Nineteen Days

Was it cruel or was it kind?
You know the Universe
can be a fickle bitch
with a wicked streak sometimes.

Our paths, misaligned,
but passing by
close enough
for that fine-tuned pitch,
the hum between us,
to resonate into the very marrow
of our bones.

Crossing borders
as our boundaries
melted into sand,
we were unable to ignore
that pull towards the source.

Stretched out, we lived a lifetime
of nineteen days,
a life together
between two lives apart.

You told me from the start
that it would end
and warned me not to,
but I fell for you.

I know you knew.

Nineteen days.

You fell, too.

We talked, whispered,
and you showed me the Truth,
made me swear I’d look for you
in someone else’s eyes.

I promise, I promise, I promise.

Nineteen days.

I promise.

But she won’t be you…

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The Closet

This closet of mine is empty,

and has been, for years,

balls of dust and detritus

rolling to the corners

when I open the door and look in,

confirming that it is truly vacant,

and there’s nothing left inside

that needs to be aired

in the light of day.

 

So, if it’s become too great a burden

and you want to let it go,

I’ll let you store your pain in it…

Books About Us

“Where are your books?” she’d asked, as she entered my living room for the first time, taking a look at the books in my bookcase.

“My books? They’re right there,” I answered.

“No, I mean your books-on being gay, on how to be a lesbian,” she answered.

I laughed.

“What?” She didn’t understand why I’d laughed.

“There aren’t any.”

“There aren’t any books? On being a lesbian?”

“Do you mean like “So You Think You’re a Lesbian?”

“Well, okay, yeah.”

“There aren’t any.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. Well, the only thing I ever read growing up was ‘Rubyfruit Jungle,’ but that was years ago, and I really didn’t think it was very good.” In fact, I remember thinking that I could be a writer if that book could be published. That I could tell a better story. The reality was, I didn’t ‘get it’ then, as a teenager, how truly important that book had been, in that day and time, that its merely being published was an achievement in itself.

The thing is, I never really looked for an outside source to answer any questions I had about loving women. None of my friends did, either. Mostly because we didn’t have any questions. What was there to ask, really? As a teenager, I had crushes, had dates to dinner, movies, followed by hot make-out sessions, like every other teenager in the world, I just had them with girls who were ‘like’ me, or weren’t, but wanted to kiss a girl, to discover what they needed to know about themselves. What we did amounted to ‘field research,’ studying what worked, and what didn’t, ‘out there’ for ourselves.

I don’t remember questioning anything about being ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ or a ‘dyke,’ which I was, so totally and completely that I got ‘sir’d, a lot (and although it was uncomfortable, for a few short minutes, for the person who’d said it, and for me, I secretly appreciated it). I didn’t question myself because ‘introspection’ was not a word used much, if at all, by anyone, back then.
So, I had no books on being a lesbian. Years later, I still didn’t think that there were any.

She wanted to check for herself.

We went to one of the major retail bookstores, found the ‘lgbt’ section, which amounted to maybe three shelves between the Social Sciences and Psychology sections. Most of the books were gay-male related, or were porn, books of hot fucks written to titillate, but none of them were designed to answer her questions.

“That’s it?”

Oh, for god sake.

“Told you.”

“Then, how am I supposed to…how do I…”

“What. What do you need to know about?”

“I want to know ‘why.’ Why I’m attracted to you. Why I would even consider having a relationship with you. I don’t…I’ve never had crushes, not any on women, at least, not before now, I like men, I don’t ‘not like’ them, what does that make me, besides confused?”

“Look, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know why you’re attracted to me. You wanted to know my ‘story,’ and I told it to you, and, ever since then, you’ve, I don’t know, been even more interested in me, and I don’t know why. My story isn’t any different than anyone else’s, I’ve had relationships, some died of neglect, some exploded because of cheating, one was based solely on my lover’s narcissistic personality. The only difference is that they all involved women. You could substitute men in the telling of it, and then my story would be just like, well, any of yours.”

“But, when you were ‘young,’ (I shot her a look) “okay, ‘younger,’ didn’t you wonder? About why you were, about why you liked…like women?”

I sighed.

“What I remember, mostly, was that when I kissed a woman, I felt like it was the most natural thing in the world, that I was right where I was supposed to be. After that, there was nothing to question. And while I know that people thought that my loving girls was wrong, what I didn’t know was that people also thought I was ‘mentally ill,’ and should be hospitalized, put in an institution, based only on the fact that I loved girls, I didn’t know that I could not be hired for a job, or not be allowed to live somewhere, in an apartment or someone’s rental house, also based on my loving girls. I didn’t know that.

“And, maybe that was good, though. I mean, if I had known all of that, would it have made me afraid? To even try to do the things I’ve done? I think it would have only made me mad, frankly, and I already had enough things that made me mad. Like, I was only supposed to want to be a secretary, or a nurse, or a teacher, that those were my only options for a career, for a life. I didn’t think about my loving women as even being an issue, that ship had sailed, I really never thought about it, compared to what I was going to ‘be’ in my life. I had more ‘important’ things to think about.”

____________________________________________________
When I was seventeen, my best friend had introduced me to an older friend of hers, ‘Charlotte,’ and, apparently seeing something in me that I did not acknowledge, at that time, she did her best to educate me about ‘all things lesbian,’ things that she wanted me to know about. To take an interest in. Talking about the Daughters of Bilitis, showing me her issues of ‘The Ladder,’ sent to her from San Francisco. This was in the mid-1970s, and that was the only ‘print’ information I had ever seen about lesbians, all that I would see for a very long time. Sadly, though, I was really ‘just a kid,’ with minimal ‘real life’ experience, and I couldn’t relate to the things that she was telling me.

In a side note: Charlotte, I wish I’d been a better student. A better listener. Had asked more questions. Had appreciated what you were trying to share with me, by introducing me to and trying to encourage my ‘political interest’ in being a lesbian. I didn’t realize the ‘history’ of all of that at the time, that you were trying to tell me what the hell was really going on in the world, that we were considered ‘degenerates,’ ‘perverts,’ ‘sexual deviants,’ that the material you were showing me was ‘contraband,’ in a way that the pot we’d smoked was, and was not. I understand it now, and I have for some time. So, thank you. I’m sorry for not ‘getting it’ then.
______________________________________________________

So, she found a few, though not exactly choice, books, and she left them at my house, to read when she could, trying to educate herself as to why she was attracted to me. I looked at them, thumbed through them, read some of the anecdotes written by women who’d suddenly, unexpectantly, found themselves drawn to a ‘lesbian,’ a ‘butch,’ a ‘dyke,’ but none of them seemed to know why, either. The stories just detailed how they’d met, what they’d gone through to be together, some relationships not surviving, for various reasons, but none of the stories were actually ‘educational’ to her in the sense that she could pinpoint just why she was attracted to me.

Those books would come years later, after we’d moved on from each other, when people were less guarded, less private, about their lives and the ‘sex researchers’ could perform studies, then publish their findings on ‘human sexuality’ without losing their funding or their positions in universities or medical schools due to the ‘immorality’ of the research they were conducting.

Today is so much better than when I was growing up. There are books for lesbians, and for many others on the sexuality scale, how-to-‘s, so-you’re-a-‘s, and so on, along with websites that offer far more information on an amazing multitude of topics. Surprisingly, though, or maybe not, in this age of lightning-fast information access, some lesbians, and others, expect more, searching for books that speak to them, to their own ‘blend’ of who they are, their personal demographics. They don’t understand why “there aren’t any.”

The point is, just three or four decades ago, there weren’t any books at all, for any of us. That may seem like ‘ages,’ in this day and time, but it’s not, not really, when the printed word has been around for only about five hundred years.

So, if a lesbian, or anyone else on the spectrum, wants a book that speaks specifically to her own personal ‘take’ on the world, and “there aren’t any,” well, she’s going to have to wait until it’s written.

Or, she could write it for herself. For the next girl like her.

Into the Darkness

01/14/16

Into the Darkness

I have just one more scene to write before finishing my first novel. I’ve put it off, more than several times, because it is the hardest one. It is one of my ‘stories,’ one of my own ‘Life’ events, and though my character is not me, the story belongs to this character as well. It is one of the hardest, because it is one of the darkest, and, in telling it, I’m am retelling it to myself. Reliving it.

I don’t want to go there.

If I am going to tell ‘Billie’s’ story, though, and tell it rightly, I have to go back, to that time and place, and I don’t know what I will find when I get there. Much like walking through the old forest in darkness, the trees rising up, casting shadows in the faint light of the stars, I fear the things that I cannot see, afraid that I will disturb something that has been asleep, and quiet, in the darkness. That I will ‘bring it back’ with me when I return here, to the present.

That I will bring its darkness with it.

There are people who no longer live in this world in the telling of it, and I do not wish to awaken them, my memories of them, because they’ve been gone from here for so long. Some of them I am glad that I will never see again, and some I have sorely missed in the here and now.

Billie, and her Lover, and their complete and undying Love as well, deserve to have the story told, it is the one that made her, that made them.

Tonight, then, is the night.

I will strike the match and put it to the wick, hold up the lamp, carry it, for them, for us, to light our way as we pass between the trees at the edge, their trunks a ragged wall as we slip between the cracks, to move through the darkness of the telling, and hoping, praying, that we emerge together on the other side, unscathed and with no more than what we entered.

Tonight, then.

We will go tonight.

The ‘War of Words’

01/04/16

The ‘War of Words’

I spent this morning reading articles on a very popular lesbian/queer website. It was addicting. One article led to another, and then another, and I suddenly realized that it was very nearly noon, and I had spent nearly three hours drinking coffee and reading, putting off the chores that I needed to do yesterday. More significantly, I had taken a large portion of that time reading the reader comments associated with those articles.

And this is where we will begin.

What I had wandered into, on that last essay, the one that had eaten up so much of my time, was a ‘War of Words’ from one very small group of readers towards, well, frankly, nearly everyone else. There were over two hundred comments on this essay that had been written by a staff member of this lesbian/queer website, an essay in which she told of her ‘coming out’ as a ‘lesbian’ only after she’d been married for a number of years and had had two children. There were quite a number of comments praising the essayist for the telling of her ‘coming out,’ for the bravery she’d displayed for having the strength to divorce her husband and live her ‘true’ life, with similar shared stories from a number of women who’d found themselves in that very same ‘closet,’ and had acknowledged, late, that they were, indeed, attracted to women.

Too late, apparently, for some (okay, a very small number- like, maybe, three) readers. And the following is what had started the ‘war.’

One reader was incensed that the essayist had the audacity to proclaim herself a ‘lesbian,’ especially after having been married and having children. The reader, presenting as a self-proclaimed ‘gold star’ lesbian, a woman who’d never slept with a man, had never been attracted to men, and most certainly, would absolutely never have children, took offense with the author’s use of the word ‘lesbian.’ The rift was based on the reader’s contention that the author absolutely could not be a ‘lesbian,’ that she was, frankly, anything but, though, more specifically, she was, in the least, ‘bisexual.’

That was the first shot fired. The argument lit up the thread as other readers got involved, and the original poster of the contentious remarks took offense to their defense of the writer, responding by becoming a typical internet troll, with comments spinning down, rather quickly, into inflaming remarks intended to wound those defenders, the readers, the website itself.

I read through them all, the ‘fors’ (those readers siding with the author’s use of the word) and the scant (though verbose) ‘againsts,’ with a feeling of deja’ vu. I have heard this argument before, in all its rage and glory over (too) many years (ahh, but with age comes wisdom, Grasshopper), and I have found myself leaning towards the ‘fors.’ That’s not why we’re here, though.

What struck me today, in thinking about what I’d read as I tended to my chores, is that I have heard this argument with regards to not being ‘ideal,’ or ‘gold-star,’ in a far different context and with far different words. The intent to ‘make less than,’ to diminish, though, was the same.

Bisexual.

Mudblood.

Okay, say what you will, but think about it. All right, yes, here is yet another lesbian making a Harry Potter reference, but in their individual contexts, the two words invoke the same visceral meaning. The ‘gold star’ lesbian used the word ‘bisexual’ as a slur towards a woman who was, for whatever reason(s), late in declaring her love of/for women, her lesbianism. The ‘gold star’ lesbian seemingly believed that including women who have had sex with men, have married men, have had children with men, would somehow dilute her own lesbianism in some (undefined) way. That belief in dilution is the same as the Slytherin House residents believing that ‘mudbloods’ dilute their wizard gene pool, and thus, their ‘power.’ In any case, the ‘bisexuals,’ the ‘mudbloods,’ must be dealt with, declared persona-non-grata, before they diminish the respective groups’ ‘powers.’

I call ‘bullshit.’

First, and foremost, the bigger we are, the stronger we are, the louder we are. The war on queers is heating up heading into the 2016 elections, and we need all the help we can get. Divisiveness amongst ourselves is not going to help further our causes. Remember, the Battle at Hogwarts was won because those loyal to all that was ‘right and good’ fought together, they didn’t splinter into self-satisfying exclusive groups that only defended themselves and no one else. It was ‘all for one and one for all,’ and dammit, that’s how we should be.

I am a full-blooded, warm-blooded, ‘gold star’ lesbian. I have known, all along, that I liked girls, that I love women, and I never faltered from that path. My journey has not been easy, but I also do not believe that ‘Life’ has been any easier for the women who did not, or could not, for whatever reason, or reasons, acknowledge their love for women, their true ‘essence,’ until later in their lives. I have shared my path with several of these women, and I can assure you that their struggle is real, that it can be painful to the point of anguish, and that it should never be discounted as less than it is just because it involves the opposite sex.

I will gladly welcome into this Life any woman who loves women. I will not fault you or penalize you for being late. It is your strength and resilience in getting here that I admire and respect, purely because you survived the trip.

You have the unencumbered right to live your truth. After all, you might well be the ‘brightest’ lesbian of your generation…

Complacency Kills…

12/13/15

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

They had been prescribed for ‘situational’ depression. I’d been taking them for years. My ‘situation’ had not improved, nor would it. I don’t recommend this to everyone, certainly wouldn’t, without the guidance of their physician, but I knew that I shouldn’t, couldn’t, take them anymore.

“They’ve made me complacent,” I told my doctor.

I didn’t want to be complacent. Not anymore.

I have been ‘out’ since I was nineteen and moved away from home, spent ten years in a city that gave me what I needed, access to people ‘like me,’ followed by friendships, relationships, and activities that let me be true to myself, and therefore, true to everyone else, both on and off the job. I stayed ‘out’ when I moved to my parents’ town.

I’m in a small, rural, southern town in a ‘red’ state, a state that has a legislature comprised almost solely of white men who are trying to pass laws that would turn back time, take the state and, in their last, best hope, the country, back to the 1950s. They are trying to legislate my people back into the closet, and, being ‘female,’ back into the kitchen. Trying to legislate the poor back into the fields and the warehouses by gutting education funding. Trying to rig elections by passing the ‘first cousins’ of Jim Crow laws. Their ‘rule of law’ is based on the Bible, or rather, their interpretation of it, where they, as white men, are at the top of the heap, standing on the backs of the people who’d elected them, their sheep, who are easily frightened by the slightest noises of the things they don’t understand, do not wish to comprehend, or even acknowledge.

I’m in a small, rural, southern town with no one to call my own. And no way of finding anyone.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

And, I’m a little angry.

At myself, for letting so much time pass, for not leaving sooner, for the sake of a pay check. I’ve been here over twenty-five years, moving here in the year of my thirtieth birthday, when I realized that my parents had gotten ‘old,’ that, if I wanted to be with them again, I would have to join them in this backwards state. So, I did.

I lost my mother to cancer fifteen years ago. I had twelve years with her before I lost her, had spent nine of those years in a relationship with a woman, a relationship that had ended so, so badly, and when I returned to my parents, there was even less time left. A little less than two years with my mother. Another five with my father, but he was not my ‘hero,’ his bad choices had left me to claw my way through life, unable to afford both college and a roof over my head, settling for the roof. I had been angry at my mother, years ago, for not leaving him, for not breaking free from the vicious cycle of joblessness, indebtedness, that my father constantly brought upon us. She had carried us through, when my sister and I were teenagers, had somehow made ends meet. She could have done it alone, had been doing it alone, but she would not let go.

“Who will take care of him?” she’d asked.

In the end, when she died, I did. And I was angry about that. I was in Hell. Alone, in a small town, with absolutely no one, nothing to keep me sane. Except my job. The job I loved.

I am now the age my mother was when I moved here. I do not have much time left. I lost two work friends to sudden death in the last two months. They were my age, or close to it. If I’m going to be what I’ve always wanted to be, do what I’ve always wanted to do, I needed to get to work.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

I had grown too comfortable with a job that, after sixteen years, I no longer loved, or even enjoyed. I was on the hamster wheel, running the same path, week after week, none of them distinguished by anything different, any one thing that would make that week any more defined from the others, by an event, or occurrence, or even a conversation outside of work.

After sixteen years, years that flew by, I’ve finally quit that job. Like all of my past relationships, it had become lop-sided, the job demanding more and more, for less and less, and if I complained, well, there’s the door. I should have left years ago, after my father died, but my job, my ‘lover,’ still loved me then, and I buried myself in ‘her.’

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Thank god for computers. Thank god for the internet. Thank god for ‘chat rooms.’

I met a group of women on line, in a chat room, a group of women who were literate, thought-provoking, and funny. God, so marvelously funny. I spent my off-hours with them, all of us scattered across the world, but sitting in the same room and having conversations, good conversations, about life and loves in their worlds, books to read, shows and movies to watch, a group of women that only had one thing, really, in common, at least at first. We all loved women. That was what had brought us together, initially, this core group that played well together. I fell in love with them all, and I spent as much time as I could with them. At first, I’d sat quietly, just reading the conversations, but a topic came up that I had to comment on, so I did, and it was met with laughter, comments in return, and I was encouraged by their responses, joining in at will, less shy with each posting.

Over time, though, we were joined by more women who didn’t understand the things we were saying, could read the words but didn’t understand the context and the intent, were offended by remarks not meant to wound, and took it upon themselves to chide us for what they thought we were saying, what we hadn’t said at all, they were like children invading the grown-ups’ party, and the group, tiring of having to ‘explain’ nearly everything, fell apart, one by one.

I was alone again.

Then, later, thank god for websites that showed me what Life is like, ‘out there,’ now.

I was so far behind the times.

And I am still behind the curve when it comes to the world now. I am ashamed to say how antiquated my thinking was, may still be, to a degree, and I spend my time ‘catching up’ now, learning how far people like me have come ‘out there,’ how there are people that are not ‘like me,’ at all, with as much right to live their truest lives as I do. I am learning that there are groups of people who have found each other and created wonderful, all-inclusive websites that embrace that philosophy of living a genuine life, of finding their ways in a world that is not so black-and-white, male-and-female, as the world that I grew up in.

I am learning. Every day, I am learning. And, I am changing with it. I will be leaving this backwards, dispiriting, suppressing place, soon, I hope, and I need the education so that when I rejoin the ‘real’ world, I am not overwhelmed, like an island survivor who is rescued after thirty years and brought back to ‘civilization.’ Because that’s what I think it’s going to feel like. I don’t want to drown in the deluge of the world that I might find.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Sometimes, I wake up in the early, darkest hours of the morning. Far earlier than I ever had to when I worked. I am wide awake, staring into the darkness, excited about what I’ve done, excited with my plans, hopes, and dreams. I embrace the wakefulness, use it to my advantage, to work on my projects in the quiet, still darkness, turning out pages as my characters sometimes take over, defying what I want them to do or say, ‘going rogue’ and taking my story in a far different, but better, more honest direction. I love when that happens, it’s exhilarating when they push themselves against me, force me to sit still and listen to them, my fingers flying on the keyboard, as they tell the story their way.

Sometimes, I wake up in the early, darkest hours of the morning. And I am petrified, that what I have done is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Under the covers in the chilly darkness, I am convinced that I am being foolish, that what I’ve got to say isn’t worth listening to, that any book I write will never be published. My cats have taken to sleeping with me, they’ve never done it before, and the ‘Mama’ cat, a massive Siamese/tabby with crossed, stunningly blue eyes, who’s never had kittens but raised two like they were her own, has chosen to sleep next to me. She will sometimes feel my fear, will reach out to me, place a gentle paw on my forearm and purr her solace. Everything’s going to be okay.

Everything’s going to be okay.

Words to live by.

Words that I’ve said to countless people, their lives depending on me, and the staff who were with me, while we fervently worked to stop the pending death from happening.

“You’ve saved so many lives,” I was told when I resigned.

“Yes,” I said. “Now it’s time to save mine.”

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Everything’s going to be okay.