“I’ll be right back,” I say to Justin and Eva as I leave our table at the jazz club to seek out the ladies’ room.
We’ve been there for a few hours, having drinks, eating dinner, the three of us all out on a date together. I’m so in love I can’t stand it. I don’t know if it’s the new relationship energy or the lighting, but they’re both so beautiful that they almost look shiny: Eva is wearing an incredible red dress and pumps. And Justin’s eyes, normally deep and dark, seem to be even richer than normal.
I’ve been smiling so much my face hurts.
As I’m washing my hands, the band launches into a tender version of “Misty.” I emerge from the bathroom to see Justin has put his arm around Eva. They look so happy. My chest lights up with compersion. After I sit down, I ponder reaching across the table to Eva, but I resist. We haven’t talked about her comfort level surrounding same sex public displays of affection (and she’s never dated a woman before, so I definitely want to be cautious). Let alone the fact that if she’s affectionate with both of us that it will shatter the illusion to onlookers that it’s just she and Justin dating — and that I’m there as one of their friends.
So I hold back and listen to the singer (whose voice is mesmerizing):
On my own,
When I wander through this wonderland alone,
Never knowing my right foot from my left
My hat from my glove
I’m too misty, and too much in love.
And I’m not sure where Eva finds the sudden courage — whether it’s the way the band is playing, the work of the row of empty glasses on our table, or something else — but she reaches across the table and takes my hand. Warmth spreads through my body. I place my other hand on top of her arm, stroking it. Then we’re linked, all three of us.
The next day, Justin tells me there were four people sitting behind me, two heterosexually paired couples, who definitely noticed. They were laughing, he said, like they found the whole thing curious and a bit uncomfortable.
I get it. For better or worse, it’s not exactly something you see every day.
As I wrote previously in Bisexuality, Islands of Desire, and Invisible Polyamory:
Polyamory can look an awful lot like monogamy when I’m hanging out with a single partner and they, me.
It doesn’t always look like triads walking through the streets, hand in hand. Or a person wedged in the middle of two dates at the movies, an arm over each of them.
Sometimes polyamory is a lot more invisible than that. Holding hands with one person at lunch, another at dinner. It looks like the same dance as monogamy, only with the partners changing between songs. Only evident to those well acquainted with the usual actors.
I’ve been formally polyamorous for an awfully long time. And while I haven’t been in a triad in quite some time, I’ve dated in triads multiple times. But looking back, I can’t think of many instances where we were this open, this bold, about PDA. There was a stray incident here and there — holding hands like a chain of paper dolls walking down a backstreet in Bangor, Maine. Discreetly holding hands during an indy film festival — after the house lights went out.
Usually if there were any overt public displays of affection, it was only between two of three triad members. And typically one of the heterosexual pairings.
This was quite different. Quite a bit bolder.
As the people behind us that night demonstrated, not everyone will understand. No matter what, if you encounter enough people, you’ll surely find some naysayers.
But she held my hand. She wasn’t afraid. Showed that she was proud of me, of what’s going on between us.
She took a risk, and it really meant a lot to me.