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Jill and Brandon brimmed with anticipation about their first night together. They’d only been dating for two months and were crazy about each other.

“So, I was thinking… Drinks, dinner, and TV in bed at my place?” Brandon said.

“YES!! I can’t wait!” Jill said.

The night finally arrived. Vodka cranberry martinis flowed. A huge dent was made in the Chinese takeout. And they laughed non-stop at Michael Scott’s endless shenanigans during several episodes of The Office.
Everything stopped. Brandon flashed Jill a sexy smile. She felt butterflies in her stomach. Brandon kissed her softly on her neck, which led to passionate lovemaking. They passed out in the sheets afterward.

Ten minutes after they fell asleep, Jill, a very light sleeper, awoke to a low-pitched, guttural rumbling.


“Ugh. Really?” she grunted in disbelief.

Brandon continued snoring this way... until he stopped.


Silence followed. Jill grew suspicious. She saw him stop breathing for ten seconds until...


Jill grew felt her heart pounding like a wild animal was trying to escape her chest. A Google search confirmed Brandon had a sleep apnea episode. His throat muscles intermittently relaxed, obstructing his airway.

A long hour passed. Jill watched him anxiously while learning more about this. She counted twenty-seven episodes, several of which she recorded. Her heart ached. She hadn’t felt this way about anyone in a long time.

“What if this is a deal-breaker?” she asked herself.

She lightly touched his forehead, causing him to jolt out of bed frantically. 

“Babe! Is everything okay?!” he shouted. 

“We need to talk,” she said. 

A ball of fear nestled in the pit of Brandon’s stomach.  

“You have sleep apnea,” she said. 

“Oh my god! I thought you were gonna break up with me. Wait… What?” he said with a confused look on his face.

“You stopped breathing. Twenty-seven times. I felt like you were gonna die,” she replied.

“I DON’T stop breathing!” he said.

“Listen for yourself,” she said.

Jill played the recording.



Silence followed again. Upon hearing himself stop breathing, a look of horror came over his face, as he pictured a demon rising from the ashes. 

“When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep?” Jill asked. 

“Maybe like… seven years ago? But this… explains my constant low energy levels. My constant falling asleep everywhere I go! And why I’m so grumpy all the time!” he said as his voice began cracking.

“Babe, it’s okay. I read up on it. We’ve gotta get you to a sleep doctor so they can prescribe a CPAP machine. And what I’m about to say hurts… but for now, we can’t sleep in the same room together,” she said.

“But... how will we grow closer?” Brandon said sadly. 

Jill walked over to Brandon and hugged him tightly, sighing deeply before she let go.

“Babe, pleeeease don’t think I don’t wanna sleep next to you. I just won’t rest properly if I do. But I do wanna be there for you,” she said, fighting back tears.

Jill stuck by Brandon through the arduous three-month process. They longed to fall asleep in each other’s arms. And yet, they were inseparable. Sparks continued to fly.

The day came when Brandon finally got the prescription. He raced to the medical supply store closest to Jill’s house to pick up the CPAP machine and accessories.

Brandon giggled with excitement as he drove to Jill’s house. He ran up to her room and set up the machine on her nightstand. He read for two hours while waiting for Jill to get home from work.

Jill finally got home and hurried up the stairs to her room. Brandon’s heart raced as she sat down next to him on her bed.

“Are you ready, babe?!” she asked excitedly.

Brandon placed the mask over his nose. He leaned over to the machine and pushed the “On” button. Air blasted through the mask.

“Ahm wedyy for di nap-pah mrr lffffe!” he said.

Brandon laid down on Jill’s bed and closed his eyes. He was asleep within minutes. An hour passed, and Jill noticed he didn’t stop breathing. Seeing him getting some real sleep again brought back the butterflies she felt their first night together. She caught a glimpse of a future where they can do everything together, including passing out.


When I was 13, I was an energetic, impressionable teenager from Miami who always had a sunny disposition. But that year, something happened that changed my life forever: my parents’ marriage ended in a nasty divorce. As a result, I felt the urge to rebel. I was short with everyone. I only wore novelty t-shirts and black low top Chuck Taylor sneakers. I ditched my friends to immerse myself in what was considered “alternatives” to the monoculture of the ‘90s. I became obsessed with going left when everyone went right. It felt damn good to be “different.” It made me feel in control of my life.

At the time, I lived with my mom and my older brother, Jose. He was a tremendous musical influence on me growing up, as he exposed me to freestyle music, ‘80s and ‘90s pop, rock, hip-hop, and many more genres. But those days, Jose, who had long, curly hair, was always listening to alternative music and hanging out with the goth and raver crowds in Miami. He had an extensive CD collection, which I loved going through constantly. And at first, I wasn’t too fond of it. The Cure? Cure for what?? The Sisters of Mercy? What kind of name is that for a band? Pink Floyd? Who was Floyd, and why was he pink?! But, the more I was exposed to their music, the more I started becoming obsessed with it. I wanted to hear more. I loved the idea of curating my own musical taste. 
Coincidentally, around the same time, I met a small group of people at school known as The Rockers that were obsessed with ‘90s grunge and alternative rock. Eager to fit in and bond with them, I joined in on their obsession the rest of the time I was in middle school. It felt nice to connect with like-minded people. I found myself smiling and looking forward to social outings again.

My freshman year of high school, things took a slight turn. I fell in love… with electronic music. I started identifying as a raver. I wore those 50” wide-leg JNCO jeans and trippy Freshjive t-shirts. I know I stood out like a sore thumb. And I got made fun of… a lot. The way my legs looked through those jeans earned me the nickname of Gumby. People also couldn’t stomach that a lot of the music I listened to had no lyrics and was highly repetitive. At first, it bothered me. But toward the end of the school year, I realized how proud I was to stick to my guns. I was happy that I was going to raves at the age of 15 with a fake ID that one of my brother’s friends made for me. I felt so cool hanging out with people far older than me. And this continued throughout the rest of high school.

Fast-forward to today. I’m a 42-year-old guy that still obsesses over music, art, fashion, and culture that’s off the beaten path. And while I’ve never felt like I fit in here in Miami, I’ve found I connect best with others who appreciate and accept me for who I am. Some of my best friendships have started over a compliment on something I was wearing, watching, or listening to.

I’m proud to say that my obsession transformed from needing to be “different” to feel like I’m in control of my life to one of needing always to be my most authentic self. And it’s all thanks to Jose, The Rockers, and all the other amazing, open-minded people I’ve met along the way.

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