KC dumped me in the rain, as though she wanted to wash me out of her life. Or maybe she did it then because she didn’t want to see me cry, as if I would. Maybe she had some blood memory of her ancestors leaving their nearest and dearest in the Scottish mist as they boarded a ship bound for Canada. I had seen it coming, of course. KC had been on the rebound when she besieged me in the bar six months before after too many beers. In some sense, our whole relationship had been a long hangover on her side, while I had just been hanging on. Our soggy, muddy ending by the Victoria Street bridge was very predictable. Knowing this didn’t make it easier to take.
“You know we don’t have much in common, Jo,” she told me diplomatically: no accusations or self-blame. “It wouldn’t have worked.” I choked back all the desperate words that sprang into my mind: Relationships aren’t just a matter of fate! You have to make them work! How can you say we have nothing in common? Have you forgotten my clit already? And my hungry cunt and my sensitive breasts and my eager fingers? They haven’t forgotten you! But I didn’t say any of this to her in the rain, in the mud, under a vast grey prairie sky. “If you don’t want to see me anymore,” I muttered, “then it can’t work. If you want your freedom, I won’t argue. It can’t work if it’s not mutual.”
KC’s eyes, which could pass for blue on good days, now looked as grey as the sky, and she couldn’t look at me. “We had a good time while it lasted, didn’t we?” she pleaded, fighting off her sense of guilt. “I’ll see you around, Jo.” In a small lesbian community, that was guaranteed, for better or worse. “We could have lunch sometime.”
I couldn’t resist a parting shot. “You’re interested in someone else, aren’t you?”
Her face gave her away. “Coral and I sort of want to get together.” This meant she was already courting Coral with flowers, perfume, coy love notes and invitations to dinner, movies, concerts, and the gay bar. Trying to be fair, I admitted to myself that KC had a talent for courtship, although she always floundered in the follow-up.
I was about to walk away, my face turned toward the rain so that it stung just enough, when KC threw her arms around me and pulled me to her with a strength born of guilt. That strength tempted me more than I wanted her to know. I like to think I’m not a weak woman, but rejection takes its toll. Against my common sense, I sighed and relaxed into her deceptively firm hug. She searched for my wet lips with hers, and gave me a kiss filled with the relief of knowing that her freedom had already been granted. I kissed back like an obsessed follower of lost causes. To complete the shame, tears filled my eyes and trembled in my lower lids, about to spill over.
She pulled away from me in the nick of time. “What are you doing this afternoon?” she asked as if my life still interested her. My mind shrieked a menu of answers: Slash my wrists and write your name on my walls in blood! Ask around to find out where I can get a machine gun! And never mind why. Dig out all the old leather clothes I own and get ready to go to the bar so I can start a fight with a total stranger. Pick worms off the pavement and eat them with a flourish in front of a downtown department store. Instead I answered, “I have errands to do,” keeping it vague, aiming for a contemptuous monotone.
KC was giving me that patronizing look I sometimes get from other women in their thirties who think I’m cute because I look younger than they do: small and girlish. “I didn’t want to hurt you,” she crooned into my hair, tenderly lifting wet black strands off my face. “You probably shouldn’t be alone today, honey,” she had the gall to advise me. “Why don’t you go see Ted? You haven’t seen her for a while and she’d probably like to go for coffee. You two always have things to talk about.”
I shivered slightly as an image of our friend Theodora sprang into my mind. I told myself this was caused by being drenched in cool rain after being dumped. KC’s comment sounded like further evidence of how wrong she was about so many things, especially everything to do with me.
KC and all the shallow women we both knew seemed to think that Ted and I were friends. They saw only the obvious: I was rarely at a loss for words and Ted seemed like the kind of dyke who would never lose her cool, even in a natural disaster or the front lines of war. When we met, our conversations were usually witty and daring enough to entertain our audience, and we both liked to perform for a familiar crowd. I wondered if any of our friends had the faintest clue that I really didn’t know Ted very well and wasn’t sure if she would ever let me get past her public mask. Or vice versa.
“KC, don’t tell me what to do,” I told her. “I have a lot to do today. I’ll see Ted when I see her.”
I realized that I didn’t have KC’s attention when I noticed her looking over my shoulder in the direction Ted would come from if she were driving toward us from her apartment. The significance of this jumped into my stomach like a baby frog from the river. “Did you ask her to meet us?” I demanded.
KC reached for me, and I moved quickly out of her space. “At Java’s across the street,” she confessed. She looked at her watch. “I wanted to talk to you out here first, where we could be alone. We should go. I said we’d be there ten minutes ago.”
“You can meet her,” I instructed, deadpan with rage. “I have things to do. I’ll see you later.” I hoped my emphasis on the last word was unmistakable. I turned my back on the woman I hoped to forget as soon as possible and began walking into the rain toward my future as a lone wolf in the uncaring human pack.
Ted approached me head-on, hands in her slick vinyl jacket. Her short, assertive brown hair, almost a crew-cut, looked unaffected by the rain that was running down my neck and chilling my nipples to hard points. “Hey, where you going?” she asked with rough sympathy. “I looked for you in Java’s but you weren’t there.” The situation was getting unbearable. “Josephine, don’t jam out on us. I promised KC I’d meet her for coffee because she said you’d be there.” Hold on tight, I told my temper. Some dykes are always cool, and I could be one of them.
The self-talk didn’t work. “KC doesn’t fuckin’ make my dates!” I yelled hysterically into Ted’s faintly-twitching face, having to look up to do this. I took a deep breath, realizing that I had just made a fool of myself and probably couldn’t undo the damage. “Look, Ted, I’m sorry and I’d like to see you some other time, but not now. I never agreed to this. I have things to do.” KC stood discreetly to the side, looking as uncomfortable as a wet cat.
The sarcastic lift of Ted’s thin, beautifully arched eyebrows hurt me like the sting of an insect, right in my heart. Somehow her pale olive skin color enhanced the expressiveness of her features. “So you have things to do in the rain? Did you know the weather office has put out a hail warning? In about an hour, hailstones like golf balls are going to be bouncing off your head. Were you planning to go for a long walk in that?”