Ch. 01 - A Door Closes, a Closet OpensbyKiki_cat©
When our lips touched, it was pure sugar. I had only ever kissed men - hungry men with hard lips. Kathryn's lips were soft. Supple. Suckable. Her tongue darted into my mouth, delighting me with its pliant, and then rigid, explorations. It was so new, such a different sensation, to be kissed by a girl. I felt almost like I was drinking rich and yielding air. Her kiss was soft, so soft it was barely there, pulling me in hard and fast with its sweet minty warmth, like gravity from a celestial body. I melted into her as our lips welded together, swimming in pure sensation, not a thought in my erstwhile-troubled mind. Kathryn was a hook-up, a distraction. Or so I believed.
Jarrett broke up with me while I was still madly in love with him. It's so hurtful, to fall from being someone's eternal beloved to being their best buddy. Sometimes it's quick -- easy come easy go, little high, little low. But with Jarrett, it happened in subtle degrees - the reverse of the boiling frog metaphor.
We met Sophomore year at Northwestern, and spent three undergraduate years consumed in exploring each other, as much as our studies in Biology. We moved in together after college, but whereas Jarrett enrolled in grad school at the University of Chicago to become a surgeon, I went to work for a drug company, selling pharmaceuticals to doctors and hospitals.
I didn't mind his insurmountable loans, or paying the bills, but I did mind losing his attention, and slowly, it just seemed to seep away. We moved to different schedules and drummers. We preferred different circles of friends. Soon, we lived together but in different worlds. It felt tragic, like blood running out of my veins and into the careless grass. Our paths diverged, and instead of finding ways to grow together, Jarrett became less interested in 'us'. He missed dinners, stopped making dates, took out his school frustrations on me, and became disinterested in sex, or relationship counseling. Each exchange kept getting cooler, until one day, I realized I'd been frozen out.
"Jarrett," I said one evening at 2am, after he'd tucked himself into the bed. "Don't you love me anymore?"
"What makes you ask me that?" he replied, lying on his back. The moon shone through the blinds, casting slats of blue light on his face. His eyes stared at the ceiling. Not at me, though I lay on my side, facing him. Trying to face him.
"I'm not feeling it," I said. "That lovin' feeling."
Silence. I wondered if he could hear my heart, which had begun to pound. How quickly things were escalating, to nowhere that I wanted to be.
"So what I need to know is, is it gone for good, or are you just going through something? Can you talk to me about it?" I was pleading with him now.
Jarrett inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. Not a good sign. The heart knows what it knows, even if the mind reels in denial.
"You don't have to answer," I said quickly, regretting the confrontation. Why had I gone and pushed it? Why hadn't I just let it play out, in it's own time? Why had I brought this pain on myself? I pinched my forearm in vicious self-hate. You deserve it for pressing him, I thought to myself. Girls don't chase boys. Boys chase girls. Boys don't like to be chased. I pinched my other arm.
"No, we have to talk," Jarrett insisted. "You're right, this is not going to get better." He closed his eyes, and then opened them again, and turned on his side finally to look at me.
"Rachel, I do love you. But I'm not in love with you."
There it was. I think my heart stopped in that moment.
"I care very much about you." He reached out and caressed my face. "You are family to me." He looked away. "But..."
"What changed? What happened? When?" I asked him, now in tears.
"I don't know, Rachel. It's just..."
"Just what? Is there someone else?"
"What is her name?"
And then, Jarrett smiled. Just thinking of her made him smile, even as we lay there in the wreckage of our relationship. "Beth. Elizabeth."
"Is she pretty?" I asked. I didn't know what else to do or say. That was the strategy I instantly adopted in that moment of realizing that I was the loser. I became his best friend instead.
And he went for it. I learned more about Elizabeth than I ever cared to, and more about my former boyfriend than I ever knew, when Jarrett felt free, I suppose, for the first time, to gush about his new beloved and anything else he wanted. Now that he was free to pursue her.
He told me, joyfully, that Beth was a little older, already in rotations at a local teaching hospital. Of Indian descent, she had a pierced nose, glasses, and dark skin. What a contrast to my shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes! It was a blow to think that he preferred someone totally unlike me, as if he wanted to get as far away from me as possible.
Beth, unlike me, wanted a brood of rugrats. She, unlike me, was continuing her education. She, unlike me, was coolheaded, unemotional and professional. Unlike me, she was mature.
Jarrett even called me one Thursday afternoon, in a state of total moronic exuberance, to tell me that he had proposed to her, and that she had accepted. This was three months after our break up. By then, he had moved out of our apartment and in with Beth, and I was next in line after God and his mom for any emerging news.
I think Jarrett proposing to Beth was a tipping point in my life. That was when I decided that MEN = PAIN. My father hit me whenever he didn't like anything I did, which was at least once a week. My male teachers had messed with my mind, making me think that I couldn't do math, science, computers, or drive, because the vagina apparently interfered with competence. At work, men had thrown me under the bus, stolen credit for my victories, and bullied me. Jarrett's proposal to Beth was the proverbial 'straw' that broke my back. I was DONE with men, at least as done as my body would let me be.
Walking back home from the L station after work, I picked up a Chicago Reader from the 7/11 on the corner. Once home, I went to the Women Seeking Women ads, and starting calling phone numbers, down the line. I got one girl, live. Kathryn, aged 32, height 5'3, brown hair and eyes, pretty, petite and slim, she said. Also inexperienced, and available to meet at a neighborhood bar in an hour.
Having a bisexual encounter might been considered a strange reaction to hearing that your soulmate is marrying another woman. But I first became aware of my attraction to women while dating Jarrett. He liked to go dancing at gay clubs, because the music was better. Sex was invariably great afterwards, because I was always so turned on, from seeing the women dancing together and making out. But I wasn't fully aware of that then. Now, I was hurting too much to let another man near me. But the idea of a woman -- it was comforting, somehow.
So I got this bi--curious woman, Kathryn, live on the phone. She'd said she could tell we were on the same wavelength, and agreed to meet at a bar near my apartment in Lincoln Park. I was delighted to see how cute she was when she walked in.
"Hey, I'm Kathryn. You Rachel?" said a ginger-haired pixie, standing before me with her hand extended to shake. She was an extremely cute girl, a slim, petite one who looked amazing in short hair, with her sculpted cheekbones, freckles, and small, upturned nose. Her mouth was small, her lips shaped like a heart.
"Yes, nice to meet you Kathryn." I shook her hand.
Kathryn grinned, which made her look even cuter. "Buy you a shot. What kind?"
"Tequila," I laughed. I felt light. For the first time in months, a half hour went by without me thinking about Jarrett. It was Kathryn's sparkly green eyes. They were mesmerizing as she told me story after story, entertaining me with her clever wit and her lighthearted laugh. I kept stealing glances at her, unable to believe that she was gay or bisexual.
"Are you always this charming," I asked her, flirting awkwardly.
"Only when I'm happy," she said. "I'm feeling very happy right now. Wanna know why?
"Tell me," I said, looking into her green eyes, (wow! What eyes!) and then quickly away, for I could not match her intensity.
"Because," she said, draining her shot glass and motioning for the bartender to fill up two more, "you are a hottie, and this might be it, finally!" She winked at me as the bartender placed two tequila shots down on the bar counter.
"Really," I said. (I was probably flushing with pleasure.) "Have you had some bad experiences with the Reader ad?"
"Most of the people I've met are fat, ugly or psycho!" Kathryn laughed. That turned me off a bit, and I must have looked away. Kathryn noticed.
I'm not trying to be a jerk. It's just that, have you tried dating people you've never seen before?"
"No. This is my first date, or whatever, in four years," I said.
"Well, let me just warn you then, people lie about themselves and their looks. There are endless losers out there thinking they can pass themselves off as attractive. I mean, if you're not attractive, don't lie, don't make it the central focus of your ad. Geez."
I began to cry, feeling personally wounded by Kathryn's rejection of lonely, unloved, unattractive women. Now I felt like I was one of them too. It was all too much. I wasn't what men liked to call 'stable' at the moment. I would later learn what a terrific relief it would be, to lose all of this discomfort and avoidance around emotion, after I stopped dating men altogether. But at this point in my life, the fact that I'd lost my man was a sign of me being a loser, not source of levity, and relief. Tears plopped onto the bar, and I tried to turn my face away in shame.
"Hey, I'm not talking about you, ok? Hey."
Kathryn turned my chin gently back towards her. Facing me, she took my hands in hers. Her nails were short and unpolished, but neat. Her warm hands held my larger ones as she searched my face. "You been through a rough time, kiddo?" she asked, touching my chin underneath this time, to get me to look at her, before reaching down to clasp my hand again. I raised my blue eyes to meet her luminous green ones.
"Pretty rough," I admitted. "Boyfriend of almost four years left me for an older classmate, and now he's marrying her. It's been three months since we broke up."
"Jeez, Rachel, that's rough. That sucks, sweetie. Come here. How about a hug," Kathryn said, extending her arms out to receive me.
And I really needed it, so I accepted the hug. I let her hold me as I sobbed, getting mucous and tears on her soft green angora sweater, sinking into her embrace. She smelled refreshing and clean, like citrus and cucumbers. She was smaller than me, but also about six years older. I felt safe in her embrace.
"It's okay sweetie. Cry your heart out. I don't mind. Let it out, hon. Everybody hurts sometimes. Let it out. He doesn't know her yet. He could be making a big mistake," she said prophetically, patted me on the back as I sobbed it out.
At some point, I began to realize that I could feel her breasts pressing up against me as she held me. I focused on the sensation and realized that I could feel her nipples pushing through the angora sweater. With that realization, my own nipples grew erect and pushed through the lace of my black bra, underneath my own sweater. I was wet!
I pulled away. "I'm sorry, I'm getting snot all over your pretty sweater," I said, reaching for some bar napkins. The sweater really was very pretty. Or perhaps it was Kathryn's eyes --the sweater was the same outrageous lime green color. It was so soft. I wiped it off with the tissues.
"Oh, I don't care about that. It will wash off," Kathryn smiled. I noticed again how lovely her freckles were, spreading out from the center of her cute little nose. "Feeling better?" she wiped away the tears, and then wiped around my eyes in gentle strokes, cleaning up the eyeliner and mascara that had smeared from my crying.
I was feeling better. Much better. How incredible it was to have my feelings validated! How amazing to be allowed to break down emotionally, on a first date (okay, hookup), over my ex? And to not make me feel weak or crazy for it? And she still seemed to want me!
"I think I need to drink more," I said. What if she kissed me, right in front of everyone here at my straight neighborhood tap? What if she didn't?
"Six more shots," Kathryn said to the bartender.
She turned and grinned at me in a lopsided manner that insinuated trouble. She looked, for a moment, like a really cute, scheming boy. It gave me a twitch down under. Yowza! I liked her grin. Something stirred in me -- some slippery longing, finally awakened from slumber.
The bartender delivered the crowd of shotglasses. "Close it out," Kathryn said to him. "Now Rachel," she turned to me with that lopsided grin, "how much lubrication do you think you'll need?"