I was born under the sign of the communicator. Gemini. The written word has been my muse since I was old enough to set pen to paper. There are times when the only way I can truly, effectively express my emotions is to write them down. I have had great joy in my life and I have had great pain and suffering, too much of the latter I’m afraid, and all that emotion needs an outlet. For me, writing has never been a choice. It is a basic, essential need; unqualified and absolute. But, I haven’t done nearly enough of it. I’m striving to change that. Now.
When I began this journey of coming out, I didn’t have great expectations, save one. I expected to be happy. I was filled with the joy and hope of promise, open to whatever was coming my way. I embraced the idea of the change that was to come, wide eyed and innocent and painfully vulnerable. It has not been an easy coming out. It has indeed been crooked. I’m not sure if it would have been any easier had I been younger. Perhaps, if I had been born in “this time”, it may have been. I watch the baby dykes play, kiss, touch, displaying their affection for one another openly and I am filled with a sweet envy. I don’t believe their struggles are any less painful then my own. Being a lesbian is not an easy identity to bear, but still, I envy their freedom of ease. 50 years ago they would have been beaten. Repeatedly.
If you ever want to read a book that paints a true story of life before Stonewall, before the “release” of gay oppression, when gay men and women were abused in unimaginable ways – (a history lesson for the gay youth of today) – then read Leslie Feinberg’s “Stone Butch Blues”. I did. And I will never ever forget that read. It’s a powerful, provocative, and deeply moving account of a he-she coming to terms with the complexities of a transgendered existence in the 50′s. Keep a box of Kleenex handy and remember to close your mouth…often. And try, try, try not to physically tear the book apart in your outraged indignation and anger. The spine, pages and text are only the messenger lol.
Another author who has profoundly touched my soul is Dorothy Allison. She is the writer I aspire to become. When I was taking a creative writing course three years ago, one assignment chosen for me was to write of my earliest memory. I thought the instruction very simple and I knew I’d breeze through it. Unaffected. I had a premise and I knew where I was going with it. Easy right? But, the story that came out of me surprised me and came from a place I hadn’t realized existed and I’m quite confident, outted me in front of the entire class. Oops.
My instructor loved it. She told me that I wrote in a similar style to an author named Dorothy Allison. I had no idea who Dorothy Allison was at the time and she told me I had to read some of her works. I had and still have a great respect for my instructor. She is the daughter of a published author, a writer herself, well read, super smart and funny and was boldly inspirational. For her to compare my humble writings to any published and obviously, renowned author, was titillating and I beamed inside like a silly school girl.
So, naturally when I got home, I Googled Miss Dorothy. I placed holds on every book I could find in the library. When they arrived, I curled up on my couch and read her until there was no more to read. I was addicted. She is powerfully mind-blowing. Her writing style so graphic, so vividly alive, that every page filled me until I thought I would burst with the myriad of emotions her writing evoked. I wish she would write more, but honestly, I don’t think I could ever get enough!
Two incredible things happened when I found Dorothy Allison. One, I could actually, sorta kinda, unbelievably see a similarity in our writing styles. A validation completed unexpected and deeply, deeply appreciated. Two, and even more surprising, was that her hauntingly familiar story was in so many ways, very much my own. I had found a kindred spirit. I hadn’t expected that and was at once saddened and delighted beyond words. She tells her story/stories with such raw and rare beauty; simply stunningly brilliant.
I am deeply honored that my instructor saw any resemblance in our writing styles. I try to do that compliment justice every time I write. Thank you, Maggie for bringing Dorothy into my life.
For anyone interested, Bastard Out of Carolina is a MUST read, Trash is a book of short stories and The Women Who Hate Me is truly inspired poetry.
Till then, you have my simple, humble little story – not to be compared with the magnificent works of Dorothy Allison in any way! – complete in it’s first drafted, unedited, new born state. So be kind. The only thing my instructor did critique on, was that she wished I had developed Jesse a little more. I wanted to remind her that ‘Jesse’ was not the subject of the assignment lol but, then I realized surprisingly and quite happily, that she simply wanted more of the story. Bravo Trish!
Perhaps, soon, I will rewrite this story and develop it further. It was a simple assignment with the usual restrictions; language, word count and non-offensive material. But, now there aren’t any restrictions. Could be fun. And in this moment I am feeling strong in my creative power. I am Inspired: Lesbian.
REWIND. REPEAT. FAST FORWARD
“Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t want to do this and if I don’t show up, it means I’m not ready. Just bill me and we’ll call it a day!”
I slammed the phone down and glared at Jesse.
“Damn it! What the hell am I doing? What good is gonna come out of opening Pandora’s Box? I’ve managed to live my whole life, successfully I might add, without needing any of this mumbo jumbo voodoo crap!”
“Baby, you promised you would go at least once. For me.”
She walked towards me, a lazy, seductive smile playing on her lips. When she looked at me like that, she could make me do anything she wanted. Her hands moved across my shoulders, down my chest, stopping at my belt buckle. I felt the heat stirring between my thighs and kissed her hard. She moaned deep in her throat. I held her close, pushed her backwards until her legs hit the bed. Slowly I slid the straps off her shoulders.
We lay together, hot and slick, our hunger satisfied, our breathing normal again. She traced me with her small, soft hands. Felt my scars. Asked me questions. I don’t like talking about them. Brings back painful memories. But she was fascinated with childlike innocence so I couldn’t be angry. When she found the mark on my left thigh I said I had no idea how it got there. She asked me if I was curious. I told l her I let it go a long time ago. Once sharp and obvious in the shape of an iron, it’s now a faded reminder that someone had hated me enough to brand me for life.
I woke up cold and shaking, the glow from the streetlamps the only light in the room. Jesse whispered in my ear, calming me, and then fell back asleep. I laid there quietly haunted by snapshots.
Rewind. Repeat: Her scream pierced the air. Sharp in disbelief. I watched her stumble, one hand clutching her belly, the other reaching out. Dazed, she sank into the chair and stared in growing horror at the TV screen. Three shots. One to the head. JFK was dead. It was November 22, 1963. I was two and a half years old.
I wasn’t born abandoned. I had a family once. A dark haired, flashing eyed Ojibwa vixen and an African American ‘Casanova’ gave birth to me and a brother. Two dreamy, idealistic teenagers, who fell in love, got married and thought they knew the world. Thought they would be the difference. They were wrong. We never had a hope of surviving as a family. All of us had been lost at conception.
We lived in a small, one bedroom apartment and slept on bare gingham mattresses. My brother and I shared a bed. More than once I woke up soaked in urine. I didn’t mind that much. I loved my little man and protected him fiercely. Sometimes we’d wake in the night. Alone. Forgotten. The air quiet and sour. The dream of being the difference died after he and I were born.
Fast Forward: Twenty-seven foster homes and life in a failed childcare system had all but erased me. Casanova? A ghostly shadow passing under a streetlamp. Perhaps, the night he had finally left? The Ojibwa vixen? A terrifying dream that still haunts me. And the little man? Lost him. We held on to each other as long as the system would allow, but were eventually separated. I worried about him. A lot. I had seen the deceitful soul of the desperate caregiver and the darkness a government cheque could unleash. It seemed girls were more adoptable. I was saved. He was lost. When I found him again, much had happened to him in the dark.
Rewind. Repeat: She was ironing calmly, wearing a white slip and humming a tune I couldn’t quite make out. I watched as the steaming iron fell from her hand. She stumbled, one hand clutching her belly, the other reaching out. I started to cry. I don’t know why, but I was afraid. I crawled towards her, needing the protection of her arms. Her reassurance.
Black eyes flashed in anger. “Shut up! Just shut up!” She slapped me. I cried even harder.
Fast Forward: I had a new family. The Backways. Nice people. I was happy with them. I had an older “sister” Kathy who taught me how to roll white bread into plump little balls, coat them in butter and dip them in sugar. We danced to The Archie’s and The Rolling Stones and had pillow fights. Every night I was read to from my 365 Bedtime Storybook. I liked the picture of the New Year baby wearing his banner of hope. I was four.
They came and took me away one day. A man and a familiar brown-haired woman wearing a long white coat carrying a briefcase. She spoke softly and carefully, but her words blanched my heart. I was being given to someone else. I was numb. I had already learned that everything was temporary.
Rewind. Repeat: She was wearing a white slip and humming a vaguely familiar tune. My brother was sleeping in the play pen. I watched as she ironed. I started to cry. I was afraid. I wanted her love.
Black eyes turned on me, flashing in anger. “Shut up, you little brat!” she screamed and slapped me. I cried even harder.
She jumped up and ran past me cursing as she grabbed the iron from the floor. A dark smoldering stain burned deep into the carpet. “Now look what you made me do! “
The baby woke up crying loudly. Black eyes accused me. I knew it was all my fault.
Fast Forward: I have a girlfriend now. Imagine nearly 50 years old and just coming out. Christ. But I wanted Jesse and Jesse wanted me. It didn’t have to make conventional sense. We connected and it felt right. I have yet to understand how the heart works.
Jesse’s got a few demons of her own. She’s trying to find balance. She’s seeing a shrink. Says it helps her to move past her stuff. Says I should do it too. Says I need to talk about my stuff. Says it’s not good to bottle it up. I tell her I’m fine and I don’t need some tree hugging mind guru to dredge up my past. I’ve seen children beaten, teenagers OD, street kids starving and prostitutes get sliced. I’ve seen drunks get rolled and kicked for sport, police rape simply because they could and mothers murder their babies before they’re born. I have barely escaped death. Twice. I have been a victim. But ultimately, I am a survivor. I don’t need to talk about it. It’s life. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. All depends on what side of the bottle I wake up on.
She thinks I see it as a weakness to need a shrink. She’s right. I do. It’s not for me. I’ve got a handle on my stuff. I’m okay. I’ve seen the seedy underbelly, the black insidious heart of humanity and yet I can still wake up and smile at the god-damned sunshine. What more does she want? I refuse to admit I am affected. That I am damaged.
I did meet my mother again. I lived with her for a short while. I was thirteen. She could not have been uglier in her beauty and perfection. She had demons abound that came out to play with the whiskey. I came home from school one day, front door wide open, bright red arterial spray all over our daisy and marigold wallpaper. She walked through the door moments later, her bandaged lover just steps behind her. She had stabbed her in the throat. Weeks later and on the eve of my fourteenth birthday she tried to kill me. If her lover had not stopped her I would have died. I am sure of it. Two months later I ran away.
Rewind. Repeat: She was wearing a white slip and humming “Hey Jude”. The television was on low. My brother was sleeping. She dropped the iron. Three shots. JFK was dead. We both started to cry.
Black eyes turned on me, flashing in anger. “Just shut up!” She slapped me. I cried.
She jumped up, ran past me, cursing as she grabbed the iron. A dark smoldering stain burned deep into the carpet. The baby woke up. It was my fault. She knelt down in front of me, eyes wild with hatred. I watched unknowingly as the iron came down on my thigh, branding the tender flesh.
God! I remembered it all. How could she do it?
The sun was coming up. Jesse stirred beside me. I kissed her awake. Through my tears I told her I was not okay. That I needed to tell my story. I was ready.