Romi and Nadia knew each other on the Internet. They were both photographers and bloggers, Nadia in New York City and Romi on the West Coast. The two had started following one another’s work, and soon they were e-mailing. Though they lived on opposite ends of the country, there was an intimacy in their exchanges that bordered on flirtation.
When Nadia posted on her blog that she and her husband were thinking about trying non-monogamy, Romi decided to pounce. She tweeted, “I have a crush on a certain blogger and her blogger husband. Any guesses who?” Nadia tweeted back, “Its not us, is it??” “You are correct!” Romi responded.
Romi called her live-in boyfriend, Zak, immediately and told him about Nadia and Stephan. Romi and Zak had been together for three years and in the last six months had decided to be a little less monogamous. So far, they’d had threesomes and sex with their friends in the same room. Not quite being able to help themselves, Zak and Romi were soon spinning off fantasies about sexy coupled vacations with Nadia and Stephan. Romi felt energized and continued chatting with Nadia throughout the day.
Romi and Nadia had a Skype date. Nadia glowed from the other side of the webcam, all smooth and brown and lithe. As they chatted, she was warm and quick to laugh at Romi’s jokes. But when Romi tried to flirt, pulling lines on her about them sleeping together or whatever, there was little response.
Romi was left with a float-y feeling. A crush — which she didn’t want to tell Zak about. She hoped it would work itself out. They kept e-mailing.
Romi noticed that she and Nadia had pretty much started chatting all day every day. But it felt so natural! So good. So quickly, Nadia had become a high priority. Romi didn’t hide this from Zak but was nervous to talk with him about it. She knew he was skeptical of the sudden quick bond — this was so not the hot vacation swinger-y sex plan? Romi justified things to herself by both delving into the relationship and trying to keep things on a sexual note.
Not wanting to lie or leave Zak out, she also tried to be honest and communicative with him about what was happening.
Despite any playing it cool, Romi was suddenly very connected to Nadia. The relationship definitely felt sexual. It definitely felt romantic. But it also felt like the intense best friendships Romi had in high school. On the phone they would talk to each other for long stretches about how great the other one was, making each other feel beautiful and famous. They did picture-message each other nude photos, but mostly artsy ones.
When Romi was talking with Nadia about this, she felt good. She felt like they had good, open communication. She would tell this to Zak and try to be honest about the conversations she was having with Nadia.
They had a Skype date with the boys there too. Originally, Romi had imagined the two couples watching each other have sex via Skype but Nadia seemed unaware of any sexual charge. Something about it didn’t feel right. It was clear that Romi and Nadia had already built up a relationship and that the guys just weren’t involved with it.
Romi swung between feeling hopeful and guilty. Regardless of anything else, she decided that liking Nadia this much without meeting her was probably unhealthy. She decided she would act more platonically. She would encourage Nadia to explore her bisexuality in general — not just with her and Zak. And maybe she would even hint to Nadia that she’d like to continue exploring with other people too.
Romi meant the stuff about feeling poly. But poly wasn’t what Zak had agreed to. She wasn’t lying to Zak about Nadia per se but she found herself not telling him everything. And when she imagined Nadia coming to visit and the two of them closing themselves in the bedroom, she knew Zak would be pissed, jealous, not OK with it. Romi decided to book a surprise long weekend with Zak in a cabin upstate, just the two of them. The day before the trip, Romi chatted with Nadia as she ran around doing errands.
All of distance and all that sunlight did seem to play some sort of trick. Upon returning, things seemed more simple. Nadia wanted to come visit Romi, to see if Romi could be her girlfriend. Romi called Zak and told him she and Nadia had feelings for each other and that Nadia was not comfortable with a threesome with Zak, at this point. “This is not what we signed up for. This is not OK,” he said on the phone, quickly.
And then they stopped talking. Whenever Romi would think about Nadia she would get a pang of sadness and anger and regret and resentment all whirred up together. Every once in a while Nadia would e-mail Romi and the emotion would hang in her chest. Why wouldn’t Romi be over this? It didn’t make sense that she would feel angry.
It was like they were fighting about something, but what was it? And then Romi realized maybe it wasn’t Nadia she felt upset at all of this time. Maybe it was Zak. Maybe it was herself.