“Rayne, it’s me, Vashti.” The sound of her voice sends contradicting emotions through my body. As much as she hurt me, she still has a pull over me. My attraction to her hasn’t waned; I’m just more cautious about acting on it. I think of her beautiful dark skin, hair and eyes, her full lips and the thin gold hoop through her right nostril. Her lush curves. I banish these images with difficulty and listen to her gorgeous voice which never fails to make me shiver. “I know I have been making a pest of myself, but I can’t help it. You are having every right to be upset with me—I am upset with myself. I am wishing we can talk privately tomorrow so I can at least try to make things better.” She pauses as her voice breaks. She steadies it and continues. “You are very important to me. I will be very sad if we can’t at least be friends. But I understand. I’m sorry. I do not know how many times I can say it, but it will never be enough. See you tomorrow.”
I sit motionlessly long after the click. This is the first time I’ve heard a whole message from her as I erase them as soon as I hear her voice. The regret and pain in her voice shake me. I had created this fantasy that she had withheld information from me intentionally because she cared more about the person she was trying to protect than she did me. I needed to tell myself that in order to harden my heart against her—I needed that in order to not be stuck in the morass I found myself surrounded by. After listening to her message, however, I can’t fool myself into believing that she meant me malicious harm when she lied to me. I can’t even convince myself that she knew the other person was dangerous. Being the person she is, Vashti tried to protect someone out of the misguided goodness of her heart. She was the victim of an error in judgment—no more, no less. That doesn’t mean I’ll trust her again, but at least I can begin letting go of the anger I am nursing against her.
I finish making the cookies. I have ten dozen when I’m done, including the plate I gave to Paris. I set aside fifty for the girls, which leaves fifty (after the twenty I’d already taken out for Lyle) for Paris and me. To be more precise, forty for Paris and ten for me. That’s the ratio between us—four to one. I clean up the dishes—another gift from my mother. She is lax in many ways, but she always cleans up right after baking. She insists it’s integral to her mental well-being not to have dirty dishes sitting in her sink. While I don’t mind letting dishes sit for a day or two, I really do feel better if I wash them right after using them. Once the dishes are done, I go to the living room and flick on the television. There is a college basketball game on, Florida versus Syracuse. I’m not much for sports, but I do enjoy college hoops. Not as much since kids are jumping to the NBA so early these days thereby decimating the college game, but I’ll watch a game when the mood hits me.
The game isn’t that interesting because Florida is thumping Syracuse. There should be a mercy rule as there is in softball. I switch to Comedy Central which is having a marathon, a show I think is funny as hell. Although they killed off my favorite character, Kenny, for good, and my favorite character from the movie, ‘the Mole’ died in the movie as well. I’ll never forgive them for that, even if they did bring Kenny back. I often thought if I ever had a kid, he would turn out to be like the Mole. Bitter, cynical, brilliant, undercover guerilla. More likely, the kid would be a staunch conservative who emulated Bush Senior and wore three-piece suits to school. A kid like Libby. If there is a god, she will end up with a kid like me. I will laugh if that happens. I can’t see Libby as a mother—she is so uptight and exacting. If she has her way, her kid would eat, sleep, and shit on a schedule. The kid would be painfully neat and not have an original thought of his own. Then when he turned fifteen, he’d kill thirteen kids in his school before turning the gun on himself. ‘He was such a quiet and nice boy,’ the neighbors would say, stunned that he could do such a thing. Libby would be devastated and have to be heavily sedated.
South Park is showing one of my favorite episodes, the lesbian teacher episode. Some of the dykes I know were outraged by the episode, but I think it’s hysterical to hear these little kids talk about ‘munching carpet’ and listening to the Indigo Girls in an attempt to be lesbians. I think what I like so much about the show is that it truly captures how little kids think. Like this episode. It’s so obvious to adults that lesbians are women, but the boys don’t know that, so they think they can become lesbians by doing certain acts, listening to certain music and wearing certain clothes. Logical thinking if you don’t know that a lesbian is a woman. I become immerse in the episode, relieved to not be thinking again. Eric Cartman is the perfect antidote for depression.
When I first came home from the hospital, it was with a prescription for Vicodin in one hand and a prescription for Halcion in the other, along with the stern warnings of following the dose recommendations to the letter. The Vicodin, I used sparingly, the Halcion, not at all. I don’t hold with sleeping pills, preferring a hit or two of weed instead. I am careful to regulate my smoking to one or two nights a week. I am a little less controlled with my alcohol use. The fact that I am indulging in pharmaceuticals is a large reason that I am so cautious with the Vicodin. I know better than to mix and match my poisons, but sometimes nothing but a beer will do. Or a joint. The last time I saw my doctor, he was amazed that I hadn’t used more Vicodin or even filled the Halcion prescription. Of course, I didn’t tell him about my self-medication, but it seems to have done the job. An article I read on the web concluded that the effects of minor tranquilizers such as Halcion have the same sedative and clinical effects as alcohol and barbiturates. I figure why bother with the pills when my friend Bud is on hand and so much cheaper?
I click through the channels rapidly, not engaged in any particular program. Saturday night is a shitty night for television, especially since I don’t like sitcoms or heavy dramas. I find most shows sophomoric and poorly written, and I am not in the mood for sports. I turn to the Food Network to see what that crazy Cajun, Emeril, is doing. I can take him in very small doses before I want to hit him over the head with a blunt instrument. Bam! There goes Emeril. Kick that up a notch, why don’t you? I turn off the television and stare at the blank screen. I haven’t turned on any lights, so I am sitting in the dark—something I’ve been doing more of lately. The lights hurt my eyes, and I find the silence comforting. The utter lack of stimulants can sometimes calm my harried brain if I sit absolutely still and try not to breathe too rapidly. I wish my mother had taught me more than the rudiments of sitting zazen. I could use a little peaceful mediation right now.
I sigh, standing up to stretch. I consider running to the gym to do some light lifting. I have been neglectful of my workout regime in the last month. I used to run four miles a day along with weight-lifting every other day. I always stretched during each workout session as well. The weight I have currently lost is at least a fourth muscle, which worries me. The last thing I want to be is fragile. I vow to start working out again, maybe I’ll add a self-defense class as well even though I have taken them before. I hate being so stereotypical—woman joins self-defense class after a life-altering traumatic event—but I am willing to do whatever it takes at this point to feel safe again. Safer, at any rate. I can’t imagine ever feeling completely safe again. I check the windows to make sure they’re locked as well as the front door. It has become a compulsory habit to check each several times a day even when Paris hasn’t come or gone. Every day I promise myself that I will cut down the number of times I check, but I can never hold myself to it. My personal record is checking the front door seven times in one hour on a particularly bad night.
The phone rings again, shattering the peaceful mood I’ve tried hard to cultivate. My heart begins beating rapidly, wondering who is calling me this time of night. It’s not my mother; it’s most likely not Vashti or any of the other girls; it’s most likely not Paris because he should be enjoying Hedwig’s angry inch right about now. I force myself to breathe deeply as the machine kicks in. I feel my anxiety collapse as I recognize the voice. It’s Quinn McGowan, my coworker. When I first met her, I was attracted to her, and the feeling seemed mutual, but I quickly discovered that she was more trouble than she was worth. She was in the midst of sliding deeply into an eating disorder with no end in sight. Our first date was punctuated by her racing to the bathroom to force herself to throw up the sandwich I had to made her eat because she had passed out on me. In addition, she was more of a political lesbian than a de facto one. When she first met Paris, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. Since meeting me, she’s had her first experience with a woman and is still trying to convince herself she’s a lesbian even though she’s living with and sleeping with a man. I listen to what she has to say.
“Rayne, I just wanted to call and see how you’re doing.” I hear the rumbly voice of a man in the background followed by a shushing noise from Quinn. “I’m glad you’re coming back to work Monday. I look forward to seeing you.” A hesitation in her voice. “Let’s do drinks after work that day, ok? To celebrate your return.” Another pause. “God, I’m sorry. I’m rambling and saying stupid things. Call me, ok? Otherwise, I’ll see you on Monday.”
I am not calling her; I have nothing to say to her. While I don’t mind chatting with her at work, I have no desire to be friends. One bonus of almost dying is realizing what is important. Not to be cruel, but she isn’t. I am past the point where I’m going to try to fix the people I’m friends with, and she is not someone I can appreciate as is. She has too many issues that make me uncomfortable for me to want to just hang out with her. Her one experience having sex with a woman was a disaster when Quinn ran out of the room crying immediately afterwards. No, I wasn’t there; she emailed me about it after—it was during my time of convalescence When I sent her an email saying she could be a dedicated feminist and still have sex with men, she shot me back an email that read hysterically—and I don’t mean that as funny. I don’t know what happened to her to make her the way she is, but she has somehow rationalized living with a man and having sex with him with being a dyke.
In one of the last emails I received from her, she was telling me how much she admired me for knowing who I was and for not being apologetic about it. While she was off the mark as far as me really knowing who I am, she wasn’t wrong that I’m not apologetic for the beautiful, messy person that I am. I am not someone who tries to hide her faults or pretend they don’t exist, but neither will I downplay my strengths or diminish them completely. I believe that it is to a person’s peril to ignore her bad or good side, which unfortunately, too many women do, especially the latter. We are taught to be modest, not to brag, to modulate our voices and to put others before ourselves. I’m not saying we should be arrogant and selfish, but there is some truth to the saying that you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself. Paris is the one who dropped that gem on me our first year in college when I would let anyone walk over me in the name of being a nice girl. He was right about that as he is about so many other things.