“If there is one woman on the planet who possess the magical power that some anxious, conservative, quasi-religious heterosexual people fear homosexual people have that turns straight people gay, it’s my neighbor.”
“She has a way about her. An ease. You either want to be her or to sleep with her.”
Like a heart under the floorboards in an Edgar Allen Poe story, the inconsistent thrum is driving me crazy. Which is why I’m drinking with Obi on a Sunday night at the Seven Lounge, talking about lesbian neighbors.
“Will you make fun of me if I order a pink drink,” he asks.
“Of course,” I say.
He orders a vodka cranberry.
I order a martini, dirty, olives.
And I know how to fix it.
to change the belts on the machine from whence the noise comes. He’s happy to do it.
Unfortunately, certain factors, (my over-zealous co-op board), prevent him from rectifying the situation in timely fashion.
A martini lands in front of me. It has three shriveled olives. Obi’s cranberry vodka is missing a lime. Apparently, the Seven Lounge doesn’t believe in garnishes.
“You ever have sex with a woman,” he asks.
This is every straight man’s favorite question.
“Almost,” I say, “At college. She was a cute little Jewish redhead lesbian. She came over one night to listen to the news on the radio in the kitchen. We were sitting on the floor, since I had no furniture. The U.S. had just bombed Kuwait. We looked at each other. Her hand drifted over her mouth. She understood a thing or two about the world. I didn’t. I was faking it.
“Later, she sprawled herself across the blankets I used as my bed. I could feel her eyes on me. I fumbled through a pile of books. I wanted to show her something, I guess. I couldn’t look her in the eye.
“Then comes in a sultry voice… ‘Amy, are you… straight?’
“I answered, ‘I don’t know!'”
“You’re terrible at this,” says Obi.
“Then she laughed and collected her book bag, and left.”
He waves for another drink. I’m still choking down my aged olives.
“No. I decided I wanted to seduce her, so at the end of the year, I go to her house ready to make my moves, and all she wants to talk about are the virtues of coffee ice cream.”
“That’s so sad.”
I poke at my drink. A martini with bad olives is not a martini at all.
This noise, the hum, the thrum, whatever you want to call it, is insidious. It whispers through the mornings, weaves through lunchtime, and sighs through the night.
It creeps through my window, sneaks under the whirl of the fan, and slices into the music I play to try to drain it out.
It invades my dreams.
Most disturbing of all, no one else seems to hear it.
“My best friend in college confessed to me that he was gay while we were watching TV,” Obi says. He’s three cranberry vodkas in. I’ve ditched the martini for a peach, fizzy, ginger drink. No garnish.
“What did you do?”
“I said, ‘I know.’ and drank another beer.”
He sips, sputters, and laughs.
“I just had the worst most best idea in the universe!” He nearly tumbles off the stool. “We need to go to a gay bar and see what happens. You be a lesbian, I’ll be a gay man. We’ll do research. For science.”
Please understand, that this is in no way the worst most best idea in the universe. I know that, but after a few drinks on a late Sunday night when one is tired of not sleeping, you can see how it could sound like a very good bad idea indeed.
So we laugh, and pound the bar, consumed by our own cleverness for a few moments. And then we’re quiet again.
“Have you ever wondered why we don’t date? You and me?”
“I always figured because it would be a bad idea,” I answer.
“Sometimes I think about it,” he says. “I don’t understand why we don’t, but I don’t think we should.”
“You drink pink drinks.”
“And you’re always looking for a story.”
“It’d be too easy.”
“Your drink is fru-fruer than mine, by the way.”
“Yes, but I’m a girl,” I say.
“Remember the time you decided to introduce me to your girlfriend?”
“That was a pretty bad idea.”
5 bad ideas discussed in this essay:
1. sleeping with your lesbian neighbor.
2. sleeping with neighbors, period.
3. introducing insecure girlfriends to friends who are girls.
4. drinking fru-fru drinks without the safety of a garnish.
5. making plans when you are drunk.
The humm is particularly persistent Sunday night. I try to ride its rhythm, to breathe it in, to become one with the music of the noise of the night.
I lay with my pillow over one ear, and then the other to see which ear hears better. It appears that my hearing is very balanced.
I sit up in bed, my dog shifts, one eye open, weary of my tossing and turnings.
I consider knocking on the door of the co-op board member who prevented the humm owner from erasing the constant thrum from my life to see if I can spend the night on her sofa.
Eventually, I fall asleep.
And I dream.
In the dream, I wake up in a huge treehouse in the woods. I’m with the lover I loved the most, stretched out in a sleeping bag on the floor. He hands me a tiny baby hippopotamus. My dog is distrustful at first and bares her teeth. As my man goes to the porch to sweep, I sit up on the floor, baby hippo smiling at me, and see wet leaves and a chunk of dirty snow at the edge of the sleeping bag.
In trying to feed the hippo and the dog, I spill an entire bag of dog food on the floor. The animals are happy, chomping down as much as they can before I pick it up.
I take the spilled food, the dirty ice, the damp leaves out to the porch to show my old lover. He smiles.
I think how nice it is to see his face.
So, I spend Monday morning wrapped around my memories.