relationships in discreet categories. But I also know that our love for one another is the best thing in my life. I want to see all the different ways it can look, as sisters, lovers, co-conspirators and best friends.