When I returned from teaching abroad in 1991, I fell in love with Debra, a thin graduate student with striking looks and deep red hair. Debra and I had a lot of fun together.

Her hair would form a little tent around me when she lay on top of me,  luscious.

She liked things to go her way. Coffee just so, plenty strong, right amount of cream and sugar. We knew we were compatible when, once at the computer lab at UT, and I was going for coffee, and I asked how she wanted her coffee and she said she wanted plenty of cream, and I said, “so a lot like your skin, then?”

We dated by riding bikes together a lot. She was earthy, grounded woman.

We went camping, the primitive camping, where we had to haul all our stuff with us.

Once we had gone into the backwoods of Colorado Bend State park with the nice houses on the developed side, but primitive on our side. We had a tick infestation, but rather than give up, we sat on a white sheet and picked the ticks off of each other like apes.

She believed in sexual healing, in sex as a way of making things better. On that same trip, we were annoyed with something, the heat, the air conditioners running on the other side of the river, and she said “we have to break through this anger — let’s crawl in the tent and have sex.”

She was great in that way of being able to cut through the impasse.

She was equally at home with intellectual, artistic. We saw documentaries all the time.

She liked olive oil and garlic as the basis for every meal.

She believed sort of in new-age things. Right after we started seeing each other, she wanted to learn about me, and got my birth place and time from me and had a big, professional horoscope made for me, and sprung it on me when we were sitting at the Texas union having a beer one evening, saying things like Your house is in X, and this means Y for your honesty, etc. I wonder if she still has this report? I didn’t’ like the idea about someone looking in and checking on me, but I figured what the hell? it’s just my birthday and I don’t believe in it, anyway.

We had been dating a few months, and I believe in Christmas I wrote her about my femme side and while I was waiting to hear back from her, I was on pins and needles, terrified that this would be the end of our relationships.

We had been camping earlier that fall,. out at Enchanted Rock — the trip where we lit the stove in the vestibule of the tent because it was raining outside and just about melted the entire thing! — and we had crawled to bed and were talking about disclosing things. She asked if I had had sex with a man, or if I enjoyed anal sex, or something like that, and as she was drifting off, I almost told her about myself, but didn’t — another opportunity lost because of fear.

Later on, after she knew, it was like Voldemort — that of which we do not speak -0r it was ok — it was out there, but buried.

And then one fall, it started getting worse and worse and worse, and I finally told her I have to start dressing up again. Even though we saw each other daily, we also wrote to each other in email constantly, and she was a very good writer and it was fun to have these good email exchanges. I lost it all when a hard drive crashed, but I wonder if she has some of it somewhere?

Anyway, she wrote back to stay “I can’t do this — I don’t want to see you. I can’t believe I’m saying I want to break up, but I really just think we have to,” and stuff like that. That was around Thanksgiving, I believe.

We had been in couples therapy at UT for a few sessions in the spring or summer, at her suggestion because there *was* a wall between us, and this therapy was called XXXX Aveno, or something? and the dialog you tried to use was “When you do X, it makes me feel Y, because it reminds me of my parent who used to do Z in the past.” And we also had to greet each other by holding each other by the shoulders and looking firmly in each other’s eyes for a full minute, never breaking the gaze. And I was terrible at it, probably revealing my deep turmoil at every blink.

I was heartbroken when we split up. I flew to Oakland to see the Grateful Dead to try to get back to my roots, and I started dressing up and going out a lot in a phase I called my socialite transgender phase. I think it was good for her and good for me to break up — as we were holding each other back.

And during this period, in the year after our break up, we got together fairly frequently — she was a guest at my gender parties and we saw a musical together and that sort of thing. That all stopped when I started seeing Mary — when Debra found out about it, she wrote me an email saying she relinquished any claim she had on me and that I was free to do as I pleased. Which was surprising, seeing as how we’d split up, but I suppose she thought we had something of a relationship, even though we weren’t lovers.

She married a guy who worked for me, another earthy soul, and it’s a perfect match.