“Rayne, got a minute?” It’s Quinn, waiting for me by my desk for the second day in a row. Her skin is wan and her smile is thin, tacked on with more than a dollop of willpower.
“Sure, Quinn. Just let me grab a cup of coffee first.” I go downstairs to get my steaming cup of java, then return to my desk. I hang up my coat on the rack near my desk, then sit down. After turning on my computer, I finally turn my attention to Quinn. “What’s up?” I had thought about it this morning and decided the best strategy for dealing with Quinn is to be pleasant but professional. After yesterday, I have no desire to date her. I am too old to be in a relationship with someone who obviously is in need of deep fixing. When I was a teenager, I thought it was a sign of love to be willing to work on a person’s issues with her/him. It is to a certain point, but Quinn’s problems go deeper than I have the patience to deal with. I know myself well enough to know that it can only end badly.
“I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night. It was atrocious.” She pauses, as if to allow me a chance to contradict her, but I remain silent. “I am so embarrassed that you had to see me like that. It must seem like I have this huge eating disorder, but I don’t really. I’m just dieting.” Unfuckingbelievable. I don’t know if she’s trying to convince herself or me, but she’s backtracking from what she said yesterday.
I tell her that I’m not going to debate the stupidity of dieting or discuss the nuances that differentiate between dieting and eating disorders, but in my opinion she’s crossed the bridge from the former to the latter. She counters that every woman at least thinks about sticking her finger down her throat, which causes me to hoot in derision. I stare at her in disbelief, but also in sadness. Here is a bright, beautiful woman who thinks there’s nothing wrong with shoving her fingers down her throat after eating. She blusters that it’s easy for me because Asian women are so tiny. Her voice is rising and mine is, too. I tell her it’s worse for Asian women because we have two cultures that revere thinness even though not every Asian woman is tiny. I am considered huge by Taiwanese standards as my sister is so kind to point out as often as she can, but I do not even think about sticking my fingers down my throat. It’s such an anathema to me, especially after loving Claudette.
“Ladies, please.” Alicia materializes out of nowhere. “I can hear you from my office. Please restrict personal spats to after work hours.” She favors each of us with an icy glare before waddling back to her office. We wait until she’s shut her door to pick up the conversation again.
“You make yourself throw up once or twice a week when you’re not starving yourself. You exercise compulsively. I bet you feel guilty when you skip a day. You have an eating disorder.” I don’t like to be this blunt, but there’s no penetrating her thick skull any other way.
“I don’t have an eating disorder; I don’t have the willpower necessary.” Quinn tries to make a joke, but it falls flat. I don’t see anything funny about her slowly starving herself to death.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say on the subject,” I shrug, turning to my computer. “You are a smart woman. If you choose to do this to your body, then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind.”
“I’ve blown any chance of you going out with me again, haven’t I?” Quinn asks ruefully, making a comic face. She’s still attempting to lighten a tense situation with the aid of lame comedy.
“Yes, you have,” I reply. I see no reason to sugarcoat the truth. “We can be friends, but I don’t want to deal with your drama.” Quinn looks as if she wants to respond, but she doesn’t say anything. Instead, she turns and hurries up the stairs. For a second, I feel bad for being so matter-of-fact with her, but it’s better in the long-run. We are coworkers, and I want things to be clear between us. I turn to my emails. There’s one from Vashti.
“Rayne, did you hear about Max? I cannot believe it. It’s on the front page of the Chron. Call me tonight if you are free.” I had gotten up late this morning and didn’t have a chance to read the paper. I hop on to the Chron’s website and there it is, the story of Max’s death. There is nothing in the story that I didn’t already know. There is a quote from Inspector Robinson.
“At this time, we are tentatively pursuing the possibility that this death is linked with Ms. Kelley’s death a few days ago. At the same time, we are not closing off the possibility that it is just a coincidence, though that is highly unlikely.”
I wonder what little details Inspector Robinson has kept to herself. Everyone knows that the police always hold something back that only the killer would know. When I read the accounts of Moira’s death, there was no mention of the rose, the cigarettes, the fact that the gag had been tied after Moira was murdered, or the note. Correction, the note was mentioned, but the contents weren’t revealed. “That information is not available to the public at this time.” Inspector Robinson sure has the police stonewall lingo down pat. I wonder if they learn that in cop school. Twenty ways to circumvent the media. I shake my head to rid myself of silly thoughts and turn back to my monitor. I go to the Examiner website, but the story is almost verbatim. There is an op-ed piece in the Examiner that the murders of Moira and Max are the work of a serial killer who is beginning a hate-crime spree against lesbians. I hate to burst her bubble, but the chances that the killer is a dyke herself is high.
“Rayne?” It’s Quinn again, and her eyes are puffy. “Um, can we talk after work today?’ I restrain a sigh. Why is it the messed-up ones who are so attracted to me?
“I don’t know, Quinn. What do you want to talk about?”
“Us.” Quinn is blunt. “I know you don’t want to date me because I’m, well, you know. But I’d like to talk about it.” The woman must be a masochist. I have no desire to have a drawn-out conversation about why we should be dating and how she’ll really, really try to clean up her act.
“I don’t think so, Quinn.” I keep my tone firm, but kind.
“I just want a chance to explain things.” She gives me the puppy-dog look which I can never resist.
“Ok,” I sigh. I am such a creampuff. “I have to work now, so I’ll talk to you later.”
“Great!” She immediately brightens and bounds up the stairs. Swell. Just what I was trying to avoid—stickiness. I check the rest of my new emails. More from Alicia whining about having to get the invoices into me once a week. Another from Libby, to make a bad day worse. Like a gawker at an accident, I click on it.
“Rayne, I hope you are not waiting until the last moment to put in these orders or to lose the weight. I want this wedding to be perfect which means you have to pull your weight. No pun intended. I forgot a few things. I know this is early to be telling you this, but I figure you can save your money if I tell you now. I want you to get a pedicure and a manicure and to have acrylic nails for the occasion, French-tipped, gel-filled, mauve, to match the dress. Oh, I was surfing the Nordstrom’s website and saw the perfect cashmere wrap to go with the bridesmaids’ dresses. It’s under the accessory section. Winter white, which is close to ivory. Please add it to your list. Oh, and do not get any more tattoos or piercings between now and the wedding. We wouldn’t want to worry about infection, would we? Libby.” Train-wreck. I can’t take my eyes off of it. I click the link and view the wrap. Another $148 to the tab. I close my eyes, hoping the email will go away. No such luck.
The day goes downhill from there. I am treated to another phone call from the inspector, wanting to make sure that I don’t remember anything else that might be helpful to the investigation. She reminds me to stop by the precinct to sign a new statement, but it doesn’t have to be today. I don’t know why she’s being so lenient, and I almost wish she would have ordered me down so I could avoid the talk with Quinn. I haven’t even kissed the chick yet, and here I am having a ‘talk’ with her already. Talk about a drag. Then Alicia screams at me for not doing something or the other only to discover that I had done something or the other, and she just missed it on her messy desk. She doesn’t even have the courtesy to apologize. Then one of the kids pulls out a knife and tries to stab another kid right in front of me. Fortunately, one of the counselors, an ex-football player, is standing nearby and wrestles the knife away from the distraught kid. I have the privilege of watching the cops take him away in handcuffs.
“Ready to go?” Quinn appears like clockwork at four, her smile determined. I nod silently. Work was light today, though the drama was heavy, so I have no last-minute chores to do.
“Shall we go to the Lex?” I ask. I want to return to the 500, but I figure it impolite to ask.
“Oh, let’s go back to the other place,” Quinn says to my surprise. “I want to thank the bartender for being so kind to me, if he’s there.” I am pleased. When we arrive, he’s not there, however. I learn from the female bartender that he doesn’t come on until nine-thirty.
“Want to go some place else?” I ask Quinn since she doesn’t really like the place. “How about We B Sushi?” I had an early lunch because I skipped breakfast because I woke up late, so I’m famished.
“Oh,” Quinn says in a tiny voice. “I don’t like sushi.” I look at her sharply. How can I trust someone who doesn’t like sushi? Something about her voice isn’t right, though, and I realize it’s that she doesn’t want to eat rather than that she doesn’t like sushi.
“You don’t have to eat,” I say, mentally rolling my eyes. “You can sip some green tea which is a diuretic and watch as I eat. You can live vicariously through me.”
“There’s no need to be sarcastic!” Quinn shouts. We are in the middle of 17th Street, and no one even turns to stare at us. “You could try to be a little supportive here.” She has tears in her eyes, which of course triggers my guilt.
“Sorry,” I manage to say, though I resent having it wrung out of me. “Come on. Let’s go.” We walk in silence. This isn’t the best beginning to a reconciliation, but I have little patience for eating disorders after watching Claudette die. It’s such a waste, and I will never understand why so many intelligent women—and men—succumb to them. We reach We B and get a table in no time. Quinn orders tea and nothing else. The perky Japanese waitress looks at her with concern, but doesn’t say anything. I order edamame, tea, and an assortment of sushi which comes with miso. When the edamame arrive, Quinn eyes them hungrily.
I manage to get her to eat a few of the salty pods, but am forced to watch as she masticates each one fifty times. I will never eat with this girl again as it’s causing me to lose my mind. When my sushi arrives, Quinn watches every bite I eat and mimics my eating motions. She doesn’t even realizing that she’s doing it, which makes it more pathetic. I can’t stand it so I ask what she wants to talk about, and it turns out that she thinks we should try to date. She insists we have a fission of chemistry between us. I don’t tell her she means frisson instead of fission because it would be pretentious, but I’m thinking it. I also don’t tell her that I would rather remain single for the rest of my life than go on another date with her. She can’t keep her eyes off the sushi. I can’t take it, so I hold out the hamachi nigiri I’m about to eat.
“Want it?” I wave it temptingly in her face. She shakes her head quickly. Her hands are clamped in her lap. I sigh, but continue eating.
She asks me for another chance, and I find myself weakening. Perhaps I have been too hard on her, projecting my feelings about Claudette’s death upon her. Then my sensible side kicks in and reminds me that she made herself throw up in front of me. I do not want to deal with that in a girlfriend. I reiterate that I just want to be friends. I wouldn’t mind sleeping with her, but I do not want to be her first. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that sleeping with her would send the wrong message. She asks sadly why everyone tells her they just want to be friends. She doesn’t understand how she can lose her virginity if no one is willing to do it with her. I suggest she finds another virgin, practically inhaling my sushi. She whimpers that she wouldn’t know how to do that, and she’s starting to get on my nerves. If I had known what a wet noodle she’d turn out to be, I never would have accepted her invitation in the first place. I am not a nurturer by nature, and she’s testing my patience.
“Craigslist has a section for women seeking women and a section for casual encounters,” I inform her. I don’t know why I’m giving her this information, but I might as well try to help her in this way since I’ve turned her down in the other. “Place a personal. Answer one. Go to the Lex and pick someone up. The longer you wait, the bigger deal you’ll make of it in your mind.”
Of course, she wants me to go with her. She gives me the puppy dog eyes, which only works if the person giving them is Paris. I don’t handle damsels-in-distress well, but I figure I can give her the moral support. Besides, it’s been ages since I’ve frequented the Lex, and I’m curious to see if it’s changed in any way. I tell her I’ll go if she has one piece of sushi. My tone tells her there’s no bargaining with me, so she reluctantly picks up her chopsticks and break them apart. After rubbing the sticks against each other, she reaches out her hand, then withdraws it. She doesn’t know what’s what, so I name each piece for her. She makes a face of disgust. She’s never had sushi—much to my disbelief—because she doesn’t like raw fish. I debate, then I pick up the eel, dip it carefully in the soy sauce thick with wasabi and hold it out to her. She hesitantly opens her mouth, and I pop it in. She chews slowly. After she masticates it fifty times (yes, I counted), she swallows.
“That’s good,” she says with surprise. Then her face turns bright red. “Hot!” She does that nose wriggle thing that indicates a clearing of the sinuses. “What a rush!”
I insist that she have the other unagi, even though it’s my favorite. I’ll gladly sacrifice it if it means she’ll eat something. She demurs, so I pick up a tofu pocket, dip it in the sauce and hold it out to her. She opens her mouth more eagerly this time. She goes through the same ritual, but manages to eat it. She closes her eyes in rapture as she chews. It floors my mind that she’s never eaten sushi before, but she reminds me that she’s from Jersey. Sushi is not a staple food of Jersey folk. I point out that Jersey isn’t very far from New York which has some very fine sushi itself. She snorts and says her father would never have let her go to the big, bad city of New York. I am silent. I love my father dearly, so I have difficulty relating to her animosity for hers. We talk of desultory things as I finish my sushi. Quinn sneaks a piece of the Philly roll, and I’m satisfied with that. After I’m done, we walk to the Lex. It’s not full at all. I glance around for my favorite bartender, but I don’t see her. Instead, there’s the ultra-butch one with the nasty attitude who only likes femmes.
“Yeah?” She sneers at me, but changes her tune when she spots whom I’m with. “What can I get you, little lady?” I groan at her corniness, but Quinn appears a little afraid of the bartender.
“Um, a Lemon Drop,” Quinn stutters.
“You like princess drinks, huh?” The bartender grins, displaying the slight gap between her front teeth. She’s not bad looking with her crew-cut, slanted cheekbones and full lips, but her attitude sucks. I have no patience for dykes who feel the need to out-macho John Wayne.
“I’ll have a Cape Cod,” I say pointedly, staring her down. She blinks first, so she loses. She now understands that I’m alpha-female and backs down hastily. She serves us our drinks, and I tip her healthily to show no hard feelings. Quinn and I take our drinks and sit at one of the tables by the door that isn’t used as a door. I let Quinn have the seat that gives her maximum view of the room since she’s the one in more dire need than I. “What type of woman are you attracted to?” I ask out of idle curiosity. I would peg her as a soft-butch lover.
“Not the bartender, that’s for sure,” Quinn jokes. We share a laugh, which is nice after the earlier tension between us. She surveys the room casually, taking a sip of her drink. “Her.” She nods at someone I can’t see. I discreetly turn my head and see a voluptuous black woman with a thick weave falling to her mid-back, an aquiline nose and pouty lips. Her eyes are wide-set and coquettish. She is dressed in a loose print dress that falls to mid-thigh. She has nice legs. Not someone I would have picked for Quinn, as I see her more attracted to butches such as the woman shooting pool. She has spiky black hair, horn-rimmed glasses, baggy jeans and a white t-shirt. Under the t-shirt, however, she is generously curved. When she smiles, dimples poke at both cheeks. She’s utterly adorable. Quinn throws me a dirty look which I throw back her way.
“You think I go for butches? No way!”
“What’s wrong with butches?” I ask indignantly. Though I am neither butch nor femme, I certainly identify more with the former than the latter.