This is why I don’t let my straight characters fall in love.

This is why I don’t let my straight characters fall in love.

Let me tell you about my straight girl crush.

I was in high school when I met her and the moment I heard her quote Shakespeare my heart stopped. She was straight, of course, but too beautiful not to stare at. There was a depth to her, something just below the surface, like walking to the end of a pier and staring down into the constantly moving seawater below.

I listened to her favorite bits of poetry and prose because I thought she was beautiful, but at some point during all those late nights in the dorm, I fell in love with more than just her. After she graduated, I started picking up the words she left behind one by one. Over time they taught me about the sheer gold space that exists between the writer and reader, the space that houses magic, bordered only by your mind and theirs. I fell in love with writing and haven’t looked up since. She became a writer too, of course, and writes circles around me. Poetry, I think, which requires a purer talent, an ability to meld the sparest collection of words into a different form. Alchemy.

I saw her last night, for the first time in thirty years; just a handful of us sitting around a table in a classmate’s home. At some point, she looked over at me from the end of the table. The noise fell away and I studied the face that was more beautiful than I remembered. As I watched her laugh and talk to the people around us I realized we had a connection, grounded in words and alchemy, that never would have existed if there’d been a possibility of anything beyond that. I got to really see her, the intense eyes and shimmering talent, because it was the only option, and suddenly I was thankful it’d unfolded exactly that way.

And what does this have to do with straight characters? I think sometimes as authors we see all primary female characters as one half of a romantic relationship, but as we all know, real life isn’t like that. When we allow respectful space for straight women to appear in our stories, and our lives, we’re free to see the connection for what it truly is. I respect straight characters enough to let them be themselves in my writing; to allow space for them to unfold as they are.

Not everyone is mine to touch. Even my characters. And last night I realized she’s the one that taught me that, thirty years ago.