i met rob bryant during my first week as 40 acres of change coordinator at the only black lgbtq organization in philly. i was 20 years old and nursing my first broken heart. i remember the pain feeling as it was literally suffocating me. the job felt like a new start.
rob and i clicked immediately. we were both at a crossroads. me with my broken heart and managing life without family support and him coming into his own in his family and getting noticed by philly ballroom houses.
when we weren’t working and facilitating the weekly 40 acres of change groups, we were shopping at thrift store or eating out a restaurants we couldn’t afford. that summer, we discovering all of the things that made us magical. we were teaching each other to fly.
as the summer of 1997 came to an end, rob and i were in separable. we had to be for him to agree to keep me company for six hours after we were done work on september 15, 1997. i somehow talked him into staying downtown with me until midnight so that i could be one of the first people to buy mariah carey’s “butterfly” album.
rob wasn’t a mariah fan - at all. i, of course, was obsessed. i would tried to explain to him the significance of the album. like mariah, we were were entering a new phase in our lives. we were more independent and could do whatever we wanted. i like to think i convinced him. maybe a little.
as the seasons changed, i played mariah’s album and hung out with robert. soon the broken heart i was nursing healed. i felt lighter. i began to feel as if i could fly. and that was in large part due the friendship and support rob provided me. and the healing voice of mariah, of course.
by 1999, rob had joined one of the most popular ballroom houses in philadelphia. i was dancing professionally and life happened. we stayed in and fell out of touch many times. our worlds had changed so much and so fast that it never seemed enough time for us to catch up.
while on a day trip in new york in 2017, almost 20 years to the date we met, i ran into rob. we laughed and took a photo. i walked away smiling and thinking to myself, “we are still here. we are still a fuckin’ butterflies.”