Romance, and other terrors

Sex on Tuesday

photo of columnist cassandra branch

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This year on Halloween, my partner and I will celebrate one year together. Because the end of October is a week away, the topic of our anniversary has come up often. I’ve turned down more than a handful of costume party invitations, always explaining that I’ll be on a date instead. 

When I tell people that our special day is Halloween, I’m met with ooo’s, awe’s and a look of surprise. I imagine that the ironic juxtaposition of spooky and sweet is not lost on anyone. I get it; somehow, the idea of skeletons and spiders doesn’t exactly jive with budding young romances or impassioned declarations of love. Valentine’s, sure, but not a night reserved for candy, cosplay and booze. I’ve been thinking through these incongruities each time the subject is raised, and lately, I have to disagree.

For starters, our first moments as a couple were about as festive as they could’ve been. We were drunk, in the hot tub of a haunted cabin, while friends played beer pong inside; that about checks all the obligatory Halloween boxes. Not only were our surroundings on theme but the feelings themselves were equally terrifying. Young and deeply infatuated, we embarked into uncharted territory. Against the sounds of our friends drunkenly singing “Monster Mash” inside, three words changed my life forever. 

“I love you.” 

Now, hanging between us in the steam of the jacuzzi, was the truth — queer, terrifying and ours. The scariest day of the year couldn’t have been a more fitting day for our anniversary.

Toni Morrison writes about a “deep down, spooky love,” which touches you at your core and reverberates outward like ripples on water. For years, I didn’t understand this line to be anything more than poetic; I do now. Thinking back to almost a year ago, I can remember the tremble in my fingers and the goosebumps on my spine, as I kissed every inch of my girl. Underneath creaking floorboards and spider webs, we dug into each other until we didn’t know whether to sob or to laugh. Indeed, love is often bone-chillingly and heart-achingly spooky. 

I’ve known my partner since ninth grade, when we met at a performing arts high school. We were best friends at times and strangers at others. We both came from abusive homes, both battled against depression, both felt equally awkward and undesirable. We circled in and out of each other’s lives for almost ten years, engaged in a careful push and pull. I asked her out, she rejected me. She wanted to confess her feelings, but I was too focused on myself. We both dated other people, went to different colleges, lived in different states. Eventually, the pandemic brought us back together, after almost four years without any contact. 

That first conversation after so long apart, we stayed up all night. We spoke for nine hours in total, and by the end, I knew that I was in over my head. We were both in the thick of our own separate lives, with her finishing up her undergraduate degree at a prestigious, east coast school and me preparing to transfer out of community college and move to wherever would take me. It was inconceivable to me that we should become anything more than friends reconnecting during a global pandemic. I thought to myself, in another life. Predictably, love had other plans. 

She came to my apartment the next day, and she never left. We had sex constantly, smoked an ounce of weed a week, suffered through the pandemic and remained enraptured nonetheless. By Halloween, while the world seemed to explode in the periphery, we saw only each other and we fell madly in love.

Even on its best day, romance is a rollercoaster. The sex is perfect, the sky is pink, life is a live wire. Falling in love when you’re gay is no less thrilling, but it’s a bit more multifaceted. Ultimately, the stakes are higher. While on the one hand queer love was a euphoric discovery of myself, it’s also a confirmation that despite every objection, what I had spent years repressing had been irrevocably set into motion. There was no going back. Something about embracing identity is a bit like walking into a house of mirrors, or a haunted maze. The only way out is through. 

Just like that, we embraced each other and ourselves. We were queer, in love and self-actualized. Can there be anything spookier than this searing vulnerability? For Morrison, no. I would have to agree. I said I love you, and into the maze we embarked. 

This year, I’ll celebrate this leap of faith with the only person who could ever make it worth it and raise my glass to one year of a love that has taught me that, sometimes, the scariest things in life are the ones worth doing. When people tell me that they think Halloween is a peculiar date for an anniversary, I think I’ll start responding by saying: “Is it really?” Choosing to love against all odds is undoubtedly one of the more terrifying things I’ve ever done.


Cassandra Branch writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.