"I want you to kiss me," she said. Funny she should use those words when they so closely echoed mine more than ten years ago. "I want to kiss you," I had said to my then best friend Sophie Anne. "Me too," Sophie Anne had said to me then. "Are you sure?" was what I said to Jemma, the girl who was now requesting that I do something that I imagined could change a lot of things for a lot of people. Of course, I never could have known then just how much change it would mean.
I met Jemma at an art gallery. She was curating a show that I was reviewing for the paper. "Can I help you?" she asked. I was standing in front of a massive canvas, taking notes as I took in the colors, textures, and designs. I introduced myself and told her why I was there. "Let me get you a catalog," she said. When she came back she invited me to the official opening and lecture that night. That was the first of many outings we would go on together. As friends, of course.
She had told me she was straight. "Very straight. I don't have a problem with it. I just can't imagine ever being with a girl," she said when I told her one day that I identified as bisexual. Between that and the fact that she was eleven years my junior, a work contact, and not my type, I never gave a moment's thought to us ever being more than friends. But after about six months of spending time together, we went away on a weekend trip. I do some travel writing and sometimes can take someone along. It was on that trip that she asked me to kiss her.
"Where is this coming from?" I asked. I couldn't have been more surprised if she had asked me to rob a bank with her. Here was this straight-laced, adorable, intelligent, young blonde asking me to kiss her. Part of my shock stemmed from the fact that we spent so much of our time together talking about everything, especially about sex and love and relationships. She had been through some rough stuff in that department and had come to me to talk about much of it. So, you would have thought I would have had at least an inkling. But I was as blindsided as a girl could be. Honest to goodness.