‘Half In: A Coming-of-Age Memoir of Forbidden Love’

Half InBy Felice Cohen
Special to Lesbian.com

In this candid coming-of-age memoir — as compelling as a novel — Felice chronicles the happiness and heartbreak of an age-gap love affair while struggling to figure out the direction of her future. Ultimately, this is a story about navigating life’s unpredictable path while following one’s heart, and finding acceptance.

In the book you are in a dialogue with yourself. Did you worry about getting lost emotionally in terms of your own identity within this relationship?

Before the affair began, I was lost, consumed with trying to figure out my place in the real world. I was no longer a student and had no idea where I belonged. The affair with Sarah gave me something to focus on, to cling to. I was too young to understand that being in a secret relationship and lying all the time could wreak havoc on my self-esteem and make me feel ashamed. The years I spent writing the book helped me to process what I had been through, and reclaim my identity.

Uncle Mark. He was the first—and for a while—the only family member to know all the details of my affair with Sarah, and was a constant support during those difficult years. I was never afraid of him judging me. I was living with him when I won the first chapter writing contest which had been the start of this book. When I finally had a solid draft, Mark read it in one sitting and every time he laughed out loud, it made my heart sing.


Please enjoy the following excerpt from Half In.

Saturday night I picked Sarah up from Bradley Airport. Linda was staying on a few extra nights in Florida, as usual, with friends. I was excited to get to play house with Sarah for two nights. 

“Hello, boys, mama’s home.” Sarah greeted each cat with a kiss before carrying her luggage into the bedroom, me close behind. 

“Tell me about your trip.” I got into my side (fine, Linda’s side) of the bed. 

“It was okay.” Sarah unzipped her suitcase and removed her blue-and-white toiletry bag. “I spent the entire time counting down the minutes until I could see you.” 

While Sarah showered, I practiced my breathing, per Barbara’s instructions. After two minutes, to my surprise, a stillness settled through me. 

Sarah came into the bedroom, tossed her robe onto the bed, and pulled back the covers. Just as our bodies were fitting together, the phone rang. She grabbed her bathrobe and the phone, and walked out to talk to Linda. My calmness flew out the window. Why did I continue to torture myself? 

“Now, where were we?” Sarah got back into bed minutes later as though the call had never happened. Then she saw my face. “What’s wrong, Blu?” 

“I feel cheated. You have everything. A home, vacations, anniversaries, and what do I have? Letters hidden in my closet. The truth concealed in my heart. All I do is wait for any chance I can get to be with you. What kind of life is that?” I slapped my hands on the bed. Cody and Sammy, curled near my feet, lifted their heads. “I hate that the little time we have is rushed. That I’m constantly wondering when we’ll meet again and never appreciating the time we have. I’m also having second thoughts about working again as the night director this summer. It’s hard being around you. I want you before work and after work. Sneaking around makes me feel as though I don’t exist. If you loved me, then—” I stopped as I always did, but my anger gave me a surge of confidence. “You’d let me go.” As the words left my mouth, it became clear, like the clean daylight when clouds have passed, that my freedom was altogether my decision. I didn’t need to be “let go.” I only needed to let go. 

“Perhaps you’re right.” Sarah shrank back onto her stack of pillows as though the air inside her had escaped. “I only seem to make it harder for you. I’ve been such a fool. Go back to your life.” 

What life?

I reached for her, my heart filling with dread at the thought of a future in which we were no longer together. Our hands were soon touching, grabbing, tugging each other closer, our tears and fears fueling our passion, sadness our new foreplay. No gentle kisses or caresses, just harried movements fueled by anger and needs. We were trying to merge into one, as though that would prove we belonged together, as though that would make it right.

We split apart, our breathing rapid, energy depleted, like animals after a fight. Sex had become our go-to cure to assuage arguments. If we were any other couple, we would’ve met each other’s friends by now, maybe moved in together, started planning a future. But that wasn’t possible. Not for us.

“Blu.” Sarah sighed into the darkness. “My life has changed because of you, and if it were doable, I’d change even more for you. The problem is I have thirty years too many wrinkles. Hearing you say you want out makes it sound like I put you in a place you don’t want to be. And since I’m in love with you, I should try to help by doing something. But what?”

By deciding: Linda or me.

But Sarah would never leave Linda. I recognized that now. I might’ve been her heart, but Linda was her family, and that pull was stronger. Sarah had committed herself to Linda years ago. They might’ve had a sexless union, but they had a life together, a home, cats, friends. I couldn’t compete with that. If I were to have any peace, I had to end it. It would be hard, but it would only get harder. I’d break up with Sarah in the morning. What other choice did I have besides more heartache? With my decision made, I fell into a deep sleep, certain this would be our last night together.

The shouting woke me. I bolted upright and reached for Sarah but found only cool, rumpled sheets. I squinted at the cable box. It glowed a blurry 2:48 a.m. I was about to call out for Sarah when the shouting stopped. Silence, except for the low purring of the cats on the bed. I relaxed, assuming it was the television. But soon the shouting picked up again, and I heard Sarah trying to quiet the source. Who was screaming? 

Then I knew. Linda, the legitimate partner, the one expected to be away two more days, had come home in the middle of the night. She’d seen us in their bed. We’d been caught. The truth exposed. The cat was out of the bag. 

I dressed in the dark, my trembling hands fumbling to button my jeans. A shadow appeared through the fabric covering on the French doors. I held my breath. My personal Hitchcock movie. Only after Sarah slipped inside did I exhale.

“Linda’s home,” Sarah said with perfect composure, sliding her hands into the pockets of her bathrobe, the same robe she’d removed hours earlier in her hurry to make love to me.

“I’m sorry.” 

“You have nothing to be sorry about. You did nothing wrong.” Sarah brushed her hand across my cheek. “I’ll call you.” 

As I was leaving, I was hesitant to look in the sunroom but saw Linda anyway, crestfallen on the chaise, head in her hands. That was our doing. I’d thought I was a kind person. Not even close. 

Outside I half expected my tires to be slashed. But Linda was too nice to do something that spiteful.

On the drive home, except for a few glassy-eyed raccoons and possums crossing the road, the streets were empty. Who else but rodents and cheaters would be out in the middle of the night? At the top of the Notch, I pulled over, opened my car door, and threw up on the side of the road. Nauseated as I was, I was also relieved. Now the lies could stop. At least that’s what I thought.

Felice Cohen is the author of Half In: A Coming-Of-Age Memoir Of  Forbidden Love. Felice’s previous book, 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More), the recipient of numerous self-help book awards, was inspired by the YouTube video of her 90-square-foot New York City studio that went viral with over 25 million views. Felice has been featured on Good Morning America, NBC, CBS, NPR, Time, Globe & Mail, New York Daily News, the Daily Mail and more. What enabled Felice to “live large” in that tiny studio is that she has been a professional organizer for over 25 years. As the grandchild of two Holocaust survivors, Felice is also the author of What Papa Told Me, a memoir about her grandfather’s life before, during and after the war. The book has been endorsed by Elie Wiesel and Yad Vashem in Israel, is taught in schools across the country, has been translated into Polish, and has sold around the world. Felice splits her time between New York City and Cape Cod, MA. Learn more about Felice Cohen.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)