Kristen was so incredibly supportive, caring about how I was doing. She was the calm voice to me in this new, chaotic world of prison. We maintained our love and relationship for five years without any missteps. Our communication skills grew so much. She became friends with my family and we shared our friends, both inside prison and out. She became the hub for my connection to the world beyond bars and I was her window to the inside. She often said it seemed safe to her. She made comments about wanting to trade places.

She showed her massive strength by recovering from her loss, getting a degree, starting a career and being a mom above all mothers. She was amazing at including me in her life and I needed her in mine. I am still so very proud of her successes. Kristen was my normal, my love, my partner, my everything. This warmth was the stuff of storybooks, kindled by two people who trusted, connected, even shared the world together. Even if miles apart.

We couldn’t be physically together, but rest assured we were never apart in my mind and in our hearts. She was my goal, my focus, my family. I’ve moved heaven and earth to bring great honor upon her and our daughter. This couldn’t be wasted time. And thus far, it hasn’t been. My legacy to them both is one they can never see, but hopefully will one day come to understand.

The discussion was on the table for the first three to four years. I would tell her, “If this life and lifestyle isn’t working for you, be honest about it so that we can part with respect and dignity. Don’t wait to find someone first and make it a mess.” I had been cheated on. The person who was the catalyst for this prison sentence spent years doing it. “If you love me, just tell me its too much and start over if you need to, but just don’t cheat. I want to always respect you.” It seems like I made a fair request. The prison lifestyle is brutal on a relationship and I get it. Kristen had to have needs from me, or someone, that just can’t be met like this. My eyes were wide open about that. Her reply was solid and the same, “I wouldn’t do that. I’m worried you won’t want to be with me at the end.” Was she kidding me? Sounds too good to be true, right?

In comes my new, solidified connection to the LGBT community and the birth of a need to remember all she has taught me so far about love and support, a need to wholly trust a community I only had a little connection too, and the pains that come with coming out without remembering the ones you love and who love you. The village was primed to be set on fire…

Rory Andes