Willow Lake Press
 *
LIPSTICK
by Lynn Hernandez © 1998
Lipstick

Lipstick is not an item you will find in my purse. That is if I carried or even owned one.

This year the contest judges are giving higher scores to women who have a more "feminine" look which includes makeup. Thatís a laugh. In this gym you couldnít find enough estrogen to fill a thimble.

Iím relatively small for a bodybuilder, about five foot seven at one hundred thirty-five pounds. The odds of my placing in the competition are going to be favorable. Some of the other women are much bigger.

Years of anabolic steroids and equally heavy doses of sunshine will make it tough for them to look like a dainty girl. Using steroids is a personal choice, but a good dark tan is essential for displaying muscle definition. I never needed the steroids and I have never had a problem with being "tan."

When I was a girl Rita, my mom, always told me to be proud of my "tan" skin. To me all my playmates looked the same and I was different. As teenagers my friends spent hours baking in the hot afternoon summer sun. I had to stay in the shade of a beach umbrella just to stay the same shade as them and not get any darker.

Rita would say, "You just wait till your little white friends get old. They will look like burnt tortillas."

She was encouraging. "You be proud like your Grand Mumah. She give you the soft Spanish skin like she gave to me. See, look." She held up my arm and stoked her slim, pale fingers across my skin. "Feel how soft." She was right.

"Then why am I so dark?" I complained.

"Ahh! My little Chaquita I will explain again..."

When I was little my mother was quite taken by the banana company that had the lady with the fruit covered head. She nick-named me after a banana for some reason I will never know and often called me "Chaquita." Maybe the banana lady's accent reminded her of home. I always rolled my eyes.

"Your dark skin is that of royal descent. It is the proud Yacchi blood of your Daddyís Grandfather that is also running through your veins. He was a great warrior unlike any other. A leader. Someday you will know and be as proud as your poppa."

I was a kid. All I knew was that I was different. What I didnít know, and found out later, was how different.

The bodybuilding gym is handing out a flyer with the towels that says there will be a "beauty seminar" this evening. The competition sponsors have hired a consulting firm to teach us how to put on makeup and fix our hair.

Whoever places in the finals will provide a lot of publicity for themselves and for the gym where they work out. My gym encouraged, or rather, demanded that we attend. They were hoping that a little edge might do some good.

Iíll bet.

I have always kept my thoughts about looking different to myself. Only Rita knew of my anxiety. She was the only one I told. The distance between myself and the other girls I knew grew as I grew and then separated in high school. Somehow I didnít fit. Not my classes. Not my dresses.

Toward the end of my tenth year in school I was in the school courtyard at lunch time. The school was so overcrowded with students we had to eat lunch in shifts. I felt a little queasy as I sat in the shade, reading, when I started getting my cramps. We still had fifteen minutes till the end of lunch, but I didnít think I could wait that long.

At the main courtyard entrance a pair of double doors stood open to the late March breeze. Seated in an orange plastic chair with his legs crossed at the knee was a slim, pale skinned, boy. He was guarding the door.

"No hall pass, no admittance," he said sternly.

"But you donít understand," I said in a half bent over position. "Iíve got to go in the building now!" I saw a light come into his eyes and a sweet smile come to his full lips.

"Oh, I get it. You have to goooo into the building." He snickered a little, his head bobbing with mirth. "I know. I have sisters. O.K., go on." He gestured with his thumb down the hall.

He called after me, "Be careful because..."

From behind the boy appeared the vice principal in charge of discipline. She rounded the chair and stood in front of the boy. With hands on her hips she glared down the hall at me for a moment and returned her focus to the little boy who sat in front of her. I stepped into the side hallway that led to the bathrooms and hid. I could hear the vice principle.

"Whatís going on here, Phillips," she said.

With one eye I carefully peered around the corned and down the hall to the breezeway doors. The vice principal hovered over the cringing boy like a angry bear. I could not hear her words clearly, but they were harsh and berating.

How I wished I could storm at her and beat her senseless for harming my new little friend. It was wrong the way she talked to him. I wanted to get even, but I was still a child, weak and afraid. Another cramp hit me and I turned to continue my journey to the ladies room. I never saw that boy at school again.

This bodybuilding gym has some great showers. I let the hot water beat on my sore neck muscles. I can see through a gap formed by the two shower curtains of my stall. Secretly I watch the other women.

Without clothes they are amazing. Round biceps fitted into square deltoids raising and lowering the barbell callused hands of laughing cat-like animals. Walking with their shoulders instead of their hips, talking with their chins instead of their eyes they remind me of myself. And nothing like the kind of woman I would want to be with.

A shout from the towel room announces that the femininity consulting firm has arrived. We are to go across the street to the hotelís main convention room. Moans and slammed lockers come as a reply. I step out of the shower, and towel off water as I walk to my locker. I pass two huge contenders in the midst of an argument.

"You can just suck my dick, you bitch!" one says to the other while poking her in the chest with her finger.

The other grabs the offending finger and give it a quick twist causing her opponent to back off. With her hurt finger cradled to her muscular breasts she elbow slams an open locker door. They pick up their gear and head to the female training seminar.

The hotel doors whoosh open and I am walking on cream colored imported marble. My gym shoes squeak at each darkly veined rich tile. A sign points athletes to the hotelís grand ballroom. On either side of the ballroomís doors are lush, thick leafed, flowering plants. The women enter in ones and twos. Itís like a prom for girls that have more muscles than dates.

Entering alone I recognize and nod my head to many of the women competitors. Some say a loud "howdy" and motion for me to join them. I wave them off. They shrug their shoulders and return to the female lessons.

It looks like all the gyms in the city have representatives here. I start moving from table to table. I would like to pick up and try some of the samples, but Iím embarrassed at how little I know about this and afraid of how awkward I will look with these girl-things. I have no idea what to do.

Across the crowded room I see a table where no one else is standing; a safe place to explore. I walk over to it. With my gym bag dangling heavily from by shoulder I pick up a gold metal lipstick.

I take off the cap and look down into the dark recess. I turn the cylinderís base and a dark pink shaft eases itís way out of the tube. I carefully touch it. The stiff material has a soft, smooth feel. I smell my fingertips. There is a light, musky aroma like a perfume. I tap thumb and fingers together. Itís a little sticky.

I turn the cylinderís base and the blunt point retracts. I try to get the lipstick cap back in place when my gym bag slips from my shoulder and down onto the crook of my arm. I loose my grip on the metal tube. Both lipstick and cap clatter on the wood parquet floor, rolling beneath the banquet table.

I crouch down on my knees and sweep my hand under the white, ruffled table skirt. I move closer straining. In frustration I grab in all directions. My hand comes to rest around a slim ankle.

"May I help you?" comes a voice with a slight Southern lilt.

I look up. She has blond hair, pale white skin, dark blue eyes and a sexy voice like a late night disc jockey. She smiles, pauses and then frowns. And then smiles again. She seems not sure of the situation. I get off my knees and stand up.

"Hi!" I say.

She extends her hand, palm and fingers pointing down. "Hello to you. My name is Robin. How may I help you today?"

I shake her hand, maybe a little too roughly. She is about my height. She is wearing a knee length pink dress. There are large pink cloth covered buttons in two rows down the front. Her small trim vest is the same color as her white high heel pump style shoes. Pearl earrings match her necklace. Her lips are full and glossy. Her teeth were straight and white and surrounded by a gentle smile. I think maybe she has had her nose fixed or something. She is beautiful.

"Iím competing in the bodybuilding contest," I say. "The gym wants us to figure out what to do with our makeup and hair, you know?"

I think to myself, "Oh, that sounds so dumb coming out of my mouth. Why else would I be here?"

"I mean," I stumble with my words, "Could you give me some tips on looking like a lady. You sure look like one."

"Oh shit," I say to myself, my mind is racing, "What am I saying. That sounds so stupid! Sheíll think Iím an idiot!"

"Well, now donít you be embarrassed," she says cheerfully. "Come over here and sit down and weíll have a little girl-talk, just you and me."

She bends slightly at the knees and pats the tall salon style, cushioned chair seat with her finely manicured hands. Her finger nails are pink. I drop my gym bag next to the chair and sit down. My face is lit from all angles by the small round light bulbs. In the mirror in from of me is my face.

After graduating from high school I didnít have much to do. I worked in the fields, but nothing in the way of a "career" was interesting to me. I wasnít the kind of person who got too much out of high school books so there was a good chance I wouldnít get much out of college books either. I have read some other books though, just not school books. When I read I likes stories about adventure and sailing ships and mercenaries hired to kill dictators. So I joined the Marines.

"You were always a girl that liked to get into the action," Rita said. She was not surprised when I gave her the news. "You will make me and your poppa very proud."

Rita cried when I boarded the train to boot camp the same way she cried when she mentioned my father; a small tear and a catch in her throat.

Before disappearing into the coach I took a final look. She seemed so small and defenseless standing there without my father. I didnít know if I could leave her alone. She then patted a tissue to her moist eyes and pointed sternly at the front of the train. Or maybe she pointed into the future. I tipped my chin up quickly to say good-bye and mounted the last steps.

I remember the time I came home on leave from my first camp posting. Rita sat me in a chair at the burreled maple bedroom vanity my father had given her when they were married. It had been in his family even before they moved north to the U.S. The vanity mirror was old and missing some of the silver backing around the edges. My face was lit by a goose-neck lamp on one side and by the late autumnís afternoon light filtering through her sheer window curtains.

Rita stood behind me and cupped my dark face in her pale Spanish hands. "Such a lovely face you have," she said. "All the boys from town have been asking about you."

"What? To play football?" I asked.

"Oh, you," she said and took a light, loving swat at my head. I laughed at her feigned anger. Her hand came to rest on my hair and she stoked softly.

"I thought they cut off all your hair in the Marines?"

"No, Rita," I said. "Thatís just the guys. I put my hair in a bun and wear a cap."

"Call me Mom," she said.

"All right... Mom," I replied and sighed.

She kissed me on the head. "I wish your father could see you now. He would be such a proud poppa. Wait," she said, "I have something to give you. Un momento. Iíll be right back."

I looked at myself in the mirror as my mother left the room. Movement caught the corner of my eye. Reflected over my shoulder I saw her lean for a moment at the door, holding her side. I didnít look back or say anything. She was proud like my father and would have hated for me to see her that way. The reflection behind me showed me what was to come. Before boot camp it was only a twinge in her side. Now, eight months later, it was more. We both knew. We both remained silent.

"Here," she said as she entered her bedroom. Her composure was that of whimsy and happiness. I almost started crying then.

"This is a picture of your father and me the first year of our marriage. I want you to have it." I could not look up at her so I kept my head down and looked at the picture she placed in my lap.

The picture was the same size as a sheet of the stationary paper she used when writing to me while I was away. The frame was silver. Tarnish had crept into the old ornate style of new leaves and branches and harvest. My mother and father were so young. The black and white image had yellowed to a warm sepia tone and made the two of them look like they were from a past century instead of a few decades ago.

My mother wore a modest, dark ivory colored dress and jacket. Her knowing smile was framed by big round button-like earrings and the kind of hat that Jackie Kennedy made famous. Her arm was entwined inside my fathers. Her hand resting lightly on his arm.

My father was in his best suit. It was the same dark, seldom worn suit, he owned throughout his life. He was not a big man, but he was hard and muscular. That suit always fit. When I think of him now he is not wearing that suit, but the uniform of his profession: blue bib overalls, a clean white shirt, brown cowboy boots and a cream colored Resistol cowboy hat. He was very conservative in his views and dress, but he had one indulgence, a turquoise and silver bola string tie.

When I was a girl my father would leave for work in the fields very early in the morning. I would wake up when I heard kitchen sounds and run into my fatherís arms for a good morning hug. When he would walk to his pickup truck I would hop onto his back. I would say, "No, no donít go. Please stay home and play with me. I never get to play with you."

Instead he begin singing "La Cucaracha." Not knowing all the words or the tune that well, he would sing the funny verses that came to him and I would laugh. With me hanging on his back he would twist his hips back and forth like the teenagers I saw on old black and white television dance shows. He would try to reach back and tickle my sides. I would roll from one side of his back to the other laughing and trying not to let go.

Finally, we would get to his truck and he would tickle me under the arms. My arms would instantly slip down to protect my most ticklish places. I then lost my hold on him. He would drive away in the early morning twilight. I could hear the singing grow fainter until it was gone.

Thanksgiving holidays were always the best of times to be around my father. I would sit in his lap while he read stories to me. My mother cooked in the kitchen creating so many delicious smells.

After dinner my father would say that our family had so much to be thankful for. He would talk of his wonderful wife and daughter, the good and plentiful food, our comfortable home, and, this was his grand finale, his bola tie. He moved the turquoise and silver back an forth at his neck with his hand as if preening in front of a mirror.

"After all," he would declare, "From a field hand to foreman in one lifetime. Not bad for a wetback from Chihuahua!"

And how he would laugh at his joke. I would giggle and my mother would bend over to where he was sitting and hold his deeply tanned face in her hands saying, "You, you, you..." and kiss him softly on the lips. Her hands remained, lingering for a moment, on his rugged cheeks as their eyes spoke words I could not hear.

Not too many years had passed when his laughter turned to a heavy rasp. Rita would pound his back to loosen his lungs. His handkerchief often came away with spots of red. He had been a healthy, raw-boned man of hard and thick muscle. He did not smoke and there was no second-hand smoke in the strawberry fields, but there was pesticide. Lots of pesticide.

The last time I saw him he lay on his back dressed in a clean white shirt and his best suit that always fit. His graying hair was combed. He wore his turquoise and silver bola string tie. At his side was his Resistol cowboy hat stained with the years of hard labor. On his chest one of his life long friends from the fields placed a garland of small, fresh strawberries. A white silk ribbon gathered the bouquet. I sat with my mother and said nothing.

I was in the Desert Storm campaign when I received word that Rita had died. I elected to stay with the campaign instead of going home. That night, in the quiet, I walked outside my tent and into the endless sand dunes.

The distant bare mountains were silhouetted by a thin moon. I imaged I was back home and these were the mountains behind the acres of agricultural fields. I imagined I could start walking toward those mountains and be at my home by morning. I could sit with my father again while he read to me. My mother could be in the kitchen creating delicious smells.

I so wanted to cry. Instead I kicked a scrubby bush and walked back to my tent.

Robin begins brushing her hand through my hair. "You sure have short hair," she says. She ruffles her hand again in my bristly black flat-top haircut. "Are you in the Army or something?"

I look at her smiling reflection over my shoulder in the mirror. I say, "No. Well, I used to be a Marine."

In the mirror I look into her eyes and she smiles at me again. She is so beautiful. The mirror then seems to reflects something familiar about her that I didnít see at first, Iím not sure what. I turn around quickly and look at her.

"Did I get hair in your eyes," she asks. "Iím sorry."

"No," I say, "Iím fine. For a second I though you looked a little like my father. Thatís all."

"Oh," she says quickly, holding her hand to her nose and covering her mouth.

"Or maybe itís my mother. I dunno..." My voice trails off.

She takes a step back looking hurt, surprised and sad. She turns away and folds her hands in front of her. She looks at the floor.

I say, "Iím sorry. I didnít mean anything by it. Please forgive me. I say some stupid things sometimes when I donít know someone very well."

I try to think of something else and blurt out, "I loved my father and mother if that helps any."

She says, "No, no. That is fine. Iím just a little sensitive about the way I look." She turns back toward me. "I was afraid that you may have noticed..." she pauses.

"Notice what," I ask.

She looks apprehensive and I say, "Oh, you mean your nose! No, I think it looks great. Itís a really great job. Really beautiful and straight." She was still nervous so I say, "I think you are a very beautiful woman."

She looks startled for a moment and then smiles, looking at me from under her eyelashes. She nervously twists a strand of blond hair saying, "You think so?"

"Yeah," I say, "I do."

And then I tap her lightly on the end of her nose with my finger. She looks down with a shy smile. My breath catches in my chest for a moment. At first I think itís muscle cramp, but it turns out itís something else.

When my father died I started having some problems. I started my senior year at high school, but found it to be unimportant so I stopped going. I spent the last days of that late summer seated in my father's truck. I would rest my developing left bicept on the open drivers side window, my elbow pointing out. My right hand gripped and released the oversized steering wheel. Small heat cracks created dark veins in the aged beige plastic.

I would grip and release the "Suicide Knob." It was attached with a metal clamp to the upper left of the steering wheel. Suicide knobs were popular in the days when a driver had to use his muscles to get a vehicle around tight corners or to drive one-handed with your arm around your girl.

My father's knob was clear plastic in the front and maroon colored on the bottom. Beneath the scratched plastic face, inside the knob, was the image of a grass-skirted hula girl. When you grabbed the knob to turn the large wheel, the hula girlís hips seemed to sway.

I would sit in his truck from morning till it was dark. Often I saw my mother looking at me from the shadows behind the screen door at the front of our house. Leaves gathered where the truckís hood joined the cab. Sprinkles of tree sap powdered the once clean windshield. The afternoon sun spread a green prism across the two rhomboid shapes created by years of wiper blades tracing their relentless path from one side to the other.

The leaf barrier grew daily in front of the windshield hiding me from my mother. First green then yellow and red, finally brown and still I sat. At the end of a blustery autumn day I had laid down to sleep across the long bench seat, my head resting gently atop my hands where my fathers leg once rode. And I began to sleep as I had all that past summer.

I awoke with a start. I could not see anything. Sitting quickly, I bumped my head on the invisible steering wheel. My hands where numb from the cold and the needles of lost circulation. I tried grabbing for the doorís handle with my useless hands and had to use my wrists to operate the door lever.

I tumbled onto the ground and received a bracing shock from a layer of snow. My feet clumsily raised me to standing, white specks flurried around my head. It was an early snow. The leaf covered truck windshield was now layered by snow making a solid mass like a curtain. I ran toward the house and let myself in grabbing the door knob with the wrists of my still tingling hands. My panicked breath came out in billowing plumes. I stepped into the house and slammed the door.

"Honey," my mother called out from her room. "What is it? What is wrong?"

I stood in the middle of the living room. Suddenly I started crying and not knowing why. My mother came into the room tugging her nightgown around her against the cold.

"Oh my little Chaquita. What are you doing?" she said as she wrapped a multi-colored blanket from the couch around my shoulders. I slowly shook my head sniffling tears back. My chest heaved. My eyes were wild. My mother brushed leaves from my hair and guided me to her room.

"You poor thing. There, there. You come sleep with me, little one," she said. "Everything will be all right. I will keep you safe."

She pulled back the blankets and sat me on the side of the bed that had gone unused since the summer. She took off my shoes, pressed her hand against me to lie down and lifted the blanket and comforter over me. She then walked around to the other side and lay down beside me. Carefully she wrapped her slim arms around my broad shoulders and gently rocked me back and forth.

"There, there," she whispered. "Youíre safe now. Donít cry. Momma loves you and daddy loves you too, in heaven."

I began to cry hard then and buried my face against her bony chest. I drew my legs up and placed my frozen hands between my thighs trying to warm them. I cried. My mother stroked my hair and continued her soft whisper. I was thinking of how much I loved and missed my dear dead father.

I squeezed my knees together and apart many times trying to get blood circulating into my fingers. At first I thought the rhythmic pumping of my legs was beginning to warm me when suddenly an enormous electric charge of pleasure spread up from my hips and through my chest. I immediately stopped crying and jumped from the bed. Something was wrong, but I didnít know what.

My mother was startled at my erratic behavior and was absolutely without a clue as to what had just happened. I found out much later that I had had my first orgasm that sad, wintry night. It happened when I was in bed with my comforting mother while crying for the love of my dead father.

I never told my mother what happened that night though she asked many times. When I said that it was nothing, the hurt look on her face made me very sad. Soon after that winterís night I took to calling her by her first name, Rita. I could not bear to call her, mother, after I had disgraced myself in the bed of her and my father.

When she asked me about not calling her, mother, I would lie a little and tell her that I was growing up now and wanted to show her that I was going to be a responsible girl from now on and that she didnít need to worry about me. Part of it was true.

I went back to high school and was caught up with the other students after several weeks of after-school lessons. When I was caught up I started working hard after school and on weekends in the fields with my fatherís old friends. I brought home enough money so that my mother could continue keeping our home and not need to get a job. But she worried about me.

I was an average student, a hard field worker and a devoted daughter. After dark I returned from the fields and studied at the kitchen table while my mother prepared dinner and hummed the songs that my father so loved.

Robin lightly hums a tune while applying gel to my hair.

"What is that song youíre humming," I ask.

"I donít know," she says. "My car plays that tune when the keys are in the ignition and the doors are open."

I recognize the tune sheís humming is called "La Cucaracha" but I didnít say so.

Instead I say, "My father used to sing a song that sounded like that when I was little. I really liked it. My mother did too."

"You must love your parents very much to remember a little thing like that," she exclaims.

"I do," I say wistfully, "or did. Theyíre dead."

She jumps a little and then bends slightly at the knees to meet my eyes with hers.

"Oh, you poor thing. Iím so sorry. I didnít know," she said and placed her small, warm hand softly on my cheek.

The evening continues and is over so quickly. An overhead speaker states that this nightís "beauty seminar" is drawing to a close. Several hours have slipped past while Robin and I talked. It was one of those conversations that makes you think maybe you had met the other person before, but had forgotten where and when.

"Iím kinda hungry. What about you, Robin? Maybe coffee or something to eat," I ask.

"I am a bit hungry," she says.

We dined at a nearby restaurant and only received a few sideways looks from the other patrons. She lived not far away so I invited myself over for a late drink. She looked doubtful.

"Come on now," I playfully tease her in the restaurant parking lot. "Arenít you having fun? Donít you like me?"

"Well," she says and pauses. "Well, just for a little while."

"O.K! Great," I exclaim.

Inside her nicely furnished apartment she hands me a wine-something. Not a "cooler" but something else I have never heard of. I take a big drink. It tastes good. I set the glass down on the low table and she points and nods hear head toward a drink coaster. The coaster is a complex lace pattern encased between thin sheets of glass and trimmed with gold. On the bottom is felt.

"Oh, yeah, sorry," I say. "I forget to do that at home sometimes, too."

I wipe the beads of water from the table with my shirt sleeve and place a coaster under my drink. I then get that knot in my chest caused by what I am thinking. I take a deep breath.

"Are you feeling well," she asks, a concerned look on her face.

"Sure, sure," I say. "Just nervous I guess. Youíre so pretty and all . . ." My voice trails off because she is smiling at me. She is so pretty.

I get up my courage and gently brush a wisp of hair from her brow. I look at her high, smooth forehead. Then I gaze into her eyes. I outline the edge of her ear and feel the earring on her earlobe. My arms encircle her and I caress her lips with mine. She seems unsure. Her breathing is deep.

I take the drink from her hand and carefully place it on one of the glass coasters. I turn out the table lamp behind me. The room is in shadows, illuminated by the entry hall light. I put my arms back around her.

"We shouldnít, you know," she says. "Iím not the kind of girl you think I am." Her hands trace the muscles in my neck and shoulders. She wets her lips with the tip of her tongue.

"Look, girlfriend," I try to sound cheerful and confident, as if I know what Iím doing so I say, "Just because weíre kissing doesnít mean youíre a lesbian. Just relax." I kiss her again. She does not resist.

"No, wait," she says, her moist lips on mine, "You donít understand. We should stop." She guides my hand away as it moves toward her chest.

"Look," I say while kissing her neck, "If you donít like me just say so and Iíll stop." She sighs and pulls me closer.

"No, no!" she says, "Itís not that I donít like you," she breaths deep and a slight moan escape from her throat. "I like you very much. I liked you the first time I saw you." Her tongue touches my ear as she breaths, "I like the way you kiss." She moans again.

"Then what is it?" My hand glides down the back of her dress. "Do you want me to tell you that I love you?" Somehow we have laid back and our legs are entwined together.

"Iíll say it if you want." My hand slips under her dress and caresses her round bottom.

"I love you," I say.

She takes my face in her hands and fiercely kisses me.

My hand strokes the inside of her thigh and Iím thinking that I am so lucky, so very lucky. Her short breaths smell like peach blossoms. I gently move my hand between her legs and feel a sanitary napkin shape. I can feel a tear drop from her on my cheek as she grips me tightly with her slim arms.

She kisses me with such intensity that I am surprised and excited. I think to myself that it is her period that is causing her to be embarrassed. Then I notice that there is something hard growing beneath the napkin pad.

I jumped from the couch pushing her back. She looks at me. The mascara runs down the side of her cheeks. There is guilt and shame in her eyes. She laces her fingers around her knees and rocks back and forth slightly. She looks miserable.

"Iím sorry," she says. Her voice is small and anguished.

I stand there for a moment trying to understand what is happening. Without thinking I push her onto her back. She does not resist. She simply lays there crying. I pull up her dress and grab the top of her panty hose. With one motion I pull her pantyhose and panties with sanitary napkin down to her knees. She covers her face with her hands and cries. I stand back and look.

There, between her legs, where her vagina is supposed to be stands an erect penis. It looks so naked and vulnerable. All the pubic area has been neatly shaved. The skin is lightly powdered and smooth. I can do nothing but stare. The member begins to loose itís rigidity and soon lays delicately on her stomach.

I have been kissing a man. I feel so violated, so used, so disgusted. I have been wronged, tricked by this... And then I have to stop and think. What is this? A man? How can this be? Iím a god-damned lesbian.

"You tricked me," I scream. "How could you do this to me!" I feel tears coming to my own eyes. "I thought you liked me! Why didnít you tell me!"

"I do like you." The sound was muffled by her hands, or is it "his" hands.

"I asked you to stop," she says in a whisper.

"Stop!" I yell. "Stop?" I loose all control. "You bitch!" I grab the front of her dress with one hand and jerked her up to a sitting position. I violently pull her back and forth. "You fucking bitch." I scream. Her clip-on earrings fly to the floor. I raise my other hand high into the air, the muscles tightening in my back.

Her arms hang limply to her sides. Her head falls back exposing her long neck. She looks at me sadly and slowly closes her eyes. Tears stream across her pale skin and into her hair.

I donít know how long I stand over her this way. My shoulder begins to ache so I slowly lower my hand and release the front of her dress. She tilts forward and her high, smooth forehead comes to rest against my flat stomach. I can feel the warmth from her face. Without thinking I begin smoothing her hair with my rough hand. I can feel her tremble as she cries.

I think of Rita and my father and how I have missed them. I think of how lonely I have been since they have gone. They didnít raise me to treat someone so shabbily. I try to understand what is happening here and why, but can find no satisfactory explanation.

"There, there," I say quietly. "Everything will be all right." I place my other hand on her back. Her arms come up tentatively and then encircle my waist.

"Iíve been so lonely," she says. The words are muffled against my stomach. "So lonely for so long."

"I know, I know," I say. "Everything will be all right. You just leave it to me. Okay?" She nods her head up and down against my stomach. Holding me tighter she cries long and hard. After a time her tears stop and she looks up hopefully at me, searching my eyes.

I go to the bathroom and return with a warm washcloth. I kneel in front of her and carefully wipe the mascara from her face. She begins to sniffle so I pull a tissue from a nearby box and hold it to her nose. She blows twice.

"There," I say, "Is that better?"

She smiles wanly and nods her head. I help her take off the ruined pantyhose and unzip the back of her dress. She stands as I pull the dress over her head and lay it across a chair. In a slip and bra and without makeup, she looks so frail in the weak light. I walk her into the darkened bedroom. I lift the covers of her bed and she obediently lays down. I pull the blanket to her chin and sit on the bed next to her. The cotton fabric of her lace trimmed pillow glows around her head.

"Some things are hard to explain," I say as I stroke her hair. She has a look of resignation on her face. "Things like this donít happen every day." I smile and try to laugh, but it sounds hollow."

There is a notepad and pen next to her bedside telephone. In the faint light from entry hall I write down her number from the telephone display and stuff the paper into my pocket.

"Iíll call you," I say. She closes her eyes refusing to look at me and nods her head.

"I..." I start to talk, "I never ment to..." I say and then fall silent.

Her hand finds its way out of the covers and onto my knee. I place both my dark, callused hands around her pale, slim hand and hold it tenderly until her breathing becomes regular and I know sheís asleep.

As I push in the front door lock I see the wall clock in the kitchen. Itís 2:00 a.m. I switch off the light and close the door, turning the knob twice to make sure itís locked.

Cold sweat from my morning run sends a chill through me. I see the horizon turning orange as a new day begins. I pick up the newspaper from my front porch and go inside. I throw the newspaper on a pile of unread newspapers and strip off the sweaty cloths. I stand naked in my living room among the benches, barbells and fitness magazines. I examine myself in the wide wall mirror looking for areas that need attention. I see the reflection of the phone on the shelf behind me. I find myself turning.

The phone is clutched in my hand. I marvel at the silent strength and control in that hand, the thickly traced veins across hard, defined muscle and tight tendon. The mastery and discipline, the self control. And then slowly, seemingly on itís own, my other hand drifts up from my side and languidly begins to press her number.

"My God," I say to myself. "I think Iím in love."

 *
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