Love Thy Neighbor

“I could never lick a vagina,” Emma said.

We were making our way back to our apartments from walking through the neighborhood park. Emma lived on the second floor; I lived on the first.

It was early February of 2015 and unseasonably warm. We had just thrown a joint ‘summer camp’ themed party the night before and needed some fresh air after a long night of drinking and dancing.

I cannot recall how we even started chatting about lesbianism. We hadn’t known each other very long, maybe just a few months. I remember thinking how I would be kinda of nervous to bring up something like that with someone I barely knew, but really loved how open and comfortable Emma was in conversation.

From that moment on, Emma and I saw each other just about every day.

I’d travel upstairs with my laptop so we could work and watch back-to-back episodes of Orange is the New Black. I didn’t have internet in my apartment and Emma had a Netflix account and a large TV.  Not too long after our party, it was Valentine’s Day.  It was a Saturday that year and neither one of us had a boyfriend, so we decided to make a day of it. We hit up a local record store then traveled up north to see our two friends, Katie + Megan (who are partners). We grabbed a few drinks downtown before perusing the Nick Cave exhibit at the Art Museum. Blaring music as loud as my car speakers could manage, we sang and car danced, driving to the grocery store to pick up some last minute ingredients for our big feast we planned to cook. In the parking lot, Emma turned in the driver’s seat and declared ‘You are my best friend!’ I squealed, hugging her, stating that she was my best friend, too.

I was having the best day.

That evening we downed a couple bottles of red wine with our paella.  We pushed Emma’s dining room furniture up against the back wall to make room for a dance floor. It was late and we both were laying on the floor, a little drunk and sleepy from the night. Emma casually said ‘I fell in love with you this week’ and then immediately passed out asleep.  I don’t know why, but a few tears welled up in my eyes and slid down my cheeks.

I didn’t acknowledge the strange words she said the night before when I saw her the next day, but I wondered if she had remembered.  Even though it started to become routine to hang out, I was always really excited to see her. I was a little nervous even. It was strange the way I started to feel about her. I sort of shook it off, thinking I just really admired her. She was my best friend and it had been a long time since I had made a best friend. Maybe this was how I was supposed to feel?

I started to notice a slight change in Emma’s demeanor, too. I’d catch her lingering stare, or the way she would smile at me. I was getting that same feeling when I thought a guy was interested. But Emma was a woman, and straight, so it must just be me feeling weird for no reason. Over the next month, I was becoming more and more confused. What was wrong with me? I’m not gay. I grew up liking boys as early as my preschool and kindergarten days, asking the kid across the street if he would be my boyfriend and hoping the kid in my first grade class would chase me around at recess. 

It was March 17.  We had tickets to the Slyvan Esso concert. Towards the end of the night, Emma had bought me a shot of Fireball (a guilty pleasure of mine). I had already had a couple of drinks and I can’t juggle too many in one evening. The cinnamon spice tingled as it went down my throat. I was feeling warm and relaxed. Not thinking too much, I leaned into Emma. She wrapped her arms around me.  At this point, I think we both silently confirmed that something was going on that we hadn’t yet admitted to ourselves. We filed out of the venue and made our way to our car. Pulling out of the parking lot, Emma turned and said ‘You’re the love of my life.’

I leaned over and rested my head on her shoulder. I said something about being together and she reminded me that we were both heterosexual. I said lightheartedly ‘But people are people.’ 

Emma texted me at some point around 4:00am that we needed to talk. That evening after work, Emma came downstairs and I had dinner ready for us. We chitchatted for quite a while about everything but what we needed to discuss. I was too nervous to be the first person to bring up last night’s conversation.  Emma finally made the brave move and spoke first. We didn’t know quite what this all meant. What would our friends think? Our parents? Other people? Emma asked me what I wanted to do. I said, ‘If we could live in our own bubble, I would want to be with you.’ 

“Well that’s honest as fuck,” replied Emma. I was crying. This was a lot of really unexpected feelings and considerations and questions.  

Exhausted from the lack of sleep and jitters, we called it a night. We stood in my kitchen hugging for a really long time. We both stepped out of the closet together.

-Brie Cella

Brie spends most of her time developing creative reuse programs for her favorite non-profit, Perennial. She loves scavenging estate sales for old treasures, making handmade things for her home, tending to her backyard garden, and drinking chai tea. She holds a BFA with an emphasis in Printmedia and Fiber & Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Brie thinks a lot about starting her own apothecary, daydreaming about farm living and practicing yoga.