Recently DW and I decided to write the story of how we met down separately and see what we each remembered and what stood out to each of us. It's quite long, so I'm putting it in a spoiler. The first one is DW and the second one is me!
Teri, February 2005
It all started when she skated on to the rink for her first roller derby practice. I had been involved for about five months and had skated in my first game a week before. At that practice I was chosen by the coach to teach Ashleigh how to fall; it is important to fall certain ways to avoid hurting yourself. She was a natural and we soon joined the rest of the group.
We quickly became friends. We were both students at the U of A and only knew a few other people in town. I had moved from a small town a little less than an hour away and she moved from the Phoenix area. We would carpool to practices and hang out afterwards. While everyone else went to the bars, we would go get dessert or skate around downtown since we were only 18. Sometimes other people would join us, a friend, a roommate, or maybe someone else from roller derby, but the two of us together became the norm.
One night stands out in my memory and we both recount it often. I invited her over to watch a movie (it happened to be a lesbian coming out movie, go figure). There was a rain storm that night, so after the movie we grabbed a blanket and watched the storm from my porch. I’m not sure why it came up, but after a while we decided it would be fun to paint a mural on one of the doors in my bedroom. By the time we finished it was morning. We went to the store and got the ingredients for my family recipe French toast. I think this would be when we started “dating”, although neither of us realized it until weeks later.
We were both still vaguely dating boys, but Ashleigh identified as bisexual. We both started coming up with excuses to cancel dates and spend time with each other instead. Since she lived in the dorms, we spent a lot of time at my house.
Ashleigh started to stay the night at my house more and more often. She would sleep in my bed, but everything was still platonic. I guess my first red flag was the twinge of jealousy I felt when she mentioned she had a crush on another girl in roller derby. I told myself it was nothing, and definitely didn’t mention it to her. Slowly things began to change, a touch here, a look there; I started to acknowledge my feelings and think maybe she had feelings in return.
Suddenly, she withdrew. I was crushed and more confused than ever. Obviously I had been wrong and she was trying to put some distance between us. Finally she came to my house after practice. It was the last day of classes at the University and we had a day off before finals started. She decided to stay over, although she was more distant, both physically and emotionally. Since I lived in a college neighborhood, all of our neighbors were celebrating the end of the school year. Very loudly.
Between the raucous neighbors and my preoccupation about Ashleigh’s new attitude, I had a very hard time sleeping. After tossing and turning, getting water, tossing some more, using the bathroom (too much water), then lying awake staring at the ceiling, she finally asked me what was wrong. I don’t remember most of the conversation, but she said something about me being the “straight girl” and I told her I wasn’t so sure anymore. I could see her look of shock and the glimmer of hope in the semidarkness. I found all of the courage I could, and trembling, I leaned in and I kissed her…
Ashleigh, February 2005
Early in my second semester at the University of Arizona, I was looking for activities to entertain myself and my roommate in our spare time. My mother, from my parents’ home 100 miles away, had been doing internet searches and emailed me, suggesting I look into Tucson Roller Derby. I checked out the website, I pored over photos, and immediately I was hooked. I emailed Mom back that night to tell her that I certainly wasn’t going to go watch roller derby, but that I was going to play roller derby instead! She replied that she figured I might say that.
I went to my first practice that Sunday night, newly purchased skates and gear slung over my shoulder. I’d never actually skated in quad speed skates before, so I was slightly apprehensive of making a fool of myself – but not enough to stop me trying.
I arrived and introduced myself to the coach, who promptly assigned me to a more experienced skater to teach me the basics. Her name was Teri. She was young and cute, and skated up to me with a smile on her face and a CareBear on her t-shirt.
Teri stuck with me that whole practice, helping me with technique and encouraging me when I felt I wasn’t doing well. After practice was over, she offered to drive me to the following practice on Wednesday, as it was held at a different location that was more difficult to find. I immediately took her up on her offer.
Over the next few months, we spent every practice working hard alongside one another. Often, we would get together with other girls from the league to have coffee or ice cream or watch movies. Teri quickly became one of my best friends and I recall spending nights over at her house simply so I didn’t have to bother going home only to come back to Teri’s house the next day.
Without realizing it, I suddenly faced the realization that my feelings for Teri were more than friendly feelings. Let’s be clear here that nowhere in this discovery was there room for pure, simple, and straightforward lust. There was nothing simple about the way I felt for Teri. These weren’t physical feelings, but rather an intense emotional attachment. I was crazy for this girl; I craved her presence, her laughter, and any smiles she shot my way warmed my heart.
These feelings were simultaneously welcomed and feared. I worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain my friendship with her; I worried about telling her the truth and repulsing her and losing her. She had mentioned ex-boyfriends and was dating intermittently a guy she met through the university. At the time, I was identifying as bisexual and was in no kind of relationship. I’d told her about my occasional attraction to women. She had never admitted any curiosity in turn, so my sole conclusion was that she was off-limits. I was so filled with sadness over this that I felt I had no choice but to withdraw from the emotional relationship we’d begun to kindle.
Then one evening it all changed. We had fun watching a movie, and sitting out on her front porch watching the rain slick the pavement while sipping Dr Pepper. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget those things. Nor would I want to. We ended up staying up the entire night, laughing and spontaneously painting her closet door and then in the morning she made me her family’s version of French toast. I recall thinking that I never wanted to leave.
Not too long after that evening, the semester ended and I found myself staying the night at her house yet again. As torturesome as it was to me, it happened that there were no spare beds at Teri’s house and it was a logical conclusion that I’d just share her bed. I lay on the right side of her aging mattress (which is still the side of the bed I sleep on, even to this day!), rolled on my side and facing away from her. I held onto the edge of the mattress to keep myself balanced in the bed as I felt the mattress creak and shift under my weight. Teri, on the other side of the bed, was flopping around in what seemed to be an attempt to get comfortable. She got out of bed a couple times as well, only to return minutes later and allow the dance of insomnia to continue.
Half out of exasperation and half out of morbid curiosity, I asked her what was the matter. She didn’t quite know. She was full of hesitation and uncertainty – things I didn’t know her to be. Eventually it came out that Teri was questioning the way she identified. She expressed fear about the unknown, about what having feelings for me would mean for her. I reached out and squeezed her hand in mine, and told her that I was scared too.
I moved closer to her, and as the anxious breaths from our respective mouths mingled in the air between us, I closed my eyes and felt time come to a halt. My skin was electrified, my body buzzed with heat and anticipation; certainly sparks had to be shooting from my fingertips as I gripped Teri’s hand. My heart pounded in my chest, and I opened my eyes in time to see Teri lean in and touch her lips to mine.