My husband & I had a wonderful life. Then I realized I was in love with my best friend.

"The only way through is out" book cover and a headshot of Suzette Mullen
Photo: University of Wisconsin Press/Ashleigh Taylor

The following is an excerpt from “The Only Way Through is Out” by Suzette Mullen.

Evan and I vacationed in Italy. Bought leather jackets in Florence. Had massages on the Amalfi Coast. Ate poached shrimp overlooking an infinity pool. Nobody has it better than me.

We made a visit to Houston, where Patrick was working that summer, and celebrated his twenty-first birthday watching the Astros at Minute Maid Park. A middle-aged woman in the row in front of us put her arm around another woman.

Were they a couple? I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Gentle touches to the thigh, an arm being patted. A brush of the lips. They were a couple. My body ached.

I wanted to sit with my arm around Reenie at a baseball game. I wanted to kiss her lips. I wanted to touch her thigh.

That was never going to happen. Not now. Not ever.

I have a good life. I love my husband. I don’t have to change anything.

Evan and I sipped mojitos on the beach with our summer friends. Saw Hamilton the first month it opened on Broadway. Cheered the Astros at Yankee Stadium with Will and Patrick. Attended a charity dinner for a conservation group. “You always look so together,” the host said, touching the sleeve of my new leather jacket.

We picnicked on cheese and bread from Zabar’s and sipped North Fork sauvignon blanc in Central Park. Evan snapped a photo of me, supine on the lawn, plastic cup in hand, the sun hitting me just so.

Perfect summer night, I posted on Facebook.

My perfect life received lots and lots of likes.

After the picnic, we made our way to the band shell area, already packed with people, mostly younger than us, and settled into a spot close to the stage, behind a metal barrier. But the stage wasn’t where my eyes spent most of the night. They kept returning to two young couples on the other side of the fence. Women in sundresses rubbing each other’s backs, playfully kissing each other, swaying to the music. Did Evan notice them too? Did he know Ingrid Michaelson had a huge lesbian following, a fact I discovered when I Googled her after we returned home?

What I would have given to sway freely on that side of the fence, to have my whole life ahead of me, to satisfy this longing that wasn’t going away. But I was with my husband, a kind, loyal, smart, and handsome man who loved me. Where the world said I should be and where I had chosen to be.

“Isn’t this great,” Evan said, putting his arm around me.

I put my arm around him. Stop this, I silently scolded myself.

We went to see the Broadway musical Fun Home. The show had many poignant moments—a young girl singing about her attraction to a woman with short hair and a ring of keys on her dungarees. A thirtysomething sitting at her desk, drawing cartoons to make sense of her life. A college freshman, her hand on the doorknob, staring at a sign about a gay and lesbian support group.

“Please, God, don’t let me be a lesbian,” she pleaded.

I wiped a tear from my cheek, hoping Evan didn’t notice. I didn’t want to be a lesbian either. Because if that’s what I was, how could I stay in my marriage? And how could I possibly leave? It was much easier to keep acting as if nothing had to change.

From The Only Way Through is Out by Suzette Mullen. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2024 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. 

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