Monday, June 21, 2010

Soul Exposure

Writers create characters. Sometimes those characters are queer. Depicting them honestly is the writer’s job. Maybe my long association with the GLBT community makes it easier for me to understand the difference between queer sex a nominally straight person having sex with someone of the same gender, but once the story is in front of a reader, my “qualifications” don’t mean a damn thing. Reader perception is everything.

The first story I sold under the pen name Jay Lygon was Green Mountain Boys. Childhood friends from a small Vermont town spend their last summer day together before one joins the military and the other goes off to college. They’re really childhood sweethearts, but don’t act on it until they’re faced with their final hour together.

Green Mountain Boys (Inside Him, edited by Joel Tan) by Jay Lygon

A smile quirked at the corner of his mouth. He had nice lips. Girls at our high school used to talk about Matt’s mouth, how they knew he had to be a great kisser because of how full his lips were. I always thought his eyes were his best feature.

Matt cocked his head to the side. Locks of hair swept across his face, so he brushed them back. He really had nice eyes. Bedroom eyes. I gulped.

“What’s up, Kurt?”

Until then, I almost had it under control, but I blurted out, “I thought you were coming with me.” I was all shaky inside. Nothing felt real.

“I forgot that Mom mentioned something about a going away party tonight. You know how excited she is that I enlisted. Christ, they probably have cake and ice cream. Do you want --?”

“To come over?” I looked down the lane. Lights glowed from every window of the two-story bed and breakfast. From that distance, I could still make out the gingerbread trim and the white wicker rockers on the long front porch. Tea lights marked the paths through the small herb garden and along the front of the inn.
“No. I’m going home.” That was a shitty way to say goodbye, but there was no way I’d sit there eating cake while Matt’s mom gave me sideways glances, as if she expected me to swipe her good silver.

“Wait a minute. I gotta show you something.” Matt took his time looking up and down the road. “Come on,” he shoved at me until I followed him up the rise and around a bend.

He put his hands on my shoulders first, but moved them to my face. Somewhere between, the touch became a light kiss. Then he stopped. “You gonna hit me?”

I couldn’t even breathe.

“Say something, Kurt.” He looked worried.

Stunned, it took a couple seconds for me to react. I was so relieved that it wasn’t just me. He felt it too.

There was no way we were going to leave it at that little kiss. One kiss meant nothing. I lunged for his mouth. His lips were chapped, but the rough felt good. He turned his head and spit out his gum. That time, we parted lips and tasted tongues. Maybe it was just a kiss, but I felt it everywhere in my body. My heart tried to pound through my chest, and it felt as if every nerve tingled as my dick swelled.“Sweet Jesus, Matt.” I shook all over.

“Don’t you dare get religion on me tonight.”

Matt took my hand and pulled me after him into the woods. We only had moonlight and stars, but it was enough to see our way around the thin white trunks of a stand of beech trees. A firefly zoomed ahead of us, flickering, until I lost sight of it.

Looking back, I’m amazed that I haven’t written more lesbian stories. I think I only have two published, and one is a ghost story with sensual elements, but I wouldn’t call it erotica. So Don’t Fuck With Country Girls is, I suppose, my first published lesbian erotica story.

Don’t Fuck With Country Girls (Lambda Literary finalist anthology Where the Girls Are, edited by DL King) by Kathleen Bradean

My clit is fat and sassy. She peeks out between my lips to lick my panties as I walk up the stairs to the metro station. She knows I’m taking her to you.

People stream out of the station and head to their cars. Few people go into the city this time of day. I can’t understand that. Why desert it just as things are getting interesting? They run to rural Connecticut; I get the hell out.

I close my eyes and count the stations. Then I open them and check the picture of you I printed out. Close cropped blonde hair, an easy smile. You look like the type who laughs in bed. The picture is strangely long and thin though, as if you cropped someone out. Peering closely, I see a disembodied hand on your shoulder. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s no one. My clit tingles and drags my mind back on track. You have nice legs. I can believe it when you say you bicycle everywhere in the city.

The trees outside the train give way to graveyards that seem to go on forever. I’m closer to you. I want to slip my hand into my panties and give my clit one friendly squeeze, but pure intentions have a way of knuckling under my fingertips, so I don’t.

By the time graffiti-covered steel girders surround the train, the wet spot on my panties is slick, and I’m crossing and uncrossing my ankles in frustration. At the station, I push past the people trying to board and take the steps two at a time to the tracks below.

The late summer swelter is trapped underground with nowhere to go. Thermals rise from between my legs and bring the ocean flower scent to my nose while my clit buzzes like a drowsy bee. I clench my thighs closer together and squirm until it feels too good. At the next station, I give up my seat and cling to the overhead bar. The sharp scent of girl sweat makes me close my eyes, as if that will block out the other human smells around me.

The sun is set when I reach the right station. It’s packed, but with the kind of people who never leave the city. I’m swept up the stairs along with them. Laughing to myself, I think of salmon on a spawning run, and then call myself a dork. On the street, my pace keeps up with everyone for a couple yards but slows until I’m standing still, searching for street signs.

You sent good instructions, but they don’t make sense until I turn back and retrace my steps to the right door. The slim bouncer is as impatient as I am. We fumble as we thrust ID and hand stamp between us. Then I’m inside, and I’m frozen, because I don’t want to be caught checking your picture again. I already feel out of place enough. Everyone else wears a polished city patina on their skins. My shoulders slump a little.

If I weren’t there to meet you, I’d work it harder with the girl behind the bar. Her Botticelli hair is slowly escaping the clip that tries to hold it down. Freckles are thick across her nose and continue down into the vee neck of her blue polo shirt. She’s flirty, but I suppose all bartenders are, so I don’t take it personal. Besides, I’m there to meet you, not her.

It’s almost an hour before you come in. My mood has gone through the steps. Denial: Maybe I misunderstood what time you meant. Anger: No I didn’t. Where the fuck are you? Bargaining: You have exactly twelve minutes to show your damn face. Depression: You’re here but you’re hiding from me because I’m not what you wanted. By the time you walk in the door, I’m at Acceptance: Whatever, bitch.

Even though our eyes meet and recognition is plain on your face, you don’t come directly to me. You walk around like some goddamn hostess, leaning over tables and squeezing women’s shoulders as you talk to them.

Your gaze flicks to me, but more often it goes to the slim brunette sitting across the room with two other women. That table you ignore.

Yeah, your legs are great and you’re the type that turns me on, but you’re pissing me off too. My clit retreats, sullen, to stew in her own juices.


Erotica writers tend to mine their fantasies for story material, but even we have personal spaces we don’t often show to the world. Challenger Deep is the closest I’ve ever come to writing myself. It’s one of those stories that meant a lot to me to write, but I cringe at the idea of other people reading it. It’s almost too personal.

A bisexual transgendered bio-woman goes to Guam to spread her father’s ashes over the Challenger Deep trench. She’s been struggling with her need to transition to male. Out on the open ocean, where’s there’s nothing to hide behind, she bares her soul a stranger she’s sure she’ll never meet again.He pleads with her to let her past go and move forward, even though he’s trapped in his regrets.

Challenger Deep (Cream, edited by Lisabet Sarai) by Kathleen Bradean

There were large padded captain’s chairs at the back of his boat for fishers, but I settled onto the worn red cushion under the sun shade and propped my feet on a cooler. I sipped from a cold beer. “Your brother told me that you go out to the Mariana Trench a lot. If there’s nothing there to see, as everyone keeps telling me, why do you go?” I asked.

Tano stared at the water. Damn, pissed him off, and I wanted to sweet-talk him into a little bump and grind. He was just my type-- a jock. It was going to be a very long day if he wasn’t going to talk.

Tano did talk though. His eyes focused past me as if he were remembering a distant, hazy past. ”About three years ago, I was unhappy. I was in love. There was a man... He consumed my heart and soul. I lived for the sight of him. On the day he married a woman, I sailed to the edge of the trench. I hung over the railing, staring into the deep, wondering if I had the balls to jump. Instead, my tears fell. Maybe, they are still falling.”

“The trench is deep,” I agreed. “Seven miles from the surface to the bottom of the Challenger Deep-- the lowest spot along the trench. Pop told me that you could toss Mount Everest down it and still have a mile of water left.” I almost touched the cap, but saw Tano’s teasing smile and held onto my beer instead.

“Big enough to hold all the sorrow in the world.”

Tano leaned far over the side of the boat. It was body poetry, the arc of his lean brown torso, the grip of his long toes on the railing of the boat, the way his hand slapped against the rising waves.

After he swung back onto the deck, he dragged wet fingers across my lips. I licked the drops away.

“Tastes like tears, doesn’t it,” he asked softly.

Our bodies touched.

We stayed there, pressed together, staring down into the water as if it held answers.

“Pop once told me that the human body is mostly seawater.”

Tano smiled slyly. “Does that mean we’re mostly sorrow?”

It was my turn to stare off at the intensely blue water. I ran my fingertips over the lumpy white A on the front of my cap. “Some of us.”


I had to move under the faded red sun shade to stay in the short shadows. Noon already.

He watched me out of the corner of his eye. “It’s a strange thing to be doing, burying your father. Usually the son does that, around here.”

I peeled the label off my beer bottle with my fingernails, trying, as usual, to take it off in one piece. Another superstition. I wasn’t even sure what curse a whole label blocked.

What the hell, he came out to me.

“I’m not a woman. I mean, not inside. Just on the surface.” I got the big label off and worked on the smaller one at the neck of the brown bottle. “I was supposed to be a boy. I have two older sisters. They’re girls.”

I knew that sounded stupid. I set aside my beer.

“I mean, they’re girly-girls. Real girls. Inside and out. Not me. See, everyone knows if the two older kids are the same sex, the third child is the last try for the other. Mom even told me that the only name they had picked out was Eric. In the hospital, they slapped the A on the end to make me Erica.”

I pulled off my hat. I worked my hands around it in an unending circle while I spoke to the inside of the cap. “I would have made a great boy. I hung around Pop and helped him work on the cars. I was the only one who went to baseball games with him. We both liked gingersnaps and root beer.” As if that described the bond we shared that excluded my Mom and sisters. I was Pop’s son in every way but the one that mattered to me.

Tano asked, “Do you like girls?”

I gave him that frank look that I learned in bars, the one that got men to follow me to dark corners. “The individual person matters more than the gender. Men, I understand. Women are like a separate tribe with weird rituals and a different language. I don’t get women, but I like making love to them. I like men too. More.”

“You like everyone except you.” He sipped from his beer. “I only like men.”


Wave. Trough. White foam. In the distance, the water was unrelenting blue, but the crest curling off the bow of the boat was green and gray. Nothing was different, yet primal instinct told me that I was in danger.

Intense pressure squeezed my chest as if I dove into the depths. “What is it?”

He answered in a whisper, “We’re over the trench.” He cut the engines. Even the waves were hushed, as if we’d stepped inside a great cathedral.

The swells knocked the boat.

“Is it always like this?”

He nodded. His pale eyes were as wide as mine. It didn’t seem possible, but we could feel it, the void below us. I stared up at the azure sky, afraid that if I looked down, like a cartoon character, I’d fall.

I didn’t think I believed in such things, but I swore I felt the immense presence of god.

I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I lurched to my backpack and pulled out the box of Pop’s ashes.

“Maybe you shouldn’t drop your father over the side. Maybe you should throw in your sorrow, like I did. Let it sink.”

“It’s not that easy.”

Tano snatched my A’s cap off my head. He tossed it onto the waves like a Frisbee.

“Hey!” I was too afraid to jump in after it even though I was a great swimmer.

That much water could drown you, I thought. The weight of it would drag you under the surface. You’d never see the sun again.

My hat bobbed on top of a far wave, disappeared on the rolling surface, reappeared even further away.

“That was the A at the end of your name. Now, you are Eric.”

My mouth open and shut like a hooked fish.

“Your life as a man has begun.”

He was an idiot. He didn’t understand. “It isn’t that easy. It can’t be that easy.”

“But what if it is? That hat was a gris-gris, a magic charm. Throw it away, and throw away the A that made you into a girl.”

Anger welled up behind my eyes.

Tano pleaded with me. “Believe just enough to make it real. Go back to shore as a man. You don’t know when to being? Begin now! Right now! Because the now is the only time you ever really have.”

My throat was too tight to breathe.

“I let my moment pass. I’m stuck in a now that never ends, the man I want living with someone else. Before that happened, I should have acted,” Tano told me, and I saw tears in the corners of his eyes. “Don’t waste your now, your chance.”

The hat slowly absorbed water, growing darker. The big white A on the front sank lower as it absorbed tears. When it was full of them, it fell below the surface. Feeling as if I were drowning, I gasped in salt air.

“You can only tread water so long before the misery will pull you under. It’s not sink or swim. It’s sink or fly.”

The hat was gone. Could I cast off my outer self as easily as he cast away my hat? I inhaled again and relaxed my fists.

“I only like men,” Tano reminded me.

He came to me, wrapping his arms around my waist. I felt his dick against my thigh. He kissed me, and it was like kissing the sea. I tasted the salt on his mouth and felt the tug of his chapped skin over my smooth lips. His skin was hot from the sun.


I was Eric. Kissed, suddenly I was a prince.



  1. Ah Kathleen!

    Two of my all-time favorite stories--by anyone! It's like a walk down memory lane.

    But I haven't read "Green Mountain Boys". And obviously I should.

    Thank you.


  2. *bows* I am in shock and awe. Those excerpts were fabulous. Now I have to go read everything else you've done.

    Lotsa punch in your words. Great job!


  3. Dena - What a very nice compliment. Thank you.

    Lisabet - Thanks!

  4. Kathleen,

    Cool writing, as always. Well, hot writing. Well...

    You know what I mean. Great post.


  5. God, "Challenger Deep" amazes me every time I read it. And you know I loved "Country Girls." two perfect examples while I will always be your fan girl!


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