By Joshua Blake
It’s 2:51 on a Tuesday morning as I lay in an empty bed, imagining what she might say.
The emotions I feel grip my heart like a vice, while it aches for her touch, her scent, her lips.
Some people say I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I beg to differ: It’s oozing down my chest in need of her love.
The love I’ve searched for all of my life finally found me at my darkest hour. When I expected it least, she said what I’ve been dying to hear: I love you.
The only thing that confused me in that moment was why I was afraid to say it back.
I met Anette online. She had a boyfriend who lived in Georgia and my second online relationship was burning up. Perhaps, in that moment, I was afraid to say I loved her because I didn’t feel good enough — as if I didn’t matter.
The other girls you wanted never wanted you, and online dating was a tornado that blew my mind all over the place.
Is this girl really different? Should I give her a chance to show me what I yearn for? What I need?
Conversely, we’d talk everyday and video called frequently. We became each other’s confidants; we attracted like magnets.
The days after Anette said “I love you,” I questioned my feelings, and that’s when it hit me: This is what’s causing my angst — my love for her, too.
Things turned sexual, even before we professed our love for each other, and even though it was through a screen, it felt not only natural, but appropriate, correct — this is meant to be occurring.
It was in October of 2015 when she told me she wanted to fly to New York to visit me. I walked out of my room and told my parents, and they thought Anette staying at a hotel would suffice. It was obvious they didn’t share my enthusiasm, and my brother, Jake, was fearful of her robbing us.
However, over time, my parents placated with the idea of letting her stay in our home.
“She’s gonna stay here, with us,” my mother told me.
“We’re not gonna let some 18-year-old girl from another country – who’s never been here before – be by herself.”
A month later, Anette mailed me a card for my birthday. That meant a lot to me, because it was the first time that I felt cared about by another in a way I only dreamed of. And she sent this all the way from Norway? I thought “she must care.”
In December, she sent a note with a Snoopy and Woodstock keychain. That was for Christmas.
We talked about becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, but I wanted to wait until she visited in the summer — another fear of my belief of not being enough brought on by my Cerebral Palsy.
Depression and anxiety played into that belief even more, but something in my head clicked. We were already acting as if we were together in an online relationship, so I thought why wait?
She visited in June of 2016, flying from Norway to a country she’s never been to, to see the person she loves.
Originally, my dad and I were going to go pick her up, but then my mom decided to tag along, which I’ll forever be grateful for.
I was an ecstatic mess inside. “I’m gonna see her!” I kept telling myself. It felt like my heart would beat right out of my chest with anticipation while waiting at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.
Then I saw her, and she saw me.
She fell to her knees in complete bliss, ran to me, embracing me as if we were long lost lovers, and subsequently knocked me down. It was a great moment.
Of course my parents got this on video, and after they helped us up, we went to the bathrooms, and once my parents were using the restrooms, that’s when I held her close and made a move to kiss her.
Eyes widened with shock and awe — and even desire — as she then closed her eyes and locked lips with mine, causing time to freeze. When we pulled away and opened our eyes, we were back on Earth.
I’ve been with Anette ever since and I couldn’t ask for a better friend, or a better lover.
Love was always something I misunderstood, even as a child. I knew I was different because of my disability, but I constantly felt like no one would fall for me.
After a sexual encounter at the age of 20 with a woman 15 years my senior over two years ago, I fell into a depressive hole that felt like the size of Mount Everest. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the top. Ever.
Ironically, the femme fatale that seductive night told me something people tend to say to me, and I had an epiphany.
“You’re great, you know that?” Her comment stunned my line of thought as I struggled to comprehend what we just did; what I just did. I always viewed myself as broken.
Even the devil knew of my superpower, and it seemed that I seduced her far easier than she had seduced me. That’s when I realized people see right through me.
Months later, I graduate with my associate’s and make my way to Stony Brook University in New York to pursue my bachelor’s in journalism, only to retroactively withdraw from my first semester.
The culprit? Depression.
The devil invaded my thoughts and my dreams and was tearing my heart apart at the seams.
I had a journal that spanned nearly two years which was a reflection into the one thing my soul desired: love.
I ended it in November of 2015, pondering the devil towards the end of its life and what she did to me. I wondered if I’d ever move past this. I wondered if it was a question of when rather than how. “Then again, maybe not,” I added to end my journey.
I believe part of that was self love, which Anette’s helped me conjure. I don’t know where I’d be without her – at the very least, I’d be stuck within the depths of my wallowing mind, constantly thinking in circles – but that’s all I can imagine.
I still have my depressive days, but they’re no longer central to the self loathing I once had about my disability. Instead, it’s brought on by a feeling that part of me is missing, my other half – the woman that I love.
Anette’s last visit was back in December. We celebrated Christmas, and New Year’s — our first holidays together — as well as our one year anniversary.
This was a big moment for us, and it propelled our relationship to another level, and come this June, it’ll reach another level in terms of time spent together.
Her next visit will be her longest. We’ve only spent a week and a half with one another during her first two visits. She’ll spend over two months with me next time we meet.
We’ve been talking constantly about all of the things we can do now that we’ll have more time.
My family’s excited for her, shall we say, extended stay — my brother is not.
My therapist asks about this pretty frequently, and I even took my brother with me to therapy before Anette’s first visit in an attempt to dispel his worries.
We did this a few times, and it’s appeared to help ease tensions between the three of us and my parents slightly.
I don’t think about it much anymore. It’s not worth the mental gymnastics. I just end up back to the countless arguments we’ve had about the person I’ve decided to be with, and how Jake’s the only one who has an issue with Anette.
But then again, you can’t win ‘em all I guess.
I just hope that Jake is aware of the happiness Anette gives me. I’ve finally found a person who loves me for who I am, and I only wish that I’ve given her half of the glee she’s given me.
Although I think I’ve given her just as much, or possibly more, which makes me even happier.
It gives me immense pleasure to know that Anette sees right through me, for the person I am despite my disability. The sense of power and openness and freedom it gives me is indescribable.
When we’re together I feel like I can live my dreams instead of dreaming my life away.
When we’re together I feel like I can run a marathon instead of wishing that I could.
When we’re together my heart thaws out and a fire’s lit inside, and I feel as if I’ll never die.