In a weird way, I appreciate even the heartache. This wouldn’t have been possible had I not been practicing ethical polyamory. If I had my romantic love quarantined into little boxes of monogamous matrimony, I wouldn’t have met and grown to love Steve while I was in New England. I wouldn't have agreed to let him love me, even though there would soon be 1,800 miles between us. I also wouldn’t have been able to float casually over the years with Jeremiah, each of us letting the other Be. and Be With Others.
Jeremiah and I were never outspoken about our relationship, and neither of us wanted to put any labels on what we were doing. But at the same time, Jeremiah and I fought to keep each other present in our lives. When others said, “them or me,” we chose each other. But we were also perpetually on each other’s back burner. We regularly went a week without speaking, or a month without seeing each other. We had separate lives, separate relationships. I was better acquainted with his dogs than I was his friends.
Then I moved 1,800 miles away. I might have told him by text. Keeping it casual, as usual. We kept our emotional distance, until there was too much physical distance to keep denying just how close we were.
It was casual until it wasn’t. There’s no anniversary date to keep track of when your relationship has been a slow evolution of growth spanning years. After my hysterectomy, when Jeremiah asked me what I needed to be happy. I cried, “I just want to go home.”
“Where is that, babe? Where’s home?”
“I don’t have one.”
He said, “Come to me.”
We spoke every day the weeks before I moved back to my home-state. We talked about how classes were going for him, and what conferences I was writing proposals for, and what video ideas I couldn’t wait to do once I had healed and could really play again. I looked forward to seeing him again in the way that makes others melt into the background. He stood out.
But I knew the day would come again.
“You know I’m going to leave again, right?” I blurted this to Jeremiah on the phone, one week before I was supposed to bring me and what is left of my belongings into his home, his life, his family.
He had to go. His mom… school… things needed his attention. After a few minutes later he called back. “Listen, that kinda hurt my feelings. But I want you to be happy. You can always come back here. This is homebase.” I suddenly felt a little less like an orphan.
I was honest with Steve. He could have had a hundred different responses when I told him I was going back to Texas, and that Jeremiah would be a part of my life. He could have tried to convince me to stay in Maine. He could have stopped talking to me all together.
I talked to Jeremiah about my fears of burdening Steve. “How could he not be ready to be done with this, after all he’s done for me?”
Jeremiah reassured me. “That man really cares about you.”
Of all the things Steve could have said, he certainly did not have to offer to drive me 1,800 miles and drop me off at Jeremiah's door. But that’s exactly what he did.
We got to know each other even better on our three day journey across the country. We introduced each other to people we love. It was easy. Peaceful. I love that he makes me put down my phone and look at the sunset. We sang songs on the radio that made us cry the way music does when the lyrics are so sharp that they pierce your armour. Mostly we laughed. We talked about what it means to be a patriot, and what kind of tattoos we wanted to get someday.
Then the day came, and Steve and I met our horizon. “This can’t be an end,” I whispered, lying on top of him, breathless, sweating. His hands mapped the topographical curves of my body, committing them to memory. I couldn’t contain my emotions about the fact that I’d tomorrow I’d be gone, with no plans to ever see him again. Just a week ago I could barely make it four days without suffering his absence.
“I can’t promise you.” All he could give was the truth. Our tears mixed.
“I’m going to believe you’ll come back to me until you tell me not to.”
He didn’t tell me not to.
“Listen,” I made him look me in the eyes. I’m usually avoiding people’s eyes. “You can’t leave this planet with me on it.” I didn’t break my gaze. “I need you.”
His physical reaction was subtle, but full-bodied. I couldn’t tell whether it was fear, or relief. “Yes,” was all he answered. “Yes, you do.”
We held each other like we were trying to melt into each other’s skin. “2,000 miles is far enough. I don’t need an existential plane between us, too.”
Jeremiah was spinning lighted poi in the front lawn when Steve and I pulled up the street. His lips felt the same as I remembered. They shook hands and helped each other carry all my things into the bedroom Jeremiah prepared for me. We ate, they got to know each other a little bit while I shoved fries dipped in white gravy into my feed hole. They had been coordinating my care over text for a while. Getting along because they both love me.
The next morning, Jeremiah gave me and Steve space to say our goodbyes, but neither of us could manage the words.
“Be a good girl,” he said, stroking my hair maybe for the last time.
I couldn’t watch him drive away. I soaked Jeremiah’s sleeve. “I’m going to get snot all over your shirt.”
I’m starting to settle in with Jeremiah, and his pups Daisy and Walter. He introduced me to people he loves. He made me feel at home. When I’m sad about Steve, I’m honest about my feelings, and he lets me cry. Jeremiah makes my happiness his own. He invests in my dreams. He brings me bacon and chocolate.
We’re taking our new kind of relationship in steps. There’s no reason to rush. His momma asked me to marry them. “You know we’re a package deal,” she said.
I laughed. “Jeremiah, what do you think about that?”
He said, “You know how I feel about marriage,” before quickly changing the subject.
I do know how he feels about marriage. It’s very similar to how I feel about marriage. It’s also how Steve feels about marriage. It feels like trying to wear a coat that’s two sizes too small. It’s a straight-jacket, and I can’t breathe in it. No court in any US state legitimizes polyamorous relationships, not yet anyway.
Walking in step with the status quo means I have to chose between the people I love. Legally binding one (just one?!) of them to me seems like a joke. What business does the State have in my romantic relationships? Both of my romantic relationships are valid. One is not superior to the other.
I still talk to Steve every day. I send him pictures of the dogs. Makeup-free selfies with that smirky smile that makes him laugh. He was in Oklahoma City by that evening. I played the “what-if” game with all my decisions. He sent a picture of him driving to his next job. The passenger seat next to him looked so empty. It's been rough.
He and Jeremiah have stayed in touch, too. “I’m so glad that she has you, and you’re such an amazing guy. I meant it when I said I appreciate you.”
Jeremiah says I’ll see him again someday. He’s sure of it.
By the next day Steve reached a friend’s house in the midwest, another femsub he knew from the network of kinksters that find each other at conferences, munches, and Fetlife. As heart-broken as I was to see him go, I was relieved that another submissive was there to look after him as he rambled back up through the midwest.
I imagined him getting his sore muscles massaged, and eating a meal someone cooked with careful love for him (because that’s always the way food tastes best). I imagined him being playful and creative with kinky fuckery, and feeling those rushes of dopamine and oxytocin that treat depression and make us joyful. Above all, I want him to be safe, happy, and cared for with the same respectful submission I would offer him if I could.
We all just want each other to be happy, whatever that takes.
To me, polyamorous love doesn’t seem as fragile as monogamy. It spans time, distance, and depth that the kind of love we were all taught was normal can’t touch. Polyamory can bend where monogamy would break.
I don’t know what will happen with Steve or Jeremiah in the next few years. But I’m allowed to keep believing that I’ll see Steve again. I’m allowed to keep loving him from afar. I’m also, simultaneously allowed to let my love with Jeremiah continue to evolve. And when the time comes for me to leave Texas again, he’ll still love me then, too.
I have consented to be wrecked. “We will shatter,” I said. Now pieces of me are being scattered across the country. I am bruised blue with heartache. But I’m proud of my marks. They're evidence of my strength. This love is beautiful, even shattered to pieces.