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For The Next Ten Minutes - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “The Next 10 Minutes.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

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I’m Nora McInerny and this is Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

In this family, we love a love story. And we love a grief story. And every grief story is a love story. You don’t grieve what you don’t love.

But for now, this is a love story. And it starts in my favorite place for a love story to start: the point where you’re sure you just CANNOT, WILL NOT, COULD NOT POSSIBLY EVER find love.

That’s exactly where Oliver was, his sophomore year of college.

I know… his sophomore year of college? Really? That was when Oliver was sure he would never find love? Sounds dramatic, but at this point, Oliver has never dated. He has never KISSED anyone. And the people he goes to college with are pairing up and maybe even mating for life. He goes to a conservative college filled with people who share his Mormon faith. It is absolutely not weird for him to feel like by now, he should have found his big, true love.

Oliver: I saw two of my siblings meet their — well, my brother met his wife, my sister met her husband. I saw them get married. I saw my roommates... my college roommates... fall in love and have crushes or whatever and go on dates, and my missionary companions from my mormon mission. I was starting to get wedding invitations. I started going to weddings. And it sent me into this... I don’t know, this... well, I guess what I would call depression. But you know, you go through these steps of, you know, and so after the mission for, quote unquote “normal people,” after the mission, you get married, you have children. You know, you... Have your corporate job, you pay for orthodontists and whatever

But those steps don’t apply to Oliver. Oliver has completed one year of college, and his mission trip, where he traveled to The Netherlands to spread the word of Mormonism. And on that mission, he had a realization. Not that he’s gay. He’s known that forever.

Oliver: I've always been very honest about my identity or about... not to other people, but to myself, like, I know I like men. I know I'm attracted to men. And I always thought, well, if God is the Mormon God... this is gonna be taken away from me and I'm gonna be OK. And it was on my mission when I sort of really sort of had this moment, like this light bulb going up, where I realized this is not going to go away. And I accepted it. I was like, you know, this is... this is just who I am. And so on my mission, I had this moment where I realized that of all the checklist steps that you go through as a Mormon, this is the end of it. I'm going to go home from my mission, and I'm not gonna do anything else that other people do. And at the time, I didn't realize how obedient I would remain or whatever. And since I was still at BYU, I had to remain obedient, because you have to abide by their code of conduct.

Abiding by the code meant going back to BYU, finishing his degree. Going to church. And it meant NOT dating men. Not expressing that attraction.

Oliver’s family doesn’t know that he’s gay. They expect him to study law, to find a girl, to get married and settle down. But there’s another path that is calling to him: the musical theater program. And when he gets back from his mission, he secretly auditions.

Oliver: And I got in. I got accepted and, um... it was a very big deal telling my parents about it, that I... I got accepted and… this is what I want to do. But my parents are great people. They came around, and they said, “OK, well... do what you think you should be doing.” So I studied musical theater and, well, I hate to be stereotypical, but let's be honest: 90 percent of the guys in there were gay.

The theatre program is where Oliver comes alive. He’s doing what he loves. Even if he is far from BEING loved, far from HAVING a love of his own.

Oliver: And I remember the first time I... it was after an audition, and I needed a ride home. I didn't have a car at the time. And this guy from the audition gave me a ride home, and we had a nice little chat and whatever. And he was very sort of like this extrovert... super guy, guy, like “oh my god, whatever.” He actually looked like a clean cut Mormon, but he just had like this, you know, very extroverted gay personality, which is great. You know, good for him. Living in Utah, having the courage to be that way. And we pulled up in my parking lot and at my apartment and we kept talking for a little bit. And and that's when he said, well, Oliver, you're gay, right? And it was the first time I admitted... like I said it out loud. Yeah, I'm gay. And it was like this weight was lifted off me. And at the same time as the weight was lifted off me, like I'm being honest about why I am, another weight was put on me, because I wasn't allowed to be gay. And the thing is, as an actor, you have to... you have to be honest with yourself. You can't… actually, one of my acting teachers said you have to, you have to always meet yourself where you are in order to portray whatever you need to portray. But it’s not going to be possible until you're honest with yourself, like this is who I am. This is where I'm at. This is what I feel. And from here I’m gonna be whatever I need to be on stage.

So Oliver starts to be honest with himself. He is not going to pretend that he isn’t a full person — a person who wants love and connection. The year is 2003, and Facebook is not a thing. Smartphones aren’t in all our pockets. So Oliver goes to the computer, and he gets online. And he goes to some kind of website that’s about making friends.

Oliver: And it was gay. But it was not Grindr, it was... but it was a very premature Facebook thing. You were allowed to have nine pictures on your profile. They had to be clean. So, you know, like I mean, it wasn't — It definitely wasn't Grindr. And the profile was very sort of bullet point. You entered your name, your age, your location.

Oliver enters his location.

Oliver: And I was like, “OH, look at all the BYU music dance theater students on here!” But the thing is, it was safe because you really weren't outing yourself, you were just on there. You were trying to create connections.

Oliver wanted connections OUTSIDE of his university, and his faith. And after a few days, he finds it.

Oliver: So the way this website worked is that you were... like it showed you, “OK, this person, you know this person because you have this connection with this person. So this person knows this person who knows you kind,” of thing. And that's when I saw Jamie's profile.

Jamie is beautiful. Dark, gorgeous hair. Beautiful eyes. Oliver sends him a message, and Jamie replies.

Oliver: I started emailing him, and he said that he was in town visiting his family, but that he wasn't actually living in the city, but that his family was. And it was just like this amazing… “Oh, my gosh, this is right.” We had enough in common that we had in common and everything that we didn't have in common was compatible. You know, for a few days we would go back and forth and message. But after that, I mean, I sort of dropped the ball. It's like, well, he doesn't live here. And I'm not allowed to date men. So it doesn't really matter, you know?

It was a fluke that they’d even connected — Jamie is just passing through, and even though their messages felt to Oliver like he was talking with someone he had known forever, it’s just… not meant to be. He and Jamie fall out of touch, and Oliver tries to balance who he is with what is allowed and expected of him within his faith environment.

Oliver: There were guys that I kind of liked, but they weren't... like, I wasn't able to go on a BYU date. I wasn't able to take them to the school dance. I wasn't able to actually do that. So being on a date with another guy meant, “All right, let's go hang out at Borders Books at the Riverwoods Mall,” or “Let's go to the movie. And if we run into someone like, oh, this is my friend so-and-so and we're just hanging out.”

Nora: Yeah, we’re going to Borders. OK. Everybody goes to Borders. Get over it.

Oliver: We just wanted to see a movie. So here we are. This is my friend. So and so. So... it's difficult to say. I went on dates, but they weren't dates. They weren't. They weren't what other people were experiencing as dates. They were just… a fake date. It was just, like, me trying to make up for not being able to date.

The school year ends, and that summer, Oliver heads to Europe to visit his parents, who live in Switzerland.

Oliver: I was at my boring office job, as a summer job. And I thought, well, I'm gonna get back on that website and see, well, does it work here? Are there people around here? And so I logged on into my account and whatever. And the first thing that flashes up is that Jamie was... nearby.

Nearby. As in, nearby SWITZERLAND. What, I ask you, are the chances? Can this be real?

Oliver: And so I message it was like, “What? Wait. I know you from Utah. I'm in Switzerland. What are you doing so close by?” And he told me that he had taken himself a summer job, teaching a youth camp and teaching English. And he liked to travel a lot. And he actually spoke several languages as well, which is the thing we had in common. And he was like, “Well, I'm close by,” and by close by it wasn't, you know, within miles, but it was the next closeby town in France, close to Geneva. And I thought, this is just crazy, like, oh, my gosh. Like how... how weird that I meet you in Utah online. But now I'm across an ocean. And you're here.

It’s bonkers. It’s romantic. It’s… time to take this relationship to the next level. The two of them exchange phone numbers, and eventually, they connect.

Oliver: That was the first time I heard his voice. And it was just… melting... like it was so… soothing, and it wasn't even just his voice. It was the way he expressed himself, the way he talked. The pace at which he talked. It was just… it was so great.

Nora: What did you talk on the phone about? How long did you talk?

Oliver: We talked about our growing up Mormon. We talked about our experiences and how different they were. My experience was that I was always a very good Mormon kid, that I always went by the rules and did everything. And he told me about his story that he actually realized very early on that Mormonism wasn't for him and that he left, that he rebelled against the Mormon Church very early on, which created tension in his family. So, again, it was like this, “Oh, we have so much in common and yet it's so different.”

Jamie and Oliver spend hours on the phone, but they don’t meet up. They’re relatively close but not really close — just far enough to make it impossible for the two of them to actually get together with their jobs, and their lives. It’s a phone relationship, until Jamie goes to Eastern Europe, and they lose touch again. The summer ends, and Oliver goes back to school. A few months into the school year...

Oliver: I was feeling a little, you know, like I just wanted a little bit of human connection. And so I logged back on and put my location in. And again, it flashes. Jamie is nearby. And I thought, “OK…” so I messaged him and I was like, “This is just a little crazy right now and no more excuses, we have to get together.” And he said he was only in town for the rest of the week. He was visiting his family. He wasn't in for very long. And I was just like, I don't care if I have to skip classes, if I have to, you know, cancel everything, but we have to get together. This is just... this is just too crazy. And I remember it was a Wednesday and I decided I could skip all my morning classes, which were jazz dance, modern dance and ballet.

Nora: Catch me up later. Tell me what I missed.

Oliver: And I thought, well, as long as I make it to my voice lesson, which was very expensive, so I was like, I can't miss my voice lesson. As long as I miss my I don't miss my voice lesson. I will meet you wherever you want.

Guys it’s happening… and we are going to take a little break here.

We are back, and Jamie and Oliver are finally going to meet up. They’ve traded secrets and dreams, stayed up late on the phone talking about life… they’ve exchanged countless emails, and they’ve missed each other on two continents. And now, they’re back in the same orbit. They can, and absolutely will, meet in real life.

At Starbucks.

Oliver: Which again was like a forbidden place to go because Mormons don't drink coffee. I drove to the Starbucks and I'm like, so scared, I was like, oh, my gosh, I'm walking into a Starbucks, and I'm a BYU student and whatever. And that is the first time I saw him. He was sitting at a table in the corner. And I thought, “Oh you're gorgeous.” And I was so intimidated and I was so nervous. And this is like... you have to imagine, like at this point, I'm a 12.. 13-year-old teenager going through the emotions of dating for the first time. And I sat down and I ordered a mint tea because I was a law-abiding BYU student. So I had my... my herbal tea and I sat there, and I thought, well, I have plenty of time, whatever. And we ended up talking the entire day. I skipped my voice lesson. I skipped everything.

Nora: Oliver.

Oliver: I know. The entire day. I sat there talking with him and just exchanging… and it was so effortless. There was no like, oh, well, okay… I don't know where to go next. I don't know what to say next. And sometimes there was silence or pauses, but those pauses didn't feel uncomfortable. It was just like, all right, let's be quiet for a minute or two. And it didn't matter. And I remember... the sweetest thing that I remember, like the first physical contact I had with him. I was holding my mint tea cup and he grabbed my finger and held my finger. Just like, I guess, someone would hold someone's hand, but he just held my finger. And he said, “I'd really like to see you again.” I wish I could describe it. And it wasn't like, again, where it was… so it wasn't even like he grabbed my hand. He literally grabbed my index finger and held it in between his fingers. And I wish... I could explain what it feels like. That's one of those things you only know what it feels like when it actually happens to you. The best way I can describe it is... I hope it happens to you sometime. And that... you'll feel it. You'll know what it feels like.

Oliver is an actor, and he’s been cast in a show. He has rehearsal that night, but he and Jamie really, really want to see each other. He can’t skip rehearsal, so if he and Jamie are going to have their FIRST REAL DATE — OLIVER’S FIRST REAL DATE — he’s going to have to have Jamie pick him up right from rehearsal.

Oliver: I'll be wearing rehearsal clothes, maybe I'll be sweaty. I don't know, like I don't know what we're doing. But it just didn't matter. It was just I like... as much as I... I mean, now I would be like, oh my gosh, my hair needs to be perfect. What Cologne am I wearing? What's the perfect outfit? Let me go shopping really quick for the perfect outfit. But that night, it was just so organic and normal that I didn't… I didn't care. I didn't care because it just so much felt like it didn't matter. Like I was just gonna be what it's going to be.

Oliver: And so we went and drove in the canyon and. We parked somewhere with a beautiful view. And he kissed me. And, it was just perfect. And we kissed for... five hours, I think. It was... I mean, we didn't kiss for five hours straight. But again, it was this thing we like… let's take a break and just hold each other or let's just... talk for another half hour. And it was 5 o'clock in the morning when he drove me back to my apartment. And he parked on the curb. And we kissed for another three hours. And it was 8:00 in the morning and I thought, “Oh shit, I have to go to class.” So I went inside and, um, showered and changed and got dressed and went to class and I was so tired, but I just felt so... happy. And I felt so happy because it was something that I had never experienced before. But I felt so stupid because this is what my roommates do all the time. They go on… they go on two dates every weekend. They do all that. But this is the first time that it happened for me.

Jamie has to leave in a few days. The two of them take another hike, make out on a mountain top, and then it’s time for Jamie to leave town.

Oliver: I thought, well, this is how it always goes. It's gonna be over. I'm not going to see him again and whatever. And I hugged him and we held each other. And he said, “We'll see each other again. This is not this is not the end.”

Their relationship moves on to email. Tons and tons of emails… the kind so special that even seeing that name in your inbox feels like receiving a present. You don’t want to open it right away because then that feeling will be over. Oliver is still in school, and Jamie, who is just four years older, is working. They see each other when Jamie comes to visit his family in Utah but only privately. Jamie’s family knows about Oliver, but… they prefer that the relationship be private. OLIVER’s family? They have no idea about Jamie.

Oliver: We always stayed in contact, and the beautiful thing about the relationship was that we could go months without speaking, but when we spoke again, it was like we'd never lost touch. And we weren't losing touch, we were just living our lives and we were busy. There was one time we, um, we went for a drive and I was playing, of course, Broadway cast recordings in my car because it's my car and I choose. And I was playing this cast recording of a Jason Robert Brown musical called “The Last Five Years.” And there is a song in the musical called “The Next 10 Minutes.” And the song “The Next 10 Minutes” is about the two lead characters getting engaged to each other. And the husband proposing to the woman and saying, “This is very scary. But will you be my wife for the next 10 minutes?” And Jamie was just so touched by these lyrics, and it sort of became our... not theme, but like... it became his tagline, in a way. And whenever I would talk to him about how stressed I was about school or how stressed it was about an audition or how stressed it was about opening night or how stressed it was about closing night or whatever it was. He always said, “You just have to get through the next 10 minutes.”

It’s hard to define what this relationship was. Jamie and Oliver loved each other. And part of that love was that they weren’t really together. There were so many reasons not to be: They didn’t live in the same place. Jamie didn’t want Oliver spending his college years in an exclusive long distance relationship.

Nora: It's such a beautiful relationship, such an intense emotional relationship. How at all do you define it or not define it? And what is Jamie to you?

Oliver: He was, or is, what I firmly believed throughout my Mormon mission and beyond… he is what I thought would never happen to me. It's like... I mean as stupid as it sounds he was, he was the miracle that I thought I would never be allowed to experience. And when something like that happens to you, I'm assuming you sort of want to shout it on the rooftops. You're so excited... you want to talk about it and tell everyone. I mean, all my friends were like, “Oh, I just got this new girlfriend, I'm so excited!” or “Oh, I just got engaged and let's go shopping for the wedding list!” and whatever. But to me, it was like this... I always had to sort of keep it very quiet. And I think it's sort of what made Jamie more... meaningful. Again, I always go back to show tunes because that's who I am. But… there is a show tune that Liza Minnelli sings and the lyrics from the song are, “When it all comes through, it's a quiet thing.” And when everyone was shouting how they were seeing someone, that they got engaged, that... wow, everything is turning out for them, for me, Jamie was... that quiet thing.

A quiet thing is so beautiful, something you keep just for yourself.

But it’s quiet for another reason, too. Because Oliver’s parents still don’t know about Jamie, and Jamie’s parents know Jamie is seeing someone.

Oliver: But Jamie was like, “Well, Oliver and I had a bottle of wine at his house, and we just cuddled on the couch watching a movie.” And I was just like, “Jamie, shut up. Can you just tell your mom, ‘I hung out at Oliver’s house.’ That's enough. That's all the information she needs.” But Jamie sort of always felt that need to sort of like, “I'm going to provoke them.

It’s 2006 now, and Jamie and Oliver have known each other for 3 years. Oliver has graduated from college and enrolled in beauty school, so he can support himself as a stylist when he eventually moves to New York City. But for now, he’s still in Utah. And it’s Christmas And Oliver can’t get time off of beauty school to go visit his parents in Switzerland.

Oliver: I end up being stuck in Utah my last Christmas of beauty school. And I normally would have gone to be with my family in Europe. But I was stuck at home. And as the first Christmas — except for the Christmases on my mission — where I was gonna be by myself. And I was very sad about it. And I... I tried to think of things to do and whatever. And Jamie said that he was gonna be visiting his parents and he was gonna talk to them. And he did talk to his parents, and he said, “Well, um, Oliver's going to be all alone for Christmas, can I invite him over?” And his parents said, “No. Your siblings are gonna be here. All your nieces and nephews are gonna be here. That’s gonna be too awkward and too strange. We're just not okay with that.” And it started this argument: “Well, we're not going to be making out on the couch. This is someone who doesn't have a place to go for Christmas. Can he come over?” And his parents insisted. “No, it's not going to happen.” And I understood.

It’s not personal, because they don’t KNOW Oliver. So Oliver understood. But Jamie did not. Jamie was upset.

Oliver: Jamie said that, “Well, if Oliver is not welcome here, then I'm not going to be here either.” And he came to my apartment in Utah. And we made some dinner. We went to a movie that we both didn't like, and it was fun because we got to joke about it and he spent Christmas Day with me. And again, it was one of those magical moments where… someone loves me enough to do that for me. And for most people, it sounds like something so normal. I mean, for my siblings, maybe it sounds normal for their spouses. But for me, it was just so special. It was just so... like it was just so unique and so valuable.

Their relationship is like this — big, meaningful displays of love — and then, time apart. They still live in different cities. A few months later, Oliver was done with beauty school and moved to New York City to pursue his dream. Jamie was still working in Boston, and they were still in touch. They talked. They emailed. They see each other when they can, and they also see other people.

Oliver: It was such a real relationship that I was able to tell him, like, “Oh, well, I met this guy. And I went on a date with him.” And I'd be able to tell him the details like, “This is what we did and this is how it ended.” And there were a few people that I went out with where it didn't end the way I wanted it to end and I was, well, heartbroken, so to say and I was able to call Jamie and tell him. “Yeah. So I went out with this guy and, um, I'm really disappointed because I really liked him and it didn't work out.” And Jamie always said, “Well. It didn't work out because this guy wasn't me. And someday it will be me.” And it was just the most healing words. The most soothing words and how going through life's disappointments and rejections, he just knew how to take it away.

In December 2007, it’s Christmas time again. Oliver is in New York. Jamie is in Boston for the holiday but he tells Oliver that he’s coming to NYC for New Year’s, and he wants to spend it with Oliver. He wants Oliver to come out with all of Jamie’s friends and celebrate the new year. Oliver HATES New Year’s, but he loves Jamie. So he says yes, I will go out on the most annoying night of the year. For you.

Oliver: I met him at this restaurant, and I met his friends. And we had just a really great time just catching up. He looked so gorgeous. He was wearing this white button-down shirt. And I always told him, like, “Oh, you should let me cut your hair, it would be cuter if it's a little shorter here, a little more styled this way.” And he never did let me. And again, this is where it goes back into type. It's like, oh, I wish his haircut were different. But I remember because it was him. I just... I loved his haircut.

Oliver: They passed some bubbly around midnight. And Jamie hated sparkling wine. He was actually a very snobbish red wine drinker. And he poured it into my glass. And he’s saying, “Look, I know you like it. I hate it. You can have it.”

Oliver: It was shortly before midnight. He recalled the time when we were driving in my car and I was playing this song by Jason Robert Brown, “The Next 10 Minutes.” And he said, “It's almost the new year. I know it's freaky. But for the next 10 minutes, will you officially be my boyfriend?” And I thought, of course. This is what I've been dreaming of ever since I met you at Starbucks. And he said, “You only have to commit to 10 minutes, but, you know, after 10 minutes, I'm going to ask you for another 10 minutes, and then I'll ask you for another 10 hours, and then I'll ask you for another 10 days,” or whatever.

Nora: So at the stroke of midnight, you’re kissing your...

Oliver: Boyfriend.

Nora: Your boyfriend!

For the next ten minutes, and the next ten minutes, and the next and the next… Jamie and Oliver are officially, officially, OFFICIALLY together. And we are officially taking a commercial break.

And we are back. Jamie and Oliver are in love. And they’re together. After 5 years, they’re going to make this work.

The next day, the first of 2008, Jamie and his friends are going out to a house on Long Island before Jamie flies out to Utah to see his family. Oliver can’t get time off work, so he tells Jamie, “Go with your friends. I’ll see you when you get back from Utah.” He even books his trip up to Boston. The first trip where he’d officially see his official boyfriend. Jamie heads off to Long Island, and Oliver goes back to his apartment.

Oliver: I just fell into my... inflated mattress, and that moment of... realization that everything that I thought would never happen to me… is happening to me now. I was so happy I started crying. And it didn't make sense. Like, why am I crying if everything that I want to happen is happening? I went back to work, um, and, um... I didn't tell anyone yet. I didn't know... I didn't know how to process it. Really, I didn't. I didn't know what to do with it. It was so foreign to me. It was so new to me. It was so strange. I didn't know what to do with it. And, um... a few days later — two, three days later — Jamie called, um, my phone. I was at work. So he left a message and he said he was at the airport flying to Utah. And the message said he was so happy that he'd seen me and that we had been able to be open with each other and sort of like... make decisions or... I forget exactly what words he used. And he said that he would see me soon.

A few days pass, and Oliver is missing Jamie. Usually he tries not to reach out to him when he’s with his family, but hey, this is his BOYFRIEND now. So on his way home from work he calls him. He calls his BOYFRIEND.

Oliver: His mother answered. And... she knew who I was.

Jamie’s mother had never met Oliver, but she told him, “Oh, we’ve heard so much about you in the past few days.” Which, wow, that feels amazing. It’s REAL.

Oliver: And I told her I didn't want to interrupt family time. I would call back later and if she could tell Jamie that I called. And the phone went silent. And she said… he passed away this morning.

Jamie had suffered an epileptic seizure. He’d been rushed to the hospital. He’d been in a coma. And he didn’t wake up. Oliver is shocked. Jamie’s mother says she’ll let Oliver know about funeral arrangements. That she’ll send him some of Jamie’s things. Oliver hangs up the phone.

Oliver: It was as if… like, I was suddenly covered in this bubble. And that I wasn't feeling anything. And the only thought that I had was...I need to get home. Before I feel anything. And that’s what I did. I just walked and... the way I had to walk home from my salon to my apartment, I had to walk through Central Park South, where all the horse-drawn carriages are for the tourists. And one of the drivers yelled after me and said something like, “Hey, man, be careful, you're drunk.” And I wasn't. But I guess that's how I was. I was this zombie walking. And just thinking... just get home.

At home, in his tiny, filthy apartment with an inflatable mattress, Oliver waits. For more news. To hear about the funeral arrangements. Oliver is alone, grieving a man that nobody really knew he loved, even his really good friends.

Oliver: You know, when you're in a relationship and you don't really know where it's going and you don't really know what the outcome is going to be and you don't really, you know, you don't necessarily want to put yourself out there and be like, “Guess what, I am with this great guy and we love each other,” because... what if it doesn't work out? And I think that was the mind space I was in. I didn't want to, um...I didn't want to ruin it. I didn’t want to jinx it.

In any other circumstance — if Oliver had lost a boyfriend of many years, one who had met all his friends, one he had a photo of on his station at work. If he’d lost a wife, a fiance, the Grief Industrial Complex would roar to life. There would be cards, leaves of absence from work. A memorial for him to plan. Friends making sure he wasn’t alone.

But this thing — this quiet thing he’s lost on his own — is now a quiet ache. A quiet grief. To share it with his family means coming out to them. To share it with his friends means trying to catch them up on years and years of a slow-burning love that just FINALLY burst into flame.

But Oliver tries. His parents are still in Switzerland — too far to come scoop him up from the floor and hold him and let him weep. And too far to physically turn a cold shoulder. So Oliver emails his father. And he tells them everything. About Jamie, and their relationship. About Jamie’s death.

Oliver: Of course, we're Mormons, so we don't swear. But I remember the very last sentence I wrote in that email was, “I'm hurting so fucking bad.”

Oliver doesn’t know what kind of reply to expect. He’s just fed his father two huge pieces of information: that he’s gay, and that he is grieiving.

It takes a few days to hear back from his dad. Oliver opens the email. There is no anger. But there is no comfort, either.

Oliver: It was this, um, very Mormon sort of, “You're gonna see him again. He is in a better place, now. His challenges are taken away.” I forget the words he used, but it was sort of along those lines. And um, and the more I was reading this, the more I was heartbroken, because I knew it came from a very, very loving space, a very loving intention. But it was hurting me, it was hurting me, to... I knew that when they said that Jamie was “freed of all his challenges,” that in their Mormon way they were saying Jamie is no longer gay. And I was thinking… he's dead again... It's cute that you think I'm going to see him again. But he's not going to want me. And it was the first time I told my parents that I'd be most comfortable if we just didn't talk for a while. And it wasn't because I was angry at them. But it was because it was hurting me. I needed to heal before I could listen to what they had to say. Or because maybe I didn't want to hear what they had to say. It's very difficult to reject something that's so well-meant and so lovingly meant. But to admit that it's not doing you any good.

Jamie’s mother never contacts Oliver again. He doesn’t go to the funeral. He never receives any of Jamie’s belongings. Their relationship is just… gone.

Oliver: It felt like I had… played with fire. That I'd been burned and that now I wasn't allowed to complain about it because I'd been warned. As much as I thought that I wasn't deserving of the relationship or this connection... now, I wasn't allowed to grieve about it either.

Oliver was back at work just a few days after Jamie died. And just a few weeks after their relationship had finally become official.

Oliver: I was completely... just... shaken. And I only shared it with my salon manager. And another hairstylist that I connected with really well. What got me through it was... I'm just going to stay silent about this. I need to keep it to myself. I'm gonna go home. I'm going to drink a bottle of wine, and I'm just gonna get over it. By myself.

But he didn’t get over it. That’s not how it works. It’s been 12 years, and talking about Jamie still makes Oliver smile, still makes him cry.

I thought about their theme songs — how their relationship began with a request for Oliver to be Jamie’s for the next 10 minutes. And 10 minutes more. And how grief is one of those things that feels as big as love — just as immeasurable and just as hard to explain. You can’t outrun it, but you can live with it, 10 minutes at a time.

That’s the way through those intense early days. It’s the way through the disappointment that the people you’d hoped would comfort you cannot, and the anger that you’ve been left out of remembering the person whose love has meant so much to you. Because 12 years later, the pain of losing Jamie is different. And so is the pain Oliver felt from Jamie’s mom.

Oliver: And the thing that I realize is that people need the condolences that they're used to. They need to be reassured of the person they lost was who they wanted them to be more than the person they were. And I think I came to terms with it that they’re... they’re suffering in their own way, and they're allowed to do that. And if their portrayal of him didn't include me, that's also okay. And I don't want to take that away from them. I know how much it hurts to lose someone. And you try to come to terms with it. And I was OK with it not including me.

Oliver did, eventually, get to Utah to say goodbye to Jamie.

Oliver: I finally found his grave, and I put the flowers down in that little, you know, flower thing they have at the thing. And I sat there and I thought, “Okay. Great. I got to see his tombstone. I got to, you know, sit here. But it doesn't equal the memories I have of him. It doesn't… it doesn't equal what I remember of him. It doesn't equal the beautiful memories I have of him spending Christmas with me, of going on a hike with me. Of our phone calls and our weird emails,” and whatever. I'm just sitting at a graveside right now and it's not making me feel better. I'd rather just sit at home and remember... the good moments and listen to “The Next 10 Minutes.”


Nora McInerny

Marcel Malekebu

Jeyca Maldonado-Medina

Hannah Meacock Ross

Jordan Turgeon

Lily Kim

Lauren Dee

Sasha Aslanian

John Miller

Geoffrey Lamar Wilson — theme music