ALLISON IS FIGURING
SOME THINGS OUT
by Allison Darcy
W e kissed the once. I held her the few times. We went to the two movies that I paid for where we entered late and sat in the back row. At the sleepover, we go into the all-white room in her basement after everybody else is asleep. She tells me she is going away for the summer and she isn’t really the kind of person who can keep her feelings for someone very long. I face away from her and throw the pillow as hard as I can, project all my heartrending anger at that spotless, sterile wall and watch as it hits with a sound that is barely an exhale.
So in college I have this threesome except it isn’t a threesome. That is, I like kissing this girl because she really is quite good at kissing. That is, I don’t feel anything for her, but this is better than watching her cry again because the man she loves also loves me. He thinks she has a crush on me. I think her moans sound like death rattles. We share my favorite vibrator, looking up at him, and I don’t feel any part of my body. Afterwards, I understand writers that become hermits. Some people pretend to be others so well that, after a while, they don’t want to be anyone at all.
The first erotica I ever read made me hurt, so I kept reading it. I remember a story about a girl named Kristen, her standing by a window described with such desperation that I trembled to it; not to the thought of her dress or voice, but to the idea that a person could feel so strongly about somebody else’s thighs. That was what I wanted to be: the girl who was loved so vividly that a complete stranger could get off to it.
Every day, I looked to see if he had written more about her. Kristen, sitting on his lap at a party. Kristen, laying naked and exhausted. Kristen, quaking. At night, or Sunday mornings, I’d lock my door and lose myself wanting someone to write that way about me. It took weeks before I realized what was really going on, shocked at the first description of the author strapping on his new cock.
He tells me he thinks I am bisexual, but I am not bisexual. I am adamant. I don’t want him to think I’d be okay having another threesome.
But there was that one girl, who didn’t shave her legs, who always sounded like she was singing spirituals, who went to folk dancing conventions every summer, and that one girl, who drew stick figures on all my stories, whose ex-boyfriend tried to break her fingers, who quit her sorority to write poetry and date women, and that one girl, who was too sick to leave her house, who spoke about suicide, who told me she loved me in binary code…
When she kissed me that first and only time, I was so excited to tell my mother, who has always been open-minded. I was in love. Over dinner, she calmly explained that she had no problem with women who liked women, but that it just wasn’t the life she had envisioned for me.
“You’re experimenting,” she said, “and that’s good. But you’re my daughter, and I know you. You’re figuring some things out. It will pass.”
“It isn’t a phase,” I told her, “for me or for her.” I was right about half of it.
He tells me he thinks I am bisexual, but I am not bisexual. I think about it hard. I don’t want to have sex with a woman, find curves and wetness interesting but not much more, enjoy kissing anything that will kiss me back but don’t particularly lust after lipstick. But I do want to hold that girl’s hand. I do want to write her songs. I do think I could build worlds with her.
“Heterosexual biromantic,” I tell him.
“So, bisexual,” he says.
I know this queer woman and she is everything I want to be as a writer. Right out of college, she started telling the truth. Then, she started getting published. She is confident and confessional, and she leads her own life with certainty. She struggles. It is beautiful. Sometimes I think of her and I wonder if I just want to be special, too. I am horrified of how selfish I could be, seeking success on the margins.
He tells me he thinks I am bisexual, but I am not bisexual.
I take this survey of what my friends think “queer” means. There is a divide: the straight men, the people over 35, they all tell me it is a synonym for gay. The feminists, the college students, they say it is an umbrella term. The width of that umbrella? They can’t decide. It seems like everyone has to explain themselves constantly, no matter what. They have sexualities with asterisks. If a label doesn’t label anything people can understand, I don’t know if it does me any good. If a label just means I have to talk about it more, I don’t want it anywhere near.
I try out the word with this stranger who is interviewing me for an article. “Tell me a bit about yourself,” she says, and I think it’s just getting me to open up so I do. My quotes are introduced that way: “Allison, a female, queer, Jewish…”
The night it is published, six different people ask me what it means.
“I don’t know,” I say to all of them. “I have no idea why she put that there. Maybe she meant someone else? I’m trying to see if she will take it out.”
“I was going to say,” says one girl, “I was fairly confident neither you nor your boyfriend were trans.”
The truth of it: none of this matters. If I am in the last relationship of my life, if I am in love, if it is with a man, if I will seek nothing more, then who needs to know? If my lips and heart are happy with no one else, then why do I need to be able to say what they would want? I start listing my sexuality as “Not Applicable.” I start calling it my partner’s name.
One hundred queer kids were shot in Orlando.
I discuss the politics of it all until I am alone, and then I start sobbing. For three hours, I cannot figure out why I would be in mourning. It feels like ripping inside of me and for the first time, I do not think there is any salvation for this world. I climb into bed and then hate myself for hiding when they couldn’t. I eventually find myself hiking and talking out loud to God.
I tell God I don’t want to believe anymore. I tell God I don’t know what to do. I tell God I am alone; I am grieving alone and don’t have enough people to say the prayers for mourning. God tells me I could find them.
I still can’t tell anyone. I still don’t know if it’s relevant.
I still don’t know what I am.
It is constantly, achingly relevant.
Allison Darcy, a Missouri-turned-North-Carolinian writer and graduate student, has work published or forthcoming in Poetica Magazine, Vagabond City, SELFLESS, and Colonnades Literary & Art Journal. She tweets at @_allisondarcy.