The only time women are reliably more gentle with other women, strange women, is in a public restroom.
I don’t just mean the abundance of “I’m sorry” or “excuse me” when they
have the nerve to take up appropriate space.
I mean being there for each other when we cry about the ones only invested in the erotics of our sadness and the aesthetics of our tears.
We already know how pretty we are when we’re sad, it’s what people have been telling us all of our lives as if it makes pain easier to swallow. It doesn’t. It does not settle the reflux from the acid in our bellies.
It’s also not a consolation prize.
It’s only the women who know and feel this who can really comfort us in the bathroom.
I fell in love with a 24 year old woman when I was 19. Her eyes were so blue and she always smelled like DKNY Be Delicious, so like a ripe granny smith apple flavored lollipop. Just a note away from natural, but a note away from artificial. The liminal space.
I learned so much about economics from her. For two broke girls with taste, it meant the implication of sex vs. the offer of sex. We would go to bars and older men would give us whatever we wanted because our eyes could imply anything and we never took our clothes off. They did not realize that we were only looking at each other. Perhaps they did realize that but it was enough of a thrill for them to pay our tab.
We’d end the night asleep separately to wake up in the morning and drive to the beach. She’d fall asleep in the sand and I’d keep an eye on her stuff and on her very pale skin to keep her from burning. Like a dutiful wife I’d iron her pants before her shift at the restaurant. I’d be a little sad when she had to work. I wanted to give her more than just making her unwashed pants look presentable. I wanted to give her valuable things and safety and remove the need for her to give herself to men.
I wanted to be 21 so I could bring her the wine she needed to quell the demons so she didn’t have to call the guy who would only amplify her demon’s volume.
She and I never so much as kissed. Once at a party we were in the bathroom together when she was about to be sick and she looked at me and told me that she would want to be with me.
I asked her what she meant, shaking.
“I mean be with you.”
I wrapped my fingers around her silky brown hair as she made her sacrifice to the toilet, rubbing her upper back.
When she came back from that hell, I just pretended like she hadn’t said it. We slept in the same bed together a few weeks later and I made myself so small because I was afraid to touch her.
Women always had to make the first move with me. It was like I felt I could be responsible for re-traumatizing them, all because of a legacy of bad touches hurting our bodies and our hearts.
The only time I can touch them first is when they’re puking or crying.