I can't say there weren't warning signs. We hadn't been making love often; it was done to about once a month or so. I was stressed-out: driving all over the city as a gardener plus sending applications off everywhere and going in for job interviews.
Maria had just lost her job (the company downsized) and wasn't finding another one. I knew that was playing hell with her ego, not to mention our finances.
I came home to see Maria staring blankly at the TV, shoes off and arms crossed, the tension obvious on her lovely cinnamon brown face as she chewed her fingernails. Maria was only five feet tall. She had long, rich, coppery hair and enormous brown eyes which were accented by thick fake eyelashes. Her breasts were huge: they jutted out like a shelf when encased in a bra, fell softly when set free from it. Maria! My oh-so-femme, heavily made-up darling dripping with jewelry who could massage away the pain in my neck and arms with those slender hands of hers and arouse the most urgent, fiery lust in my belly as she did so.
But . . . I knew better than to ask if she'd found a job. I couldn't even ask her how the day went.
"Kaye, could you get me another drink?" she asked as she chewed on a fingernail.
"Sure," I told her. She's not drinking too much, is she? I wondered but decided this wasn't the time to discuss it. "When will the soup be ready?" I asked.
"It's probably ready now," she said. "I already had mine."
I brought the drink to her and put on on the table for myself, then returned to the kitchen for the soup. I sat beside her with my tray on my lap. Maria sipped her drink, then nibbled a stubby, Oil Slick blue nail (her habit meant that her nail polish was always coming off and looking ragged). I didn't think Maria had been crying this time; she just had that pinched and hopeless look I'd come to dread.
I put a hand on hers; she accepted it listlessly. With my other hand, I massaged the back of my neck: it really was sore. So were my arms. I thought: I should take a shower . . . and ask her to join me. Maybe I should offer to give her a massage. Maria is so pretty and I love her so much . . . I wanted to suck on those nipples, to bury my face in those great womanly globes . . . but I was very tired.
The phone rang.
Maria picked it up. "No . . . sorry, no, she's not home now. I don't know. Bye." Then she told me, "Bill collector."
"For me or for you?" I asked.
"Me. One for you called earlier." Both our student loans had gone into default and been turned over to collection agencies
When the show she was watching ended, Maria switched channels with the remote. "Crap," she said before handing it to me and getting up. She pulled her earrings off and headed to the bathroom.
I surfed with the remote and left it on ESPN because they were showing a football game.
Maria called out something garbled from the bathroom.
"What? What?" I yelled.
Maria put her head out the hallway and said, "I'm taking my car into the shop tomorrow." She was wearing a lovely, ankle-length orange nightgown; orange shows off her complexion beautifully.
My heart sank but . . . "What's wrong with it?" I asked.
"I'm having trouble with the brake," She explained.
I heard her padding off to bed. ESPN switched from the game to a story about fishing so I turned off the tube and followed Maria into bed. "I set the alarm for you, Kaye," Maria told me.
"Thanks." I snuggled up against her warm and luscious body.
"I don't feel like . . . "
"That's OK--neither do I. All I want to do is hold you, OK?"
"Sure," she said.
Many minutes later she got up out of the bed--and away from my arms--saying, "I just can't sleep right now."
I fell asleep alone, to the muffled sounds of TV hum-clack-and-chuckles.
First, a knife stabbing in my chest. "Kaye, it's just not working out between us," she told me. She had already packed her things into suitcases when I came home.
"But-but it's been getting better," I started hoarsely. "I've got a new job, you've got a new job . . . we . . . Maria, things are getting so much better, if we just try harder, we can--"
Maria jerked my heart out and smashed it like a plate: "I'm in love with someone else."
I cried like a third-grader as I watched her departing figure and kept crying for what seemed like forever afterward. That guy she talked about all the time--what was his name?--it must be him.
When Maria left, I was one burst dyke.
After I finally washed the grief off my face, I thought: my Goddess, does anything look stupider than a weeping butch?
"I'm sorry, Kaye," Debbie commiserated. "I know how much you loved her. But, y'know, I never expect it to work out with ladies like Maria."
"What do you mean, Debbie?" I asked. "'Ladies like Maria?'"
"Y'know. The 'men are assholes so I'm going gay' types. They go back to pricks as soon as they find out women fight or leave you or cheat."
"Uh-huh," I nodded sadly. "Maybe it was just ego but I thought I could keep her on the gay and narrow."
"You were the only woman she's been with, weren't you, Kaye?"
"Yeah. And she'd just been hurt by a guy when we started our affair, I recalled."
"That's what I mean," Debbie said.
"Yeah, I guess there's a consolation in that," I mused. "I can wear a flat-top and cowboy boots and a strap-on and be the best butch in the universe but if Maria is really straight and wants a prick, I'm not a prick."
"It's not like you could compete," Debbie said knowingly. ****
I was on the dance floor with Brenda when I saw Maria. But I kept on dancing. I was over her. It had been a month since she split. I wasn't serious about Brenda yet--she's a little neurotic, though absolutely queer despite the femmy long hair and movie star make-up.
We kept on dancing until Vogue ended. Then me and Brenda went to our table. Still I was thinking: what was Maria doing at The Sappho when she'd gone back to being straight?
"Brenda, how's it going at work?" I asked.
"Fine, Kaye," she replied, brushing her (dyed) jet black bangs out of her eyes. "Not fine, some people got laid off. But my job's OK. What about you?"
"I'm so happy I'm actually in my field now. I like gardening but it's very demanding physically and I love graphic arts. That's more important than the money--it isn't much more yet."
"Kaye, remember me?"
I stifled a gasp. "Sure, Maria." I tried to smile, wondering why is the guy with her? "I . . ."
K. d. lang hair, leather jacket, Levi 501s, doc martens--I realized and I was heartbroken for the first time AGAIN.
"Kaye, this is Jana Schmidt," Maria said but I couldn't introduce Brenda, I couldn't even find my voice, that dark and smoky bar whirled around me like a tornado. I rushed to the bathroom, sobbing, humiliated.
Why does Maria think SHE is a better butch than I am?