Some Are Unforgiving Lessons

Cats were a new thing to my family, upon moving to Florida. After the death of our half-husky, half-spaniel, all-wily dog Chance, we were a “no pet household.” However, even the staunchest parents can’t hold up to the might of two little girls who root for the gazelles against the lions on all the Discovery documentaries about the sub-Saharan savanna when they beg and plead to keep a stray. This is because such mercy breeds stubbornness. We’d sneak off on our bicycles to the corner store to spend our allowance on illicit cat food. Merciful children, we saw need. There was one caveat: Dad got to name her. Thus, the orange tabby was dubbed Bunny Slayer.

Owning a pool was new, too, and all the little accompanying details: the balancing of the chlorine; the care and cleaning of the marcite; the skimming of the leaves from the surface of the water. Yes, yes, I know. You folk who live in Florida are puzzling about that last one. For those who don’t live here, you need to know that all pools in Florida these days are caged, enclosed in screen tents to keep kids and critters out. When my parents bought their house, it was among a dying breed of domiciles with unfettered pools, ringed only by a white aluminum fence that didn’t even touch the ground except at the posts. In fact, that was how Bunny Slayer came to us, slinking in between the young cabbage palms, under the painted aluminum and onto the pool deck to beg.

All manner of creatures slipped in under that fence and straight into the pool over the years we lived there. Merciful children, my sister and I saw it as our duty to assist them all back out. My sister saved the furry ones, and I rescued everything else. Palmetto rats fell in regularly. Red, black and yellow king snakes were pulled with my own hands from the filter. Even raccoon kits were sometimes retrieved with the skimmer.

One night, after the dinner dishes were done, my sister and I heard a shriek coming from the pool deck like someone had the devil himself by the balls. We dropped everything, barreling toward the French doors, to burst through, and spill light over the scene. We saw this: a tiny rabbit huddled in the corner, Bunny Slayer stalking closer for another attack, and the paw prints of a struggle in the dirt collected by the wall.

My sister seized the cat in her arms, crying out for the bunny. Me? I stood still. When I took a breath, the rabbit bolted straight for the pool. Splash! I called for the skimmer, but my sister had an armful of cat. As I dashed around seeking it, the rabbit began to sink. My tool in hand, I sought the rabbit’s legs, cutting the water underneath her, lifting her on my trampoline of a net. She jumped off, back into the depths, swimming for the deep end.

At last, in a smooth gesture, I flipped the skimmer under her, brought her to the surface, and out the gate before she had time to panic her way back into the water. My sister sequestered Bunny Slayer. I watched our rabbit friend hop off a short ways. Animals like their privacy. I did not intrude further on her escape.

Breakfast the next morning was a lazy affair, sautéed mushrooms and onions, a leftover muffin with jelly. I had recently gotten into the habit of coffee drinking, thanks to a friend. I meandered out to the pool deck, mug in hand to enjoy the morning. As I seated myself on the wicker couch my mother kept out there, something caught my eye. Just beyond the aluminum gate was last night’s little rabbit. I moved closer to take a look.

She was stone cold dead, in the exact spot where I had last seen her. My sister cried. And I… I never cheered the gazelles again.

Februaries Gone

“I hate winter,” my grandmother grumped, the hot water bottle slumped on her belly. “I hate how the trees look so God-awful bare. It’s depressing.”

That morning, buttering my muffin, I braved a contradiction: “It isn’t depressing, Grandma. I think it’s pretty!” I kicked my heels against the chair legs, more fidgety than an eleven year-old should be.

Arch-browed, she replied, “You think so?”

“I can show you,” I smoothed the butter into the crevices. “Wake up with me tomorrow, and I’ll take you to go see.”

And so the eleven-year-old and the seventy-year-old set out in the Connecticut pre-dawn, pre-breakfast. We labored up the hill, though we couldn’t see our breaths let alone our feet. We gained the summit, breathless, and sat in chairs of granite, borrowed from some other ancient hilltop perhaps never to be returned. And we waited.

“It’s cold,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

And then the sun began to rise.

“Ugh, these trees are so ugly,” said my grandma, looking up at the boughs which covered us.

“No, Grandma, not those ones! Look down the hill, those ones, in valley by the fields? Far away, they’re not bare trees. They’re a scattering of goose down.”

A Face for Public Consumption

Diced up, any way you slice it. Yeah, that’s the ticket: show me that flank, those corsetted tits. Lady Gaga and Tila Tequila. Katy Perry singing, “I kissed a girl, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” This is the public face of female bisexuality in the good ol’ U S of A… and I hate it.

It’s all a show. That’s what they suspected all along, isn’t it? That all women are somehow for sale, and if bisexual women really do exist, they’re in for an angel’s three-way because they showed up with a cock?

Fuck you, America. Fuck you, world. I did not spend my teenage years in a panic flipping out that I might be a lesbian just to satisfy your desire for female-on-female flesh. A youth in hiding: jumping from boy crush to boy crush to keep my feelings for women at bay, to deny that the erotic dreams I’d wake from sweating were as often about my female peers as the males. To take that anguish and turn it on me with a lecherous grin and a “ur so hawt!” is to equate me with a steak. Or a basketball. Or a cum towel. Fair warning: I have a mean elbow strike, and the last time I checked, towels didn’t hit back.

Conversely, I’m tired, bone-weary of being told that I’m less pure in my feminism for dating men. That if I were really into women, I’d be giving up the dick just like that. That if I really want to date a woman for who she is, this bisexual phase is something I’ll “grow out of.” Condescending correction of the poor misguided young girls isn’t feminism anyway.

No, this is not a thing I’ll “grow out of.” I grew into my sexuality. I grew up and had to unlearn all the tropes—that bisexuals were bad, greedy, dangerous, wrong. I had to stopper my ears to the insults shot from both sides, screaming “dyke” and “liar” and “play thing.” I had to ignore the self-righteous “pity” over my “confusion.” And I have to still the quaver in my voice every time I speak of my orientation, for fear that my mother might hear… because she still doesn’t know. The rest of the world does, but she still doesn’t know.

So I kiss girls. You can’t watch and I don’t tell. I kiss boys. You didn’t ask that time, but the answer’s the same. My sex drive is mine, and it’s not for sale. Go watch a Katy Perry video, perv.