Excerpts

So dependent upon her to fulfill my emotional needs, I planned my 31st birthday party around her and the club and a couple of other dancers I’d become platonically friendly with. I invited all my so-called friends, including my ex-wife and her new lover. I figured the more people that I could get to contribute to what I termed my “lap dance fund” the more time I would have with Sunrise, and, by then, that is all I wanted, all I craved, the only single thing I looked forward to on any given day. To date, aside from getting to be with her, it was the single worst birthday I have ever had. I had reached a point of really coming apart at the seams with my multitude of addictions and facing moving out of my broken home into a new place, a new future, single and scared to death. By the time the night I’d looked forward to with such anticipation finally arrived, I was a broken woman and it showed. Having already been up for two or three days, no amount of continued substance abuse was going to make me feel any better. But I hoped against hope that she, this angel in my life, would.

Inevitably, while getting my extended lap dance marathon at the end of the evening, I could not hold it together any longer. Over Sunrise’s shoulder, I saw my ex-wife, sloppy drunk, belligerent, embarrassing. I saw the reality of my circumstances: a birthday with people I called friends who barely knew me, my dealer among them who’s gift to me was a shot of Crown Royal and a card with a free baggie of drugs taped to the inside, co-workers from a job I was very close to losing, the epitome of my failed marriage stumbling away toward the bar, all surrounded by the empty glasses and bottles that I had drained in a desperate attempt to escape what I had become. Pathetically, on top of all that, I could see my own reflection in the mirror-lined walls of the dancing area behind the DJ booth, a woman who, at that moment, had nothing and no one, and who felt the closest to the person I was paying money to touch me whose name I didn’t even know. There was nothing left for me to do in that moment but what I did, I wept.

***

I awoke to a blood-curdling infant scream. (You might say I’m “not a kid person.”) I had a crick in my neck but a joy in my heart. I’d spent the past several years involved with a woman on and off who was no good for me, and was rarely good to me. When I wasn’t with her, I’d been mixed up with a woman twice my age, who was also not particularly good for me, other than she made me feel desired and cherished in a way the other woman did not. Yet here, here was Liza, a woman untainted by prior relationships with other women. This I could do. All of this, of course, went on in my head under the assumption that now, after making out and sleeping side by side, we were actually having a romantic relationship. I knew no other reality apart from that. Having met my first female lover when I was fifteen, I knew nothing about dating or getting to know each other, building a partnership and growing together. I had dated boys, but even when I was trying to do that I followed the same formula, it just took much less time for it to unravel.
So there I was, the morning after what I thought was simply a swell beginning, all the getting to know each other required had already occurred as far as I was concerned. I noticed that she wasn’t really paying all that much attention to me, barely making eye contact with me. I stayed anyway, desperate to be near her, and I had breakfast with Liza, her mom, and her baby, just like a family. Although she seemed distant and uncomfortable, I wrote that off as “Well, of course, she doesn’t want her mother to know she’s a lesbian.” Because she kissed me with enthusiasm, and more than once, I foolishly assumed she was a lesbian.

***

Having lived a life of falling in love, I developed the ability to know the exact moment when the shift has occurred within me, when desire stands up and demands to no longer be ignored. With Annie, it happened during a phone call about a book. Different things are bonding for different people. For me, it is literature. If I have loaned you a book, it means I have offered a small piece of myself to you, a window to my soul, for I hold the written word in the highest regard. Unbeknownst to you, I will formulate some deep-seated opinions about you based on your reaction to whatever book of mine you’ve just read. I loaned Annie my copy of Augusten Burrough’s Magical Thinking, in my top ten favorites of all time. In discussing the work, she said, “Well, he’s funny, but I don’t think that he’s as funny as I think you think he is.”  I replied, “Well, I’m also gay so I can appreciate his humor on that level.”  She said, “Oh, I’m not that straight.”  Then, there was a very awkward silence. She followed up with, “Well, I’m not that gay either, but I’m certainly not that straight.”  I was dumbfounded. Had she really just said that to me, of all people?  Did she have the slightest idea of what she’d just done?  I actually posed these questions to her many months later, after conversations much more momentous that this one and she told me, “I knew exactly who you were and I knew exactly what I was doing.”

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