by Viva Flores
I want to make the writing pretty and swirled, make it glisten like sugar around the hard knot I know is waiting at the center of the spoon. I’m trying to describe her to you in relation to my clumsy desire, not knowing if that will be allowed.
It was August and the windows were open, the curtains parted. I was already in bed when she called and asked if she could visit. In the ten minutes I had before she said she’d be waiting for me on the front steps of my building, I quickly smoothed over my embroidered comforter, poured fresh water in the teapot, and took a very quick shower with the new peppermint body wash.
Ultimately, I have made love to slightly more women than I have loved. It’s not meant as an extravagant statement. I haven’t been loving women very long. As a first-generation daughter of very traditional Mexican parents, I learned to mask any unpatriarchal desires early on in my childhood. In general, that included indulgences of any kind. I can now admit to identifying as bisexual, but for years had learned to repress romantic interest toward women until I just couldn’t anymore. I’ve loved men too. Desires that eventually led to meeting an enigmatic man and having a daughter at age twenty-eight. I resigned to the predestinated hetero-normative role that typical traditional Latino family units expect; my Sapphic desires relegated to online thrills on lonesome Saturday nights. My parents were relieved.
I was twenty-nine when I unexpectedly became a single mother, my suitcases at the door. Twenty-nine-years-old when I met Isabel, her eyes bright like freshwater pearls. But this story isn’t about Isabel, even if at this moment I’m wishing it was a little bit. It’s true that when she left I sobbed like a child. My gay friends assured me it was perfectly normal.
“Ssssh, ssshhh, it’s just your first heartbreak. There will be other girls, other loves,” they said. “We’ve all been through it.”
I remember lying there, blinking back tears in solemn amazement. There was no avoiding adolescence, was there? At whatever age.
A few years had passed since then. A string of lovers, male and female. That night when the phone rang, I was alone.
We had met at my birthday party some months before. She was the girl with the violet cowboy boots who was a friend of a friend of a friend. Since then, we had shared coffee dates, several dinners, texted midnight photos.
I walked down the wooden staircase and opened the front door.
She was drunk.
I didn’t exactly know what to do, then. We embraced, walked upstairs. It was dark in my bedroom. I was nervous and offered her some tea. We made small talk as I poured out the cups and I wondered if she had come over with the intention of having sex. It had been something I had of course thought about for months, but somehow knowing she was drunk set off an instinct that made me wonder if tonight was a bad idea.
We lied down.
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In the morning we had coffee and then she drove away. I made eggs and silently wondered what rape was, analyzed consent. I considered myself a conscious person, or rather; felt I did my best to be as aware of harmful social constructs and their effects on anyone, everyone. I identified as a womanist, had read Walker, Anzaldua, Lorde, Davis. I had an overwhelming feeling that the correct action would have been to have offered the bed, taking the sofa. Instead I felt like our intimacy was somehow tinged with my somehow predatory use, even if she had reciprocated in passion.
My close friends weren’t so convinced.
“Seriously, you’re overthinking this. She was drunk and possibly only called you because she wanted sex. If anything, she used you,” my best friend Lia said, throwing a crumpled receipt at me. “People use alcohol to hook up all the time. If she didn’t mind being drunk, why do you? Alcohol does not equal rape; saying ‘no’ does.”
I held my own still-vivid memories of showing up drunk at lover’s homes, knocking on late-night windows, wanting inside.
Still, something about my actions deeply bothered me. I was older now, a mother, who was very aware that as a queer Mexican and Native-American woman, there was not only the need for safe spaces within the LGBT community, but that there also existed a lack of these spaces as well. Safe spaces aren’t just relegated to community centers or gay-friendly nightclubs, the greats would say. They are moments in time, organically created, within our homes our daily lives.
Acknowledging that alcohol can cloud judgment, I wondered if creating a safe space for a woman I respected and cared for should have meant waiting until she could make a sober decision about sharing her body with me. There are intricacies here, I know. I have spent an evening sharing a bottle or two of wine with someone, evenings when intimacy occurred and was consensual. I think my guilt had more to do with my being sober, and that somehow making me feel like I was in a position of control, though I can’t exactly pinpoint why. As a woman who also dates men and has experienced levels of victimization from men in situations where alcohol was present, maybe the situation triggered my own traumas about alcohol and power. On a larger scale, substance abuse within communities of color is undoubtedly connected with cases of domestic and sexual assault against women. As a womanist, that is hard to ignore.
I know that I want the woman I love, or the woman I make love to, to feel empowered by my presence. Or, at the least, to in no way feel harmed, physically, culturally, or spiritually by it.
In the pale moonlight I had ignored the fact that we were both brown women, and that brown women sometimes became the victims of their own inherited misogyny.
In reality, we had shared so much more than desire.
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Viva Flores began her ambitious writing career at the age of eight when her Valentine’s Day poem was placed at the center of the construction paper heart on the classroom door by her third grade teacher, Mrs. Fairbanks. She is now a grown woman who silently carries flammable stories and poems in nondescript shopping bags.
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It’s the winner of the Lambda Literary Award.
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