by Sophia Metcalf
location: brooklyn, ny
you sit on my lap at a party. i keep looking at you. i guess i can’t really help but look at you, because you have made yourself the foreground of anything else i might try and look at. but i don’t really mind, because mostly, i’m looking at you. your hair is very long and tawny, and you have crooked teeth. your lips look soft. you smell like cigarettes and your potentially-soft lips are purple from the wine.
you might read this. we have friends in common. i’ve thought a lot about how to do our little thing justice because it wasn’t much. but i think about you a lot. i wish it could have been more, i guess. if you are reading this, you can stop after this paragraph, save me the embarrassment. i’m sorry i wrote you that email.
the party was at the house of a mutual, male friend. i was sleeping with said male friend. it was non-exclusive in language but not really in practice. one of those summer romances that becomes all-consuming because neither of you has much to do other than fuck around and fall in love. the party was toward the end of my time in new york. i’d be leaving for california in a couple days to start graduate school. “my mom lives in san diego,” you told me. you were going to see a concert out there— joan baez? you told me to keep in touch, to try to get tickets. you were one of those people it was easy to meet and an hour later to promise, to promise i would get joan baez tickets too and drive two hours to san diego. to see you, of course. although i do love joan baez.
california. orange county. the least queer place i have lived since i moved away from home at 18. no cafes with hot baristas, the sides of their heads shaved, their bangs across their foreheads sharp yet jagged like a picasso painting. no dyke bars, no casual glances on the street in recognition. no stick and poke tattoos that their friend did at a party. no seeing someone from across a dance floor. no sex in the women’s bathroom stalls. (not that i’ve done that anyway. but a girl can dream.)
my wires felt crossed. i’d be at a bar, and women would grab me, touch my newly short hair, tell me how much they liked my look, run their hands over its buzz. they’d want to dance with me, grind on me. ask me questions. i’d ask them questions. then they’d ask me if i noticed any cute guys i wanted to get with. or they’d ask if me and my gay male friend were together. or they’d throw up in the bathroom. or they’d kiss me, deep and hard—“she’s only gay when she’s drunk,” the other friend would shout over the noise of the bar.
i can, and have, passed in straight spaces. i’ve had deep and loving relationships with men. i don’t mind dating men. but i think i didn’t mind it when i knew i had the option to date women and nb folx, too. i’d never felt comfortable picking up men in bars.
i couldn’t make it to the concert. i was performing the same weekend, and to be honest, i was hung up on an old boyfriend, feeling heartbroken and alone. i didn’t think it would be fair to bring that to you. a badly wrapped gift.
why is it that every queer woman seems to be hung up on a man? is that just my experience of queerness? is everyone hung up on someone, regardless of gender?
home for christmas. our mutual male friend and i take a cab from his place where i am staying for a few weeks before i head to my family in new jersey. he had asked you if i could come along. we bring a lot of wine, and there is food, and two other friends who i don’t remember the names of now, and you’ve set up a lovely tiny christmas dining table in the bedroom of your studio apartment in crown heights. we hug in that way that i think only queer women hug each other—three points of contact, arms, chests, pelvis, and a little too long. the friend knows that i am into you. he’s okay with it, he’s cool with my queerness in a non-creepy, non-“i’d love to watch you fuck another lady” way.
you made this incredible dessert. dark chocolate and salted caramel. you gave me the recipe; i’ve made it often. we opened a fourth bottle of wine. i think we were playing cards or something—the three boys and you and i.
i remember lots of little touches, playing literal footsie. you went into the kitchen to grab something and i followed you. this is a brooklyn, studio-apartment kitchen, though, so really, that and the wine and the hug and the months without you or queer women or queerness in any real, sexual, heated way, queerness in any way at all that wasn’t academic, all that combined with the wine and the food and the longed for eastern winter and your lovely studio apartment and your laugh and you—all that combined meant there wasn’t any way i couldn’t kiss you. or you kiss me. or both. or everything all at once. and your hand was in my jeans, and i was holding you and kissing your crooked teeth and wine lips and full of heat and light and a boy walked in. to find something. and found us. pulled away suddenly and apologetically.
i think it happened again, a couple more times. i was trying to negotiate in between kitchen trysts with my male lover, who i’d been planning on staying with that night. would you be down for a threesome? he was. one of the other boys was clearly going to be staying the night too, on your bed or your couch i couldn’t tell. foursome? his brow furrowed. with who? he typed back on the note on my iphone. well…
we kissed goodbye i think. i’d like to think we did. he and i ubered back to his place in bushwick.
sent during the party, while you were reading a piece of a paper you’d written
subject line: you’re hot
i’m honestly just too distracted by your intelligence and incredible critical thought to write anything remotely comprehensive??? you’re fucking incredible????
liked the bit about dreamers. felt like the part about refugee stories was a little long and hard to keep track of. then again, drunk.
i hope i’ll see you again before you leave.
free tomorrow evening after 6, and wednesday evening after 5. free saturday all day.
that’s totally fine. thanks for letting me know.