Chapter One; Part One
“I am too fucking old for this,” I grumble, lifting my Diet Coke to my lips. I glare around me at all the gyrating bodies, pissed off that they are oblivious to my plight. I had recently turned forty-five, and I am feeling every year of it.
“Lighten up, Liang!” Julianna shout in my ear over the blare of Purple Rain. First Ave is doing yet another Prince tribute, which seems to happen once a week since he died. “You’ve been an utter bitch since you broke up with Tessa. I thought getting your groove on would cheer you up.”
“Don’t mention that cunt’s name to me,” I say, my face darkening. It’s been three weeks since I caught my long-term girlfriend in her bed with her dog walker, and it still stings as if it had happened an hour ago. “I want to forget that I was ever stupid enough to be with her.”
“That’s why we’re here. We’re gonna hook you up with some cutie to fuck the pain away.” Julianna is scanning the crowd as she talked, which gives me a moment to check her out. She’s my age, but a good four inches shorter than my 5’7”. She has to be fifty pounds lighter as well, which sometimes makes me self-conscious about being around her. Her cropped black hair hugs her delicate features, and her large brown eyes sparkle with mischief. She’s ascended from Japanese royalty, whereas I’m from hardy Taiwanese peasant stock. I’m unhappily aware of my chunky thighs under my maroon mini-dress with spaghetti straps. Julianna is wearing a clingy sapphire blue mini-dress that accentuates her slenderness, and she is garnering several longing glances from people of all sexual orientations. Any time I bring it up to her, she counters with how jealous she is of my hourglass figure and my lush, waist-length hair. Our mutual appreciation society is one reason we’ve been best friends for twenty years.
“Dude. I can’t even think about fucking.” I finish my Diet Coke, wishing it were something stronger. I’m past my days of imbibing, however, as it made me do stupid shit I always regretted in the morning. I got my first tattoo—a yin-yang on my ass—in that way, and while I didn’t regret getting a tattoo because I’d wanted one for years, impulsively getting one when you’re drunk at nearly midnight isn’t recommended. It turned out horribly, and I was glad it was in a place where I could easily hide it. As soon as I could afford it, I had it covered with a melting sun a la Dali.
“Don’t lie to me, Liang,” Julianna retorts, her eyes laughing at me. “You can always think about fucking.” She slams down a gin and tonic before picking up her next one. She pauses, sets it down, and sips at her water instead.
“Well, it has been almost a month,” I snicker, looking around the room. “The problem is, anyone under thirty looks like an unformed peach to me. I know it’s prejudiced of me, but I have no interest in what they have to say.”
“Not everyone is under thirty,” Julianna says. She points in the direction of a Latina with curves to rival mine. “She looks closer to our age.”
“She’s also grinding on that guy who’s obviously her boyfriend,” I say, nodding at the bald black guy with a passing resemblance to Ving Rhames who is grabbing the Latina’s round ass and pulling her close as Prince sings about how he would die for us, but only if we want him to.
“Girl, you know that don’t mean a thing.” Julianna is a firm believer that it’s each woman for her own, and she wins that fight more often than not.
“I’m not like you, Araki. I have morals.” I stare at Julianna, then we both simultaneously burst into laughter. This is an old joke between us, and it cracks us up every time. “Besides, that guy could mop the floor with me without breaking a sweat. I do not want to mess with him.”
“Excuse me, but would you like to dance?” I blink as a tall, gangly man suddenly appears out of the crowd. The first thing I notice is his eyes are two different colors—one green and one brown. He looks to be ten years my junior, which is outside my dating range, but he has a warm, crooked smile and a meaty ass—two things I have a weakness for. A mop of sandy brown curls tops off his six-foot frame, and he is wearing a green button-down shirt and black khakis. At first, I’m unsure if he’s asking me or Julianna, but he’s staring at me, so I presume I’m the invitee. Prince starts singing, Let’s Go Crazy, which is one of my favorite Prince songs, so I nod and stand up.
“Watch my drink for me, Araki,” I say to Julianna, who’s looking at me with a wide smile. She gives me a thumbs up as I push my way through the crowd to the dance floor. Minnesotans are loath to touch a stranger, so it’s easy to give them a gentle nudge with my hand or my hip to create a space to walk through. When we reach the floor, the gallant stranger starts dancing, and he isn’t half-bad. I start swinging my hips, and I can’t help but notice that he’s watching me in appreciation. I preen under his stare and wiggle my hips even faster. I caught my ex cheating on me three weeks ago, but our relationship was dead long before that, if I were to be honest with myself. I spent the last six months with a grieving heart, and it’s nice to be able to forget all that and flirt my flat yellow ass off with a total stranger.
“My name’s Rembrandt, like the painter,” my partner shouts at me as we dance. “Rembrandt DiCampo.”
“Megan,” I say with a smile. “Megan Liang.”
“Nice to meet you.” To my amusement, Rembrandt sticks out his hand, and I shake it as best as I can with a million people jostling against me.
We continue dancing, our bodies close, but not touching. I appreciate that he doesn’t try to grind against me as we don’t know each other that well yet, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind getting to know him better. Probably not tonight as I’m past my one-night stand years, but one day soon if he is up for it. We dance through several song before Nothing Compares to U pours over the speakers. Rembrandt looks at me questioningly, holding his arms out to me. I nod my head once before stepping into them. We sway to Prince’s plaintive cries, and I close my eyes halfway. I can’t help but notice that Rembrandt’s hard-on is digging into my belly, and I’m not unpleased that I’m the one who caused this reaction. After the song is over, I disengage from Rembrandt’s arms and suddenly remember that Julianna is waiting for me. I don’t feel too bad about leaving her on her own because she’s done it to me several times, but I should at least check in with her. We have a code, forged over years of drunken partying, that we do not leave with someone without telling the other person.
“I should go back to my friend,” I say to Rembrandt, flashing him a bright smile. “I’d love to see you another time, though.”
“How about later tonight?” Rembrandt’s tone is casual, which puts me at my ease. Had he been more insistent about it, I probably would have fobbed him off. As it is, I’m flattered that he wants to spend the night with me.
“I prefer to wait.” I pull out a scrap of paper and a pen from my purse—I’m old school—and scribble my number and one of my email addresses on it. I’m uneasy about giving out my number, but I think it’s rude just to give an email address, so I swallow hard and hand him the scrap of paper.
“No problem,” Rembrandt say, smiling at me with a seemingly genuine smile. “Let me give you my info. Do you have any more paper?”
“I do!” I hand him another scrap and my pen, and he scribbles for several seconds. I look at the paper when he hands it back, and I see that he’s written a phone number, an email address, and his Twitter name. I grab the paper back from him and add my Twitter name before handing it to him again. After a hug, we part ways. I watch as he disappears into the crowd, appreciating his meaty ass. I like something to grab when I’m fucking, and he has plenty of junk in the trunk. I make my way back to Julianna, who is eyeing a statuesque black woman with two Afro puffs. The black woman is eying her back, and I have the impulse to tell them to get a room.
“Hey, Araki. What’s shaking?” I slide back into my seat and sip at my Diet Coke. “It looks like you’ve made a new friend.”
“Shut it, Liang!” Julianna says, a smirk tugging at the corners of her lips. “You left me to my lonesome, so what was I supposed to do? Where’s your boy toy, by the way?”
“I sent him home with blue balls. I’ll probably hook up with him later in the week.” Julianna and I slap palms before she goes back to ogling her prey. To my amusement, the black woman starts walking towards us, her full lips curving into a sensual smile. Julianna stands up and walks towards the black woman, and they meet somewhere in the middle. The black woman snakes an arm behind Julianna’s back and pulls her in for a deep kiss. Julianna has no qualms about fucking a woman the first time they meet; she’s been that way since I first met her. I used to feel the same way, but I’ve become more jaundiced in my old age. Too many one-night stands morphed into something messier, and in the end, it’s not worth it to me. To be blunt, I’m perfectly satisfied with my hand when I’m not with a partner, but I admit that sometimes, sex with someone else can’t be beat.
“I’m out of here.” Julianna says, materializing before my eyes. “Ramona and I have better things to do than hang out in this sorry-ass club.” I hear a ping on my phone, and it’s a text from Julianna, including Ramona’s full name, phone number, and an email address as well.
“Stay safe, and text me when you get home, no matter what time.”
“Yes, Mom.” Julianna rolls her eyes at me, and I swat her ass with affection.
“Text me tomorrow morning, too!” I shout at Julianna’s retreating back. I worry about her reckless ways, and it has bitten her in the ass more than once in the past. She ended up in the hospital with a broken wrist after instigating a bar fight once, but that was over a decade ago, and she’s toned it down somewhat since then. Even so, I’ve had to bail her out of jail once, pick her up after she was stranded on a freeway in the middle of the night because her gas tank gauge didn’t work and she had forgotten to fill the tank, lend her a hefty sum of money to settle some debts her ex-husband had accrued in her name, and countless other mishaps. To be fair, she stayed with me for two weeks when I was suicidal after my mother drank herself to death when I was twenty-eight, helped me get a restraining order on a psycho ex of mine, and accompanied me to the clinic when I was pregnant fifteen years ago and most emphatically did NOT want to be a mother. Our friendship has seem some very dark times, but we’ve also had our good times as well. Like our trip to Vegas when we both turned forty, but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Like taking a road trip to see Hamilton in New York before it became impossible to get tickets just because we both were stoked about seeing a musical that had so much diversity. Like us sneaking into a Vikings game and talking our way into the premier seats. The Vikes lost, but I was expecting that.
I finish my Diet Coke and leave the club. I’m pensive on my way home, thinking about the failure of my last relationship. Tessa and I had been together for five years, and I really thought we’d be together for the rest of my life. We met during intermission for an experimental play at the Joe Dowling studio, and I was entranced by her vivid red curls and wide, green eyes. Her Botticelli figure didn’t hurt, either. We ditched our respective dates and the play which was boring as hell and went back to her place for a nightcap. In true dyke fashion, we ended up in a relationship, though we never lived together since both of us were more comfortable in our own separate abodes—which isn’t very dyke-like at all. We survived her intense desire to settle down and have kids when she turned forty (two years after I did) in part because marriage equality became the law of the land in Minnesota in 2013. She hadn’t mentioned either before then, so it took me quite by surprise. I’m anti-marriage and anti-kids (at least for me), so I didn’t budge, no matter how much she cajoled. We also survived me getting cold feet and wanting to take a break from the relationships about a year ago. To be blunt, I wanted to fuck a coworker who had just transferred to my company from out of state. I work as a telemarketer (yeah, I know, but it gives me enough time to write) with mostly women. He stood out in a sea of ladies, and he was a tall drink of hello, Chris Pratt. I’m not normally attracted to guys with bulging muscles, but Chris Pratt is a guilty pleasure of mine, and that coworker looked eerily like him. Long story short, he was a premature ejaculator and blamed me for it. I wasn’t having any of that bullshit, which I made very clear to him. Fortunately, he took it like a man, and we were able to retain an amicable working relationship until he was promoted into middle management and disappeared from the office. I went back to Tessa because I realized that I still loved her despite my dalliance.
I’m sure that my ambivalence about our relationship is part of the reason she cheated on me, but I was honest with her about why I wanted a break. About six months ago, I sensed that something was going on with Tessa. She started wearing more makeup than normal, and she bought all new clothes. At the time, she said it was because she was tired of looking old, but I noticed that she mentioned ‘Patricia’, her dog walker more often. Patricia was really an actress who was staying true to her craft by walking dogs. Patricia had graduated from Macalester with honors. That one spurred me to remind Tessa that I had graduated from Carleton with honors, which is objectively a step up from Macalester. She didn’t speak to me for three days after that. Patricia was sending money to her ailing mother in Florida on a weekly basis. Patricia was a four-star chef. Patricia this and Patricia that. After a month of being Patricia’ed to death, I finally snapped and told Tessa to shove her Patricia where the sun didn’t shine. That earned me another four days of the cold shoulder. Tessa was a master at showing icy disdain, and I usually apologized after a few days because I couldn’t take it any longer.
Sex had always been electric between us, and we would happily participate in it four to five times a week. We didn’t suffer from lesbian bed death until about four months ago when Tessa started coming up with excuses not to have sex. I’ll give her credit for being creative; she never once said that she had a headache. Instead, she had to work late or she had cramps or she pulled a muscle in her back. She was a lawyer for AmEx, so the first excuse was plausible. She had horrible periods, which covered the second, and she did actually pull a muscle in her back a week before she used the last excuse. Our sex life soon dwindled to once or twice a week if that, and I was the one initiating nine times out of ten. In the last month of our relationship, I stopped making overtures, and she never brought it up. We were more like roommates than lovers by that point. I remember I asked her if there was anyone else, and she lied to my face.
How did I catch her in bed with her dog walker? By pure accident. We were supposed to meet at her place one night at six p.m. for dinner, or so I thought. We had actually planned on meeting at eight that night, so when I showed up early and let myself in her apartment, I heard sounds that I immediately identified as Tessa’s moaning when she’s really aroused. I walked to her bedroom door as silently as I possibly could, and it was slightly ajar. When I looked through, I saw Patricia on top of her, and they were grinding away with a double-headed dildo between them. OUR double-headed dildo, to add insult to injury. I gaped at them for a full minute before a blind rage overtook me. I marched into the room in a haze. Things happened that I’d rather not recall. I left her apartment, never to return, and I refused to answer her increasingly frantic phone calls when she called five minutes after I raced out of her place. The fact that she was fucking Patricia right before we were supposed to meet just rubbed salt into the wound, and I knew I’d destroy Tessa if I talked to her. I would hear her ringtone on my cell, but refused to pick up. I was talking to Julianna on my landline at the time, crying ugly tears while my two black cats, Onyx and Jet (sister and brother) meowed anxiously in my face.
“I never liked that bitch in the first place!” Julianna said, her voice passionate in its disdain.
“You’re just saying that to comfort me,” I replied, my voice watery.
“No, I’m not! I said it after the first time I met her, remember?”
“You’re right. I forgot.” Julianna had never liked Tessa, declaring her to be manipulative and petty. I had chalked it down to the jealousy a best friend sometimes has for your significant other, but she wasn’t wrong. Tessa could hold a grudge like no one’s business. Three years into our relationship, in the middle of an epic fight, she hurled an insult I supposedly said to her during the first month of our dating life. I didn’t remember saying it to her, but even if I had, it was something silly like telling her a dress she was wearing wasn’t the most flattering to her figure. Yes, I know it would have been stupid of me to say that because I have a hard and fast rule never to comment on a woman’s appearance, but even if I had, was it really something to be thrown in my face three years later?