Rewind to 2016. Breaking up from my Los Angeles boyfriend. An inch of white at scalp divides long dyed black tresses. I take a vow of celibacy until the gray hair hits my shoulders. The night comes when blue white pinpricks caress. Christmas Eve 2018: I wear a red woolly cape. Black boot heels clip marble floors. Forgotten wiles awake. Queer femme fatale once more. My dead grandma keeps her doll collection in a bedroom of cold staring eyes. I am her Little Red Riding Hood doll. Bold red slash of pout. Cobwebs weave me to the shelf. Dust gathers. Untouched long enough. Time to play.
Long married straight couples devour garlic pesto lasagna from a long table. Homemade noodles my aunt and uncle rolled out together. Cooperating. Long solo, I miss my domestic partner by my side. Seven years in her grave. I cannot unsee her corpse and empty pill bottles on my bed. Forever burnt onto my retina. My heart frozen in time to 2012. Dead of winter 2018, my frozen heart begins to thaw. Like a ripe Strawberry suddenly wet and juicy. I desire again the soft touch of a woman. Christmas bonhomie surrounds. I ask my father’s blessing in a rare streak of archaic formality. I know as a grown ass woman there is no need.
“But what will you two do?” He asks.
“Drink herbal tea and do tarot readings, of course,” I reply. My pat, immediate answer astounds him.
“Well then, that sounds great!” He says. “Go for it!” Slams a pink hand to his knee. Laughs beamingly.
Holidays dispatched? So it begins. I shovel a path in the snow to the door of the House of the Rising Sun. Let my guard down. Melt the foreboding black ice walls around my psyche with Satan’s hair dryer. Remove my ever present wedding rings as a gesture of availability. Text a straight male cousin for romantic advice with women.
“Its all online dating apps now,” he says. I set up a few profiles. Cast my net wide. I am looking for something very precise. Not necessarily beauty or charisma. A kind, loving, real soul who I can talk deeply and endlessly with. Have an intense emotional and mental connection with. I too am an odd bird. Mad heiress on benefits? Not exactly E-harmony material.
“What’s in your wallet?” asks Spotify credit card commercials. An eternal queer black card I no longer need to show, apparently. On these apps I am taken seriously as a lesbian for the first time. In a different time. The millennium. Different place. Snubs at San Francisco’s Lexington Club. Setting red snakeskin clutch. On the steel bright bar. In black patent stilettos. Sipping a Lemon Drop. From a tall ice rimmed martini glass. Michelle Tea’s Lexington Club is ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Vacuumed up up up and away from Silicon Valley office carpet. Reprogrammed to iPad chips. Tea’s queer book Valencia is a classic period piece shelved in duplicate in my personal library.
A divorced mother of two teenagers initiates me. Nameless beauty not out in her own world. Long black and purple tresses remind me of my dead wife. I know what I’m getting myself into. What “Netflix and Chill,” really means. The body has needs. Too long sublimated into manic art. Writing endlessly. Exhumed occasionally in impersonal electric buzz. I’m human. Can you blame me for finally wanting to get laid?
The divorcée brings a a love offering. Neat brown cardboard box of Whole Foods fruit tarts and sugar cookies. Blackberries, lemon curd and tender crust melt onto my tongue. Later, my juices melt onto hers. Perhaps American Horror Story: Apocalypse is not appropriate first date viewing? She asks if she can kiss me. Three episodes in. Consent is sexy. From green velvet couch to four poster bed. I am shaved. Wearing a thong. Bedroom fairy lights left on “just in case.” House christened in fireworks.
She walks out my front door. Disappears forever. I never even know her name. I pour out a drop of cold black coffee from a mason jar by my writing desk in her honor. May she find her freedom to come out one day. Fulfill these urges she showed me on blue striped sheets.
The second woman, I peg as platonic stoner buddy before we meet. At Starbucks I think “Macchiato,” while, “Frappuccino” tumbles from my Top Tomato lips. The heart wants what the heart wants. The tongue wants what the tongue wants. Caramel drizzle on whipped cream. Wet pink flesh in papaya juice. I take icy sips from behind a black veiled hat. My date makes a beeline to my table. Lively chatter. I enjoy her. We retire to her car to smoke a joint. She talks of Reno witches. Proud Boys. Pirate Guilds. Writing clubs. An education only a Reno local could give me. I wrote off this town as nowheresville. I am so glad to have met her. We Facebook and part ways.
Over and over, I watch the film: Beautiful Creatures. A teenage witch falls for a Southern gentleman. A bookish teen at her new high school. An ancestral curse binds them in love and tragedy. The curse can only be broken by the young witch leaving her mortal boyfriend to pursue her supernatural destiny alone. Becoming a powerful grey witch among her own kin and kind.
Magic is not real, but magical thinking is.
The third woman is different. Childless. Alone in the world. Georgia butch with Southern charm.
Could I break my own bloodline’s curse in loving her? Mental illness DNA is immutable. Our only cure would be ending the line with no spawn. Or will she inadvertently break me like a toy? Snap my frail Twiggy form without realizing her own strength. These small strong hands on my breasts. Chivalrously offering to shovel snow. They are more gentle than they look. I dream of solace to my loneliness. Soft kisses on the back of my neck.
Our first date. Black and white tile in the cupcake shop. Jasper buys us two cups of bitter coffee. Eschewing lavish cupcakes we admire. I order them delivered by the dozen at home. Rich buttercream frosting. Vanilla. Chocolate. Cream Cheese. Lemon. Frosting fluted and ridged over fresh baked chocolate cakes. Vanilla cake. Red Velvet cake/ Banana cake. Carrot cake. Pumpkin Spice cake.
We clutch styrofoam cups of hot black coffee at the counter. Matching in black leather. A Butch/Femme couple in retro hats. Mine is veiled black and purple velvet. Hers is a black cotton workman’s cap. We connect in both hard druggie pasts and current reformed sobriety. Wanting and succeeding in turning our lives around. Jasper was kicked out of her parent’s home at fourteen for being a lesbian. Homeless for years. Criminal hustler drug dealing to survive.
Rosario Dawson sings in Rent, “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.”
There but for the Grace of the Goddess go I. Birth is nonconsensual. But for an accident in where the stork landed that could have been my fate. I don’t take for granted how accepting my California family is of my homosexuality. How often they’ve bailed me out of near homelessness when I screwed my life up. Thus bakery cupcakes as a Christmas treat, to thank them for all they do.
My usual male type is homeless junkies. Butch Jasper fits in with a responsible new lea turned over. Similar psychiatric diagnosis as mine, with Lupus as well. Understands the travails of Disability. Nobly working still, for as long as she can. Two years sober from the narcotic pain medication doctors used to pump her full of. She lives alone in a messy studio with the bathroom down the hall. Ambitiously pulling her life back together from nothing. Her strength and drive inspire me. Prayers echo in my mind.
“Ave Invocatio Mallum. Praesidia mihi quam ego volo,” I recite. Hail the horned God. “Protect me from what I want,” sings Placebo from a CD player in the eternal 2001 in my mind.
I invite Jasper back to my house for better coffee and further conversation. Her dark tales fascinate. We sit on opposite ends on the green velvet couch. Both determined not to screw this up. Our bodies never touch. We talk deep into the night. Cup after cup of Christmas Peet’s Coffee in Palm Springs mugs. I see deep inside to the heart of gold under veneer of home fried Southern chivalry. Biker tattoo on her elbow.
She wants to vlog, yet lacks the tech. Expert now at video editing from manic YouTube binge’s, that’s easy as pie for me. We make a heartbreaking first date YouTube video together. I interview her about Southern hat etiquette. Manners. The romantic trope of the Southern gentleman. in butch form it makes my inner Scarlet O’Hara flutter. Rewatching the video I can see how adoringly I Iook at her. How nervous she is.
We drink black coffee from the big yellow can of Café Bustelo all night. Dawn glows blue through closed blinds. Snow fell deep all that lost night. The House of the Rising Sun is snowed in. Jasper frets. She must drive home. Catch up on sleep. Go to work. The roads are dangerous. She has not eaten the whole time she has been at my house. Tenderly, I feed her breakfast on the flowered kitchen card table. We eat warm cinnamon rolls doused in white sugar sauce off of small white plates. Comforting breakfast cake, like grandma used to give me when I was sad. Rosebud spoons inhale Blueberry Greek Yogurt. I see a diamond in the rough I want to nurture. So much potential, growing in the warm light of love.
My chosen butch has the soft baby face of a woman. Hard knocks past. Biker gangs. Prison. We text for days. I feel butterfly feelings I thought I had lost the capacity for forever. At first, she sees only my Hollywood facade. Because that is what she wants to see. Dazzling, tantalizing public image I did not realize I had. Smoke and mirrors of the oeuvre I create in my doomed search for fame. Red lipstick kiss in a signed copy of Jet Set Desolate I leave by her sheared head. I tell her she will end up in my column. Whether she wants to or not. Like a jackbooted Carrie Bradshaw. Let her chose her own alias.
“Jasper,” she says. We binge my favorite comfort television during our first long weekend together. On The Royals, Princess Eleanor’s boyfriend is Vegas con man turned palace security guard Jasper Frost. Princess of Lunacy only, I tuck a wooly Lucifer blanket around her plump muscles as she sleeps.
“The Dark Lord is snuggly,” I say.
Jasper sautés sizzling homemade vegan won tons in my wok. In my kitchen. Reheats P.F. Chang’s chicken fried rice from a frozen bag. I set the lace tablecloth on the carved dining table surrounded by oil paintings. Place white plates, silverware and folded paper towel napkins around grandma’s retro gold pixie centerpiece. Light a pumpkin candle.
We dine on her Chinese food in romantic intimacy such as I have never felt between these walls. At first a visiting young child among grandparents. Then grown lonely art nun holed up in my convent of one. Jasper and I spend a long weekend together. Take hot candlelit baths. Scissor. Smoke bowls of Nevada legal marijuana. Days pass like a fever dream.
Edna St. Vincent Millay writes: “My candle burns at both ends. It will not last the night. But oh my friends, and oh, my foes, it makes a lovely light.”
We light up the night together. I pray bringing her into my world does not shatter this gilded ice cage. Only melt my Strawberry heart into springtime. The heart wants what the heart wants. At the end of the day. At the end of the night. I want her.