by Jean Roberta
First off, I’m sorry I missed my day to post. All I can say in my defense is that since I’m not teaching a class at present, all the days of the week tend to run together, so that a Friday feels much like a Thursday or a Saturday. (Not much of an excuse, I know.)
The posts on friendship have been so good that I find it hard to add anything new.
There is a sentimental little round that I learned in elementary school:
“Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other’s gold.”
This is a noble sentiment, but it rarely seems to work that way until one has gained some maturity, i.e. this is not characteristic of friendships in elementary or secondary school.
Trying to mix sex with friendship seems especially messy, yet friendship (mutual trust and familiarity) seems like a much better basis for any relationship than romance, for lack of a clearer word (a sense that the other person is exotic, mysterious, different from oneself).
Friendship seems to be a theme in my most recent erotic stories that have been accepted for publication. In “Naming It,” which was recently accepted for Best Lesbian Erotica 2015, a gentleman-butch singer-songwriter comforts her old friend, a law student, after her fiancée (with whom she was about to move in) cheats on her in a public place. Law Student lets Old Friend comfort her with sex, but is much more squeamish about “naming” the friendship as something more serious. As she asks, “Who will I turn to if you let me down?” Old Friend swears that she won’t, but heartbroken Law Student (who has all sorts of legal schemes to deal with the ex-fiancee) wants to spend some time thinking about it. She demands that they stay apart for a month before meeting in their favourite coffee shop for negotiations. Old Friend successfully negotiates the waiting period down to a week, and chews her fingernails during that time. When they meet, Law Student sets out “ground rules,” and Old Friend complies. Law Student admits that she has actually loved Old Friend for years, but didn’t want to admit it.
I think of this story as a dark comedy. It has its roots in queer social reality: for people who primarily define themselves as lesbian, gay, or even bisexual, friends and lovers are usually drawn from the same pool of people. The clear division between potential “dates” (members of the “opposite sex,” those glamorous aliens) and “friends” (people like oneself, who can serve as confidants and advisers) that exists in most heterosexual romance stories isn’t as neat or clear for queer characters in fiction, because it isn’t that clear in real life. (The movie When Harry Met Sally is a heterosexual exception.)
In my story “Shelter,” which was recently accepted for Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire, the two women were classmates as children, but they are hardly friends. One has grown up thinking of the other as Bad News, but for some reason, the “good girl” lets the “bad girl” take shelter in her apartment overnight. As the reader comes to know, the narrator has several reasons for doing this, some of which she is reluctant to think about.
I didn’t intend to open my door for anyone at 1:00 a.m., but I couldn’t resist looking through the peep-hole to see who was there.
Cheekbones, long nose, full lips, short dark hair, direct gaze, evil grin. Unmistakably Renee Sharp.
I opened my apartment door before I could stop myself. “You can’t stay here,” I told her, stepping back to let her in.
She accepted my unspoken invitation. “It’s good to see you too, Anna baby. I thought about you while I was away.” A year in prison hadn’t deprived her of energy. What was sex like in the joint? I didn’t want to think about it, but I wanted to know.
The woman was leaner than I remembered, more compact. She could take me down. I knew I should call the police, but I couldn’t do it.
“You don’t have to call the cops, girlfriend. I’m not here to steal your stuff or hurt you in any way. Unless—“ She let her sentence hang in the air while she looked down from my eyes to the thin cotton nightshirt that barely covered my naked breasts. I could feel my nipples jiggling with my breathing, and I buttoned my cardigan from top to bottom. Renee snickered.
“You don’t really want the cops to know I’m here, Anna. No one has to know you ever met me. In the morning I’ll be gone like a wet dream.”
“Renee,” I started.
“Friends call me Razor.” She pulled five chocolate-brown Canadian hundred-dollar bills out of the frayed pocket of her denim jacket and laid them on my hall table.
Oh my god. I still wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted from me, but she obviously thought I was for sale.
I was glad she had shut the door behind her, even though that meant I was trapped in my apartment with a criminal. “Razor-blade,” I said. “Mack the Knife, whatever you’re called now, I don’t need your money. Some of us have legal jobs.”
She grinned. I didn’t touch the stack of bills, and neither did she. “Well, could I get a drink in this fine establishment, Anna baby?”
What do you think are the odds that these two establish a friendship?
I’m sure this subject will continue to intrigue me for years to come.