“Shit,” I exclaimed, hastily stubbing out my cigarette in the overflowing ashtray by my bed. I didn’t smoke very often, but when I did, I usually finished half a pack to a pack in a few hours. I glanced at my bed, disgruntled to find my girl toy for the night still slumbering there. I needed to get rid of her as my very-Christian, old-country mother was coming over this afternoon for another chance to lecture me about being unmarried at age thirty-two. I got up and stretched, pleasurably aware of the ache in my body. The girl toy had been a hellcat in bed, which pleasantly surprised me because she was one of those hippie-dippy types. If I hadn’t been drunk out of my mind and horny as hell, I would never have taken her home. It’s a good thing to be desperate once in a while, I guess, but I didn’t want to make a habit of it.
“Hey,” the girl toy smiled, licking her lips. Apparently, she’d awakened while I’d been ruminating about how to throw her out. “Ready for round two?” She reached her arms to me, allowing the sheets to slip from her full breasts. I felt a jump in my stomach that told me I was, indeed, ready to go again. However, I make it a policy never to fuck a toy two days in a row. In fact, I preferred they didn’t spend the night, but I’d pretty much passed out after we’d fucked, so I hadn’t been able to kick her out last night. I really should have, however, as the girls tended to cling if they thought there was any hope for a relationship. As I had just ended a long-term relationship with my boyfriend of five years, I didn’t need complications.
“Sorry. You gotta go.” I wrapped my robe around my body, firmly tying the sash to underline my point. “It’s been nice and all, but….” I looked pointedly at the clock on the nightstand, hoping it would be enough to get her ass out of my bed. Instead, she snuggled against my goose feather-filled pillows and simply smiled. She didn’t bother covering her breasts which was how I knew she was still in the mood to play. My desire for her was waning as I didn’t like coyness. If I said I didn’t want more sex, then that was that. I didn’t want some minx trying to cajole me or change my mind; she was starting to irritate me.
“Come on, Margaret,” she pouted, pushing out her lower lip. What the fuck was she doing? She was supposed to be the Earth Mother type, not the flirting coquette. I really must stop picking up toys after a night of heavy drinking. “I want to play some more.” She threw the covers off her so I could see her admittedly lush naked body. She had the figure of a Reuben woman, with the wide hips people liked to call ‘birthing hips’. What was her name? Cammie? Candy? Something like that.
“Look, sweets,” I say, flexing my biceps ever so slightly. I work out religiously, not wanting to be mistaken for a punk. I also stretch daily to increase my flexibility. “It’s time for you to go. Don’t make a scene, OK?”
“I want to stay,” she said, her lower lip trembling slightly. Ah, hell. That’s what I get for going after the young ones. This one was over twenty-one, but just barely. I gotta toss the chickens back to the dogs, for sure. What the hell was her name? “I thought you liked me. You’re the first woman I’ve been with.” Well, shit. If I had known she was a dyke virgin, I would never have brought her home. I didn’t do newbies out of self-protection. They either turn out clingy like this one or they freak out at doing something immoral. I kinda wished this girl would be one of the latter so she’d flee on her own. Carrie! That’s her name.
“Carrie, baby,” I said, purposely sweetening my voice. “You were great. Really, but you just started swimming in the queer pool. This is no time for you to latch on to one woman. I mean, you didn’t go steady with the first boy you kissed, did you?” I prayed she hadn’t. “You need to know what’s out there before you settle down.” I thought that was a pretty good rah-rah speech if I did say so myself, but it only succeeded in making the girl toy cry.
“My name is Carlie,” she wailed, her eyes scrunching shut. “You can’t even remember my name! I meant nothing to you.” Shit, shit, shit. My New Year’s Resolution was going to be that I never got drunk again. Of course, it was only March which meant I had a quite a few months before I had to make the resolution, but good intentions counted for something, didn’t they?
“Carlie, see, that’s why I’m no good for you. You need to find a woman who deserves you.” I was developing a migraine, which I could ill-afford in facing my mother. She was a human shark who scented any weakness and attacked with zest. I vowed again never to get drunk and pick up a trick. I never could handle my liquor, though it had nothing to do with being Asian. I didn’t get the red cheeks; I just lost any inhibitions I had, which were few to begin with. Before I could argue some more with Carrie, my cell phone rang.
“Yeah, what?” I growled, not wanting to deal with whomever was on the other side of the wires. However, I was constitutionally unable to not answer a ringing phone, so I was stuck.
“Don’t sound so thrilled to hear from me, darling.” It was Ned Chang, my best friend. He was also decidedly gay, which meant that he used me as a beard every time he visited his super-religious father and Stepford mommy. As he’s six-two with devastating black eyes and a build Brandon Lee would have envied if he weren’t dead, it wasn’t so hard to be used in such a fashion. Especially not since Ned always gave me a lovely parting gift when the night was over. Last time, it was a Gucci purse. I love me my gay friends.
“Sorry, Ned. I’m having trouble with my plumbing.” That was our code for not being able to get rid of a trick. Ned wouldn’t be able to help me with this one, however, as he was only conversant in how to ditch men. “How are you?” I figured if I spent enough time on the phone with Ned, Carrie would finally take the hint and leave.
“Girl, I have some fabulous news,” Ned sang out, his voice excited. “Guess who has been invited to be Angel in Rent for the Minneapolis Touring Revue?” My heart dropped. “Moi! Isn’t that fabulous?”
“That’s great, Ned,” I said, forcing my voice to sound bright as Ned chattered on about rehearsals and such. “I’m so happy for you.” I was, but I was also panicking about me. Sure, I had other friends, but Ned was like the yang to my yin—he completed me. It was too bad he didn’t fuck women because we’d be perfect partners. He was Taiwanese to boot, as was I, so our parents would be flying over the moon. My mom had asked me on several occasions why I wasn’t marrying Ned, and I had to fob her off with one excuse or the other.
“Girl, you know I’m going to miss you like a madwoman, but this is a chance of a lifetime.” There was a faint apologetic note to Ned’s voice.
“Boy, you don’t have to apologize to me. You need to go after your dream. I’ll just miss you desperately while you’re gone.” We made kissing noises at each other before hanging up. A pang of sadness shot through me as I thought about months without Ned. He wasn’t leaving for three months, but I was missing him already.
“Who was that? Your boyfriend?” Carrie’s mouth looked ugly when it was twisted in a sneer as it was now. “Did you tell him about fucking a girl?” I stared at her, really regretting I ever let her into my bed. Sure, she had been a great fuck, but there were plenty others out there without the emotional baggage of this one.
“That’s it, toots,” I said, grabbing her firmly by the arm.
“Hey, what the—” She tried to twist out of my grip, but she was no match for me. I hauled her naked ass out of bed and plunked her on the floor. While she stood there gaping at me, I picked up her clothes and held them out to her. She made no move to take them, so I dropped them at her feet.
“Carrie, I’m going to give you five minutes to get dressed and out of my apartment. Otherwise, I throw you out naked. Makes no difference to me.” I crossed my arms over my chest to show I wasn’t kidding. I thought about leaving the room to emphasize the point, but I never trusted a trick alone in my bedroom. I stared at the clock on the nightstand once again, then turned my glare to the girl who was still quivering where I’d placed her. It was like I’d flicked a switch. She was suddenly a whirlwind in motion, getting dressed in two minutes flat. The minute she had all her clothes on, she raced out the door. I followed her to make sure she didn’t jack anything on the way out. She was in her shoes and out the door before I could even say good-bye. I locked the door behind her, sighing in relief.
“Never again,” I muttered, heading straight for the bathroom. I liked to take a shower the first thing after waking up, and I was out of sorts because I hadn’t been able to. I felt my hair experimentally. I only washed it once every week or so, but it felt a little grimy. The problem was that if I washed my waist-length hair, I’d have to blow-dry it in order not to have my mother lecture me about wet hair when she came over this afternoon. I had to wash it, however, as it felt like a rat’s nest on my head. It always felt that way after a rousing bout of sex if I didn’t pull it up beforehand. I hadn’t had time to think, much less put my hair up, before Carrie had pounced on me last night. Yes, I definitely had to wash my hair.
I frowned as I looked into the mirror. Being Asian, I was blessed with soft, supple skin. However, ever since hitting thirty, I’ve noticed fine lines in said skin that hadn’t been there before. I could also see the veins which previously had been unnoticeable, and gravity was starting to take its toll on my larger-than-average boobs. They were still perky, but it would only be a matter of time before they sagged. At least I had a tattoo of a blue and purple lotus engulfed in flames on my left breast to console me. My stomach pooched out no matter how much I exercised, but I did have a nice ridge above it. My eyes were opaque, and I had full lips. I confused dykes because I looked like a femme, but I was all butch inside. I played hoops on the weekends, though I’m only five-feet six. I got mad hops, and the boys never can believe it when I blow by them to score. I’m an English teacher at an alternative school during the week, so it’s nice to blow off some steam by playing sports on the weekend. In my spare time, I watched them. Sports, I mean.
I stepped into the shower, closing my eyes as the water poured over me. I loved the feel of water on my face; I must have been a fish in another life. In fact, I was a Pisces in her thirty-second year of life. There was something sensual about water, and it was relaxing as well. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about alcohol—which was not the greatest combination. Wanting to sleep versus wanting to get laid. One time, I fell asleep during sex. The guy was not amused and retaliated by stealing a hundred dollars from my wallet as he left my apartment. After that, I never took male tricks home again; I insisted on going to their places. Women were different. While some of them got psycho like Miss Carrie, I’ve never had one rip me off—knock on wood.
After I showered, I went into the kitchen to make a light snack. I was starving, but I knew better than to eat a full meal this close to when my mom was due for a visit. If I knew my mother—and I knew her well—she’d have bought out Kiefer’s Court, and she’d demand that I eat every morsel. It was thanks to her that I had such an intense fear of gaining weight. I was a porker when I was a little girl, and I was mercilessly teased about it, when I wasn’t getting called ‘chink’ and ‘jap’. When I was thirteen, I put myself on a diet and refused to eat the crap my mother gave me. We had countless fights about it, but my father would intervene. He was a gentle man who rarely raised his voice. When he did, anybody in the vicinity would listen. My three sisters and I knew that once Dad grew loud, we were to shut up. The rare times he shouted at my mother, she shut up as well. My dad died when I was twenty-one, and I missed him fiercely.
I poured a bowl of Cookie Crisp. My friends snickered at me for liking a kid’s cereal, but it was my favorite. I knew it wasn’t good for me; I knew it didn’t have nearly enough fiber in it, but I didn’t care. I used skim milk with it, and I watched what I ate for the rest of the day. Cookie Crisp was my one indulgence, and I didn’t sweat it. Of course, I’d be eating much more today than I normally would which meant spending an extra hour in the gym tonight. Great. That meant that I’d be keyed up when I went to bed tonight, which meant I’d be grumpy for work tomorrow. Well, that couldn’t be helped. Working out was my one obsession, and it was a healthy one. I held steady at a hundred and forty pounds of muscle, and I looked great. Nobody thought I was thirty years old, let alone older.
After I finished my cereal, I returned to the bathroom to blow-dry my hair. I tried to let it dry by itself—which meant I usually had to wash it on the weekend—but this was an emergency. The last time my mother caught me with wet hair, she raised holy hell. She still believed that I could catch a cold from wet hair, something I haven’t been able to convince her of otherwise yet. I didn’t need the hassle, so I figured it was worth wasting half an hour to dry my hair before she came. After I was done drying my hair, I went back to my bedroom to find something suitable to wear. Translation: something that didn’t show my tattoos or bellybutton piercing.
“Hm, too sexy.” A green dress I simply loved would leave my mother on the floor in a fit. “Too plain.” A simple black dress would make my mother ask if I wanted to be single all my life. See, she didn’t believe in being too showy, but she didn’t believe in being dowdy, either. She was a hard woman to please. My sister, Josh, who was twenty-nine, had given up completely, fleeing to Boston to get away from our mother. She lived with her boyfriend, and the two of them painted houses. The last I heard, she’s three months pregnant with her first child. Liz, the sweetest-tempered of the family, was our mother’s favorite. She was twenty-two and a senior at the University, majoring in psychology. Amy was just starting college at St. Olaf where she was majoring in music. She was a stunner who’d had boys hanging on to her every word since she was twelve. At six-feet tall with killer cheekbones, she did modeling on the side—when she wasn’t playing volleyball.
I pulled on a blue-knit jersey dress which looked great on me, if I did say so myself. It had a modest neckline, and it fell to my knees. It clung to my curves enough to be alluring, but not enough to be indecent. I wished I could just wear jeans, but my mother looked down on such casual wear, even in the sanctity of one’s home. I’ve never known her to wear sweats or jeans. She rarely even wore slacks as she preferred dresses and skirts. She’s like a Taiwanese June Cleaver or something. I brushed my hair until it shone before dabbling a bit of lipstick on my lips. I didn’t wear makeup as a rule, but it’s another fight I wasn’t willing to get into with my mother. She carped on me for not making the most of my looks, and I was willing to put on a little lip goo if it would shut her up. Good thing she didn’t know I didn’t shave my pits or she’d really have a cow. Speaking of having a cow, I’d better put on the hose before she arrived so she couldn’t see the small hairs on my legs. After I accessorized, I went into the living room to straighten up. Just as I was fluffing pillows, the buzzer rang.
“Damn, she’s early,” I said without heat. She was always early, so I was used to it by now. In fact, if my sisters and I wanted her to be on time, we had to tell her to get there a half hour later than we really wanted her to arrive. I buzzed her up and waited until I heard a knock on my door. “Hi, Ma,” I said, opening the door. We hugged stiffly before drawing apart. As I expected, her arms were laden with packages from Kiefer’s Court. I took as many of them as possible and hurried to the kitchen. It was useless to tell her not to bring anything, so I just let her provide lunch. It made her feel better, and I didn’t have to prepare anything. I didn’t know why I couldn’t go over to her place, but she preferred coming over. I suspected it was so she could get out of the house, but I never dared to ask.
“Wah, when are you going to move out of this building?” My mother complained, pressing her hand to her heart. “You trying to kill me making me climb the stairs.” She said this every time she came over despite the fact that she’s in excellent shape.
“I like my apartment,” I countered, keeping my voice level. I didn’t know why I had to rise to her bait every time she came over, but I was conditioned to defend myself at a very early age.
“When are you going to cut your hair, Meg?” My mother asked, her mouth pursing in disapproval. She wasn’t a bad-looking fifty-four year old woman with her still-slim figure and jet-black hair. Sure, it was dyed, but no one needed to know that. I wondered if she ever thought about dating, then dismissed such a silly thought from my mind. She started unloading things onto the counter as we talked.
“Ma, when are you going to call me Margaret?” I loathed being called Meg, especially because of that sappy children’s book, Little Women, from where my mother got the names for my sisters and me. I pulled out plates and silverware and whatnot in preparation for lunch.
“I named you, so I can call you what I want,” Mom retorted. She had tried to get us to call her Marmee when we were little, but none of us remembered for more than a day or so. When I finally read the book, I was dismayed at the treacle that ran through it like maple syrup. The only person I liked was Jo, and even she capitulated and married in the end to a man twice her age. “How’s Ned?”
“He’s fine,” I said, restraining a sigh. My mother refused to believe that Ned and I wouldn’t eventually end up married and procreating. She would have a fit if I told her Ned was gay, and a drag queen to boot. I just said we were too good of friends to be a couple, which drove her insane. She didn’t understand how I could love someone without being in love with him. I gave up trying to explain it to her long ago. I grabbed a bunch of things and headed for the dining room, my mother close on my heels.
“He’s such a handsome boy,” my mother said, beaming at me. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was beaming. She always got a suspicious lilt to her voice when talking about Ned. I suspected she had a little crush on him herself, although she would kill me if I suggested it. “You know, the two of you would have beautiful children.” As if that was the only thing that mattered! “You’re not getting younger, you know. Pretty soon, you’ll be thirty-five.” She didn’t say anything else, but she didn’t have to. I’d heard it way too often from her before, the stat that a woman’s fertility dropped fifty percent at age thirty-five. First of all, I didn’t know what that was in reference to. I mean, if I had sex a hundred times, would I get pregnant fifty of those times? Secondly, as I didn’t want children, it didn’t really matter. Third of all, I was three years away from the dreaded thirty-five. Fourth of all, well, see reason two.
“Mom, you know I don’t want children.” Why did I bother? I knew what she was going to say before she even said it. I set down the plates I was carrying without looking at my mother.
“It doesn’t matter what you want. Your first duty as a woman is to have children.” Mom fixed me with a steely glare until I turned to look at her. It was the first time this afternoon I had really gotten a good look at her.
“Did you get your hair cut?” I asked, struck by how short it looked. Usually, it fell well past shoulder-length. Now, it was cut in a bob across the chin. It looked good, but I needed to get used to it.
“Don’t try to change the subject,” Mom said, her tone bristling. She dropped her eyes, however, and I suspected that something was up. “I had three of my children by the time I was your age. You don’t even have one!”
“Josh is pregnant,” I said, momentarily diverted.
“Jo is in Boston,” my mother countered, slightly accenting the ‘Jo’. She hated it that two of my sisters and I chose to use names other than the ones used in that book. There wasn’t much Amy could do, however, unless she wanted to use her middle name, which was Audrey. As she wasn’t much of the gamin type, she stuck to Amy.
“Don’t change the subject,” I said, remembering what we’d been talking about. “You’re wearing slacks, too,” I said. I tried to keep my voice neutral, but the words came out accusingly. “What’s going on, Ma?” To my great surprise, she blushed. My cool-as-nails mother actually blushed. “Are you seeing someone?” I asked, my voice rising in disbelief. My mother blushed harder and didn’t seem able to say anything. “You are! That’s great!” It was. My father died eleven years ago, and my mother hadn’t so much as looked at another man. “Who’s the lucky guy?” My mother mumbled something under her breath, but I didn’t catch it. “What was that, Ma? Couldn’t quite hear you.”
“Pastor Wu,” she said, her voice ringing out this time.
“Pastor Wu? Get out of town!” I was delighted by the news. Not only was Pastor Wu seven years younger than my mother, he was pretty cool to boot. I’d met him a few times when my mother dragged me to the Taiwanese church. He always knew the latest hip-hop artists, and the kids loved him. As he was a widower, attendance had doubled since he took over five years ago. “You go, girl,” I said, breaking out in a huge smile. No wonder my mother was wearing slacks. Pastor Wu was definitely a slacks kind of guy.
“We just went to see Passion of Christ together. It’s no big deal.” My mother tried to downplay the situation, but I wasn’t fooled. “Oh, and we had dinner once at that Indian place in Fridley. Two meetings, Meg. It’s nothing.”
“Two dates, Ma,” I said, emphasizing the latter word. “With the hottest bachelor in the Taiwanese society. I never knew you had it in you.” I grew serious as I added, “I’m glad. It’s about time you found someone to be with.”
“Let’s eat,” Mom said briskly, turning to go back to the kitchen to get the rest of the food, but not before I saw the small smile on her face. For once, I was able to escape the rest of the afternoon without mention from Mom of me getting married or having children. I silently thanked Pastor Wu for the reprieve.