This story can only be found bundled with the Erotic Novella “Corporate Seduction”
He met her in a writing workshop in the basement of an old church. The other women seemed either angry, fearful, contemptuous, or unapproachable in some way. She alone moved and spoke like what in some other place and time might be called a lady – settling herself into the ridiculously small school chair with a calm, deliberate grace, measuring out her words the same way.
When she read a story about the house she’d grown up in, it was clear to him that this was someone who cherished things. It was generally not permitted, he was noticing, to cherish things. People here wrote the same way they drove their cars, to establish dominance, to force their personalities on the world and mow each other down with their big, angry voices. Like the skinny woman with the spiky black hair who turned on her one night, calling the story she’d just read “sentimental”.
“Thank you,” Angela smiled. Untouched.
“Thank me all you want.” The dark woman wouldn’t let up. “Crap is still crap.”
Despite the evidence of his eyes and ears, he’d still thought she might need some comforting after that, so he spoke to her for the first time after class.
“Don’t worry about her,” he’d said. “She’s just mad because she can’t write like you.”
“Oh, her.” Angela smiled sweetly. “She’s just mad because I wouldn’t fuck her.”
Her laugh, a throaty giggle, made him feel like something was coming untied inside him. Her skin was soft white, her features, small and delicate like a Victorian doll, did not go with the black leather biker jacket with its unfriendly arsenal of zippers and the single earring that dangled over her soft cheek like a little scimitar. He knew that if the point pressed too hard there would be a single drop of blood that would look almost black against that white cheek.
They began going out for drinks after every workshop, to the dark little bars she knew on the scrambled downtown streets he still had trouble figuring out. Walking past all the lighted windows with people eating and drinking and talking inside, he used to imagine he was being shown a series of beautifully lighted tableaux he could make his own if he wanted to. Now he was part of one of those couples in one of those lighted windows, and he thought of the young man or woman outside, newly arrived in the city, walking by and looking in – what would they see? A man, still young, leaning across a booth toward an ageless-looking woman in flowered silks and black leather, hanging onto her every word, struggling to make his own equal to hers.
When she talked about fucking it confused him. Women fucking women. He did not understand how that was supposed to work. Did they use something? Angela laughed. “I thought that’s what all men liked to see – two women together.”
He had seen it, of course, in magazines and videos, but most of it did not move him and he’d fast-forward through those scenes to get to something he could recognize.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s kind of like watching a woman make love to a mirror.”
“So,” she said. “One woman is just like any other woman?”
“No,” he said, quickly, “I mean – I’m talking about that stuff in magazines and films. You know.”
“So,” she said. “You need to see a man.”
“Sure.” Then, quickly, “With a woman.”
“Not by himself?”
He realized he’d never seen that, and he said so. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.”
“Of course you haven’t,” she said, “You see plenty of women by themselves, but never men, because the men who make those films think straight men don’t want to see that. They don’t even care if a woman might want to see it.”
“What about you?” he said. “Would you like to see it?” He was drunk now, by God.
“Honey, please.” She smiled, reaching into her purse. “I’ve seen it.”
While she talked he was aware of her digging around in her purse. Cigarettes, he thought, until he saw smoke from the one she already had burning in the ashtray. He glanced back down in time to see her withdraw the hypodermic needle from her soft white forearm and slip it discreetly inside the slim, cream-colored plastic case and close it with a pop.
“So,” she said, quietly. “Does this bother you?”
“No. I mean – why should it?” He didn’t think his face showed any alarm but when he looked into her eyes he knew he was caught.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Why should it?” He couldn’t tell if she was angry with him, then she smiled her sweet smile again and he wondered if what she’d just put in her arm was already working on her. “It does bother you.”
“No.” He couldn’t get rid of the lie – he’d been raised to lie where other people’s feelings were concerned. “It’s just – I guess I’m just not used to seeing that.”
“You will be,” she said, taking a sip of her martini. He felt a conspiratorial energy surge across the space between them.
“I don’t think I could ever do that. Not with a needle, anyway.” More than anything, he didn’t want her to think that he was afraid of it – or of her. He leaned across the table and half-whispered, “Can you toot it?”
She stared at him over the rim of her glass, eyes wide and unbelieving. “Toot it?”