I was visiting New York from Australia on a six-month tourist visa. Because my love life had an expiration date, it gave me a grace period, liberated from logic, to explore my sexuality. I could date women, without consequence, commitment or coming out.
Carianne was my first date with a woman.
We met in 2017. She was newly sober and an OG gay. I was busy finding my way in a new country through parties and people. My sexuality was as fluid as my future. We didn’t see each other again that year.
Months later, she’d never left my mind, although I couldn’t quite figure out why.
2018 was a summer full of long, lazy, hot days full of possibilities. I was in the best city in the world and for a moment I forgot that New York wasn’t home. So I messaged her.
We met up in Washington Square Park. Surrounded by queer couples holding hands, with post-Pride rainbow flags waving from fire escapes. We sprawled on the grass, giddy and gay. She took my hand, caressed it softly and asked if she could kiss me.
And just like that, my world flipped. Tectonic plates had shifted and the land of heteronormality was no longer safe ground.
It was a moment of complete presence. It felt as though everything that happened before led up to this. I knew I would do anything to be with her.
We spent hours in the park on that night – switching from grass to bench, laps around the perimeter, then back. We didn’t want it to end. On the bench, my legs draped over hers, a guy walked past us, smiled and said: “That’s what love looks like.”
I was likely already in love with her. But this was the night I realised it and let it in. Chemistry this strong could not be wrong.
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We said goodbye and she kissed me on a busy intersection. I put my headphones in and floated to my subway stop.
We spent the next three months in a dream state. Then the inevitable happened. My visa expired and I had to leave.
That night in that park – and the months that followed – kept our love alive through eight months living 15,000km apart. It gave me the confidence and conviction to come out to my family and friends, even though she couldn’t be beside me.
Two years later, we got married in a park. I secured my green card. Now, we’re planning to start a family.
It’s a life and a love I never would’ve imagined five years ago.
Washington Square Park is now “our park”. We go back there often, just to wander – from the grass to the benches, around the perimeter and back. We didn’t want that night to end. It never did.
• Amanda Smith is a freelance culture journalist. She splits her time between Adelaide and New York