Friday, December 26, 2008

GINNY BATES: SHIFTING EARTH


Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Late April 2018

As Gillam pulled out his phone, Margie walked toward the kitchen. Myra looked like she might hit Ginny, but Ginny wasn't budging. Myra didn't seem to be able to bring herself to brush by Ginny and leave. Finally, she backed up to the counter and leaned against it, breathing heavily. Her entire body was shaking, with rage, Margie thought.

"I won't let you leave me" said Ginny. "You're the only woman I've ever wanted -- "

"Fuck you!" said Myra. "You wanted Pat, so go rot..in..hell."

"I didn't want her. I didn't love her, it wasn't like that."

"Then why did you fuck her?"

"I didn't fuck her. It was a one-time sexual thing."

"You lying sack of shit, every single thing you've done since then is a lie. Every minute we've been together is a lie. I cannot believe you let her, that skank, put her hands -- "

Myra rushed to the sink and vomited abruptly, huge retches. Ginny opened the dishtowel drawer and pulled out a clean towel, then went to the sink to wet it. Myra shoved a hand up toward her in a halt motion, still heaving, and Ginny stopped. She leaned over and put the towel on the edge of the sink. After a few more gasps, Myra stopped gagging and leaned on the counter, her face on her hands. Then she stood up, moving slowly, and turned on the tap. As the water began washing her puke down the drain, she looked at it and vomited again.

Gillam had sat down in the chair where Ginny had been. His face was chalky. Margie put her arm across her shoulders. She whispered to him again "We have to not leave them alone with this."

"Hurry, Allie" he whispered back.


Finally Myra was able to stand up straight again. She turned on the tap but didn't look this time. She wet the towel and wiped her face with it. Not looking at Ginny, she said "We're done. You killed us. I'll never trust you again. You left me, you left our commitment, you broke your fundamental promise to me, so I'm leaving you, too."

"No!" shrieked Ginny. "No, no, I never left you! I can't live without you, I can't -- " She fell to the floor, sitting at first, weeping crazily, then lay backward and began slamming her head and fists against the flagstone. After a second, Margie rushed to her and slid her hands under Ginny's head. She eased her lap under Ginny's head, and let Ginny keep crying and pounding the floor with her hands and feet.

Myra backed up to the counter again, as if repelled by this display. After a minute, she lifted herself up onto the counter and sat there, watching Ginny coldly.

Ginny screamed until her voice was hoarse. Then she began saying "I'm sorry, my god, I'm so sorry" and weeping into Margie's lap. She turned sideways, curled up in a fetal position. Margie stroked her head.

Gillam finally got up and walked to the kitchen. He stepped carefully over Ginny and stood in from of Myra, looking into her brown eyes with his own. He said softly "You can't live without her either, Mama."

Myra stared at him. "I won't ever trust her again."

"You have to. You'll never be happy unless you do."

"Gillam, you're just a kid, you don't know what this means."

"I'm your son, Mama, but I'm not a kid. I'm a man. I have a wife, four children, soon to be five. I've grown into manhood on the love you two have. You need to find a way back to her. You need to do it for your sake."

"I can't" whispered Myra. "She's broken us."

"Then we'll repair it." He put his arms around her and pulled her head onto his tall shoulder. "Lean on me, Mama. We're a family, we can do this."

Myra's face lay on his shoulder, and she saw the stubble of his beard, the thick muscles of his neck. She could hear the deepness of his voice. He wasn't her baby boy any more, not in a single way. Suddenly she began crying. The sobs tore out of her, actually causing pain to her throat. She clung to Gillam and raged, wailed, making sounds he'd never heard. He stood steady, holding her tight. After a long time, she slowed down, then stopped. He lifted the corner of his shirt and wiped her face. She stared at him, as if she'd never seen him before.

Ginny was sitting up, watching them, Margie kneeling beside her. When they heard the front door open, all of them turned to look. Allie came into the front hall and walked solidly into the kitchen. Ginny scrambled to her feet, facing Allie. Allie came directly to her and put her arms around Ginny. Ginny began weeping again. Allie said "I love you, Ginny. I can't believe you did something this stupid, and I do want to hear your story. But I have to go to Myra first. You understand that, right?" Ginny nodded, still weeping. Allie kissed her cheek and said again "I love you." Then she pulled away from Ginny and faced Myra. Gillam had stepped to the side, and they could see each other full, Allie and Myra.

Allie stopped a foot in front of Myra and said, in a very gentle voice, "Did you throw your phone at Ginny?"

"I -- I hit the wall with it" said Myra.

"But were you aiming at Ginny?"

"I don't know. I didn't care."

"You don't get to do that" said Allie. "You don't get to hurt her. I don't care what's happened. You are to never do that again. Do you understand me?"

Myra stared at her. Finally she nodded. Then she said "I need to come stay with you."

"No. You are not moving out of this house."

"Yes, I am. If you won't have me, I'll go to a motel."

"No, Myra. This house is huge and has two floors. You can both live here. You're not running from this. I'll help you every way I can, but you have to face it."

"I hate her, Allie." Myra's voice was thick with revulsion. Ginny turned away; Margie led her back to the table and sat her down.

"I know. You'll have to live with it until it becomes something else and you can figure out what to do. You can't aim your anger at her, though."

They all heard a cell phone ringing and looked around. It was Gillam's. He read the dial and walked into the living room, saying “Jane...” The rest was muffled.

Margie said “Where's Edwina?”

“Day long seminar” said Allie. “I left her a message. Myra, how about if we go see Nancy? Right now?”

Myra was clearly having trouble thinking. She stared at Allie for a minute, then said “I...What if she knows about this? What if Ginny told her?”

“I hope Ginny did tell her, I hope Ginny has not lived with this alone all this time. What difference does it make to you and Nancy? She keeps patient confidentiality, you count on that” said Allie.

“Not this. This is too much for her to have kept from me.”

Allie knew the rage Myra was showing was just the outer layer. Underneath lay terror and paralyzing abandonment. Allie turned and looked at Ginny's face, which told her that Nancy had, in fact, been informed.

“I need to call Chris, she'll let me go stay with her -- “ said Myra suddenly.

“No, she won't. Not when I talk to her. Myra, you run here and you may not get another chance from god, you hear me? You built this house, you not gonna leave it.”

“I won't sleep with her. Or talk to her.”

“Fine. We can make a nest for you in the front bedroom here.”

Gillam came back to the kitchen and said “I need to go help Jane, Mimi just fell down and busted her lip. I'll – I'll be back.”

Allie nodded at him. Myra was heading for the front stairs, and Allie followed her. Myra went into her and Ginny's bedroom and pulled the largest suitcase from the closet shelf. She packed it full of her clothes and handed it to Allie with her pillow. She took a smaller case and cleaned all her toiletries and toothbrush from the bathroom. She walked back into her study and packed a briefcase full of folders, notebooks, disks, and reference materials. She retrieved her laptop and power cord from the cabinet beside her desk, and carried all these items downstairs, calling Keller as she went. She walked past Margie and Ginny at the dining table, never looking their way, went into the front bedroom and shut the door after Keller was in the room with her.

Allie looked at the closed door a minute. She pulled out her phone and called somebody, leaving a message – likely Chris. Then she went into the bedroom after Myra.

Ginny was immobile and mute, even when Margie hugged her from behind. After a while, Margie got the phone book from the kitchen and sat down next to Ginny with her cell, making calls to get the upstairs window replaced as soon as possible. She asked "Mama, who is it you've used for reupholstery work?" When she got that name, she called them and requested they come get Ginny's daybed that afternoon, if possible. After she hung up, Ginny said blankly "Why are you re-covering the daybed?"

"It's got glass in the leather now, Mama. Do you want us to go out and choose the leather for it?"

"No. Ask them to match it as best they can" said Ginny dully.

"We need to stay here until the window folks come. I'm going to make us something to eat" said Margie.

"I"m not hungry" said Ginny. "Margie, what am I doing to do?"

"You're going to eat, first of all. Then you need to call Nancy, and -- who's that therapist you had for a while?"

"Xona" said Ginny, with a small eerie laugh. "She's who I went to right after -- it happened. I guess I can tell her the jig is up."

"And you need to call your friends. Edwina, don't leave it all up to Allie. And Chris and Sima."

Ginny laughed again, this time caustic. "Chris will be glad to hate my guts for this."

"She will not, Mama. Call Kip, too.”

Ginny stared at her. “The last person on earth I can possibly lean on right now.”

“Cathy, then. Here, make the calls."

"I can't, Margie. I really can't." Ginny lay her head on her arms.

"I'll call Nancy, then, at least. And what's Xona's last name, is she listed?"

As Margie made a second round of calls, Myra emerged from the bedroom. Ginny sat upright. Myra went up the front stairs and into the small guest room upstairs. She came back down with the 15 inch TV/DVD player in her arms, the cord trailing behind her. She carried that into the front bedroom and set it down on the floor, then turned and looked at Ginny. Margie hung up on Edwina's voice mail.

"I need to know when" said Myra, a harsh tone in her voice. "When did you fuck Pat?"

Margie flinched, but Ginny seemed to be beyond injury.

"I didn't fu-- " But Myra looked murderous, and Ginny interrupted herself. "In 2004." When Myra still stood there, expectant, Ginny added "February 13th."

Myra's face registered disbelief. "The day before Valentine's Day?"

"That's how I remember the date. Otherwise, believe me, I wouldn't" said Ginny.

Myra's face registered memory. "That's the night you didn't come to bed. I didn't know when you got in. That's why, isn't it?"

Ginny didn't answer.

Allie appeared in the doorway next to Myra. "Let's go sit down, My, all of us talk together" she said gently.

"No fucking way" said Myra, standing apart from Allie and not taking her cold stare off Ginny. "That was just a month after Margie was -- raped. We were in such heartache then, all of us. Gillam was freaking the fuck out, not just Margie. And you were giving me shit, constant shit, refusing to talk with me about what was really going on. So that's why you fucked around on me, I guess, to pay me back for somehow not fixing everything right away."

"No, Myra. That's not what happened" said Ginny, standing up.

"I'm not interested in hearing one more lie from you" said Myra, turning her back and going into the bedroom. They heard her say to Allie "Please close that door."

After a moment's hesitation, Allie waved the "I love you sign" at Margie and Ginny, and gently shut the door between them.

Ginny sat back down. Margie was rattled by the information Myra had just extracted from Ginny. She didn't know what to make of it, and set it aside. She dialed Edwina again and left a message on her voice mail. Then she called Sima's cell. Sima answered.

When Margie told her what was going on, Sima went completely silent. Finally Margie asked, "Are you still there?"

Sima said "You need to be the one to tell this to Chris." She handed the phone to Chris, and Margie had to repeat it all. Ginny had her head back down on her arms. Chris did not meet the news with silence. She began swearing, violently and lengthily. Then she said "Allie's there now?"

"Yes. She's helping Mama -- Myra -- get set up in the front bedroom. She won't let Mama move out yet."

Chris said "She knows Myra like I do. Once Myra starts walking away, she's gone. But I wouldn't blame her a bit in this case."

Margie took a deep breath. "They need your help, Aunt Chris. I -- me and Gillam, we need your help. It's our family..."

There was a long silence, then Chris said "Okay, baby girl. I hear you. Tell Myra when Allie leaves, to call me, I'll come over and spend the night with her if Allie doesn't. Whatever you need from me, you got. Tell Gillam that, too. I -- I don't want to talk to Ginny right now, but I will, I'll get there. I think Sima will talk to her right now, if she wants to."

"I'll give her the phone. I love you, Aunt Chris."

"I love you, too, Margie. We'll -- we'll find a way through this."

Margie handed the phone to Ginny. Ginny just listened for a long time, occasionally answering with a single syllable. Finally she handed the phone back to Margie.

Sima said to Margie "She sounds like a zombie."

"Yeah, pretty much. I'm going to feed her and sit here until the repair folks come, then I'll take her home for a while. But she needs to stay in the house, too, with Mama. I think Aunt Allie is right about that."

"I told her I'd come for breakfast tomorrow. I need a little time to process this. But if you need to call me tonight, I'm here."

"Okay, Aunt Sima. I hear somebody out front, I need to run. Thanks."

The window crew took measurements, removed glass from the frame and swept the floor with a shop vac, and covered the hole with a tarp. They said they would have to come back the next day to replace the window because the glass had to be cut to order. As they were leaving, a moving crew from the upholstery shop arrived and took the daybed away.

Margie made eggs and toast, along with tea, and coaxed half a meal into Ginny. She went to the front bedroom and talked briefly with Myra and Allie. Then she went upstairs and got thick socks, a pair of sandals, and some pants for Ginny. When Ginny stood up, she yelped in pain and sat back down abruptly.

"Lean on me, Mama. Don't put any weight on it at all, if you can" said Margie. They limped out the back door and walked over to Margie's house. After half an hour, Gillam joined them in Margie's kitchen.

“How's Mimi?”

“She looks horrific but it doesn't need stitches, Jane says. We have a call in to her pediatrician about antibiotics. The nurse said to put on ice and give her some Tylenol. I can't stay long. Mama, will you please tell me what happened?” Gillam's tone was short, and Margie didn't know what emotion he was suppressing.

“You mean about – back then?” asked Ginny. “No. I have to tell Myra first. I've done this wrong in every possible way, I have to start doing it right now, and that means telling her the whole story.”

Gillam paused before saying “I don't think she's going to listen to you, Mama. Not – in the foreseeable future.”

“Then I'll wait. It has nothing to do with you kids” said Ginny.

After another long pause, Gillam said “Do you want to come visit Mimi, hold her a while?”

Ginny looked stricken. “I can't” she whispered. “I can't...What are you going to tell them?”

“That you and Mom are having a hard time. I'll probably lie and said you feel bad, and you need time to get all well again” said Gillam, despair leaking into his eyes. “Listen...Have you talked with Carly?”

“Oh, god. No. But Patty said she was about to call him” said Ginny, despondent again.

“Then I'll call him, too. Don't worry, he'll be fine” said Gillam. Margie didn't believe him. “I have to get back home. I'll – I'll keep checking in you. Both.”

Frances left the restaurant for an hour during the dinner service, to bring back a meal for Ginny and Margie, sitting to eat with them, mute and more sympathetic than anyone else had appeared. When she went back to work, Margie walked Ginny back home. Franklin met them at the door, a little wild-eyed. "I bet the tarp is flipping him out" said Margie.

"Not just the tarp" said Ginny briefly.

They made tea and sat at the dining table for a while. Allie's car was gone but Chris's had taken her place. They could hear the TV on in the front bedroom. After a few minutes, Margie knocked on the bedroom door. She went in for a minute. Chris followed her out, gave Ginny a long hug, and sat down to chat with them all. They dodged the obvious topic. When Myra did not come out to join them, Ginny slowly deflated. After a while, Chris stood up and said "I need to get back in there."

Margie left at 10:00 because Ginny lied to her, saying she felt sleepy. Once she was gone, Ginny walked up the back and, as quickly as she could, got a blanket and her pillow from her and Myra's bedroom. She lay down on Myra's daybed, leaving the lights off and trying to ignore the flapping of the tarp. Eventually Franklin joined her, pushing close against her chest and watching the dark spot in the glass wall with suspicion. She slept only in patches.

The next morning, Sima let herself in and made them breakfast. At one point, Sima said "I don't understand how you could have -- I mean, Pat, of all people."

"I didn't choose it" said Ginny. "I did it, but it wasn't desire on my part."

"Then I really don't understand" said Sima, putting her hand over Ginny's.

"There's nothing to understand" said Ginny. "I have no excuse."

"Is that why you didn't tell Myra?"

"I just -- I thought she'd leave me. We were already on rocky ground. I couldn't face -- losing her."

After a long silence, Ginny said "I can't face it now, either. But looks like I have to." She wanted Sima to reassure her, tell her that Myra would come around, there was a way to fix this. When Sima didn't say anything, Ginny pushed her plate away, suddenly sick to her stomach.

Margie, meanwhile, was having breakfast with Gillam and his family. After they ate, she and Gillam retreated to his and Jane's bedroom for privacy.

Margie told him what little she knew about the events of the past. He was pale, with a pinched mouth. "I just don't get it" he kept saying. Then "I still don't know what to do."

"You did pretty good in the kitchen, there, little brother. You stood up to Myra the steamroller" said Margie with a sad grin.

"Jane's five months pregnant, you know" he said. "She's been more or less pregnant for five years. I have four children under the age of five. School won't be out for another month. We really count on them to help out. Losing that help, plus needing to keep them going -- I'm scared, Margie."

"Me, too. Well, listen, can you eat dinner with one of them if there isn't someone else to do it? Even if it's brief. I'll make sure they get lunch. I figure Allie or Chris will alternate evenings with Myra. I haven't gotten Sima or Edwina to commit to time with Ginny yet -- Ginny's getting the short end of the stick, even her best friends are kinda -- well, they don't get it, either, I guess. But I'm making sure she sees Nancy, which is more than any of us can get Myra to commit to. Myra is just dug in. Watching TV too much."

"I guess the potluck is off for tonight” said Gillam.

“No, you should go ahead with whoever can be here” said Margie. “I'll come by for part of it. It's going to be bad enough with the kids not seeing their grandmothers, I'll help take up more slack. So will Frances, she said."

He looked up at her gratefully. "Thanks, Margie. How long -- what do you think is going to happen here?"

"I can't believe they'll actually break up. I can't imagine it. But Myra -- well, you saw her. Ginny did the one thing Myra can't get past. Not the sex, although that's bad enough, and with Pat, that's about the worst. But it's the lying all this time. You know how she is about honesty."

"A steel cage" agreed Gillam. "Listen, this room is soundproofed, I can't hear what's going on out there, I need to check on Jane and the kids."

"One more thing, Gillam -- have you talked with Carly?"

Gillam stopped. "Yeah. He had just heard from Patty. He's actually down in Olympia right now, visiting with her."

"How is she? And Carly, and Truitt, for that matter? I'm assuming Pat spilled the beans to Patty."

"No, Pat spilled the beans to Truitt, while she was drunk one night and calling people, waking them up. He sat on it for a while. Then when he heard Patty talking about coming to their anniversary party, he decided to tell Patty because, as Carly reported it, Truitt didn't think it was ethical to keep silent." Gillam's voice was scornful.

"Truitt who's taken Pat's side way too much of the time" commented Margie. "What does Carly think?"

"He's mad at Pat, as he should be. He's worried about Patty, but that's chronic for him. I know for a fact he's not mad at Ginny." Gillam trailed off.

"Not as mad as you are?" asked Margie quietly.

"I'm trying not to be. I mean, I don't know the whole story, for one thing. And Mom's -- Myra's reaction, that was nuts. I've only been married five years, but I already know you just have to be ready for the unthinkable, somewhere along the line."

Margie smiled. "We're in better shape than they were. And -- we're not stuck on monogamy, are we?"

He looked at her keenly. "Not so much" he agreed.

"Okay, well, tell Carly I apologize on Ginny's behalf. One thing I'm sure of, she never meant to hurt Patty. Or Myra. Or us."

Gillam took a step toward the door and said "Yeah, I'm sure of that too. That helps, Margie, to be reminded of it." He opened the door and they heard screaming children. He walked rapidly toward the fracas.


© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

5 comments:

Jesse Wendel said...

This one's really good.

I love how the kids have become full young adults, and the grownups, so far as their relationship goes, are still protracted teenagers.

I also love how this section ends first with one of the best exchanges between the kids I've ever read, really authentic and rich, and second, grounded in the immediacy of screaming children. No matter how much the adults want to fuck around with their relationship bullshit, their are four children, at least two in diapers, one likely in pull-ups, all of them needing constant attention, one (maybe two) still nursing, and another about to be born.

Children are immediate real, present to life.

These Millennial young adults are the ultimate team players. They were nurtured like crazy as kids; they instinctively work together to solve problems. Now it's their term, 'cause their late boomer/early x-er parents have freaked out.

No problem. They're ready. Plus the have this great network of support with the Aunties.

This is GREAT STUFF. Keep it up.

liza said...

How do I go back to 2004 in Ginny? The labels/chapters don't say dates.

I'm of mixed minds about everyone hovering over ginny and myra during their time of crisis. Boundaries anyone? And forcing them to stay together right now. Me, I'd want some space and time to think. Alone.

I'm glad you've plotted this already, Mags, so you are not influenced by what we all are saying.

Myra is, in my already stated opinion, waay over reacting. Sure, Ginny should have said something right away, but she "couldn't" because of Myra's issues. So there is never an appropriate time to disclose. And the longer Ginny waits, the worse the betrayal. She was stuck in a no win situation.

There's no way for Ginny to have played this right. Except for not every having done it, but it's too late for that. And it sounds like it was, for Ginny, a stupid mistake but certainly not one that changed her relationship with Myra. She didn't even enjoy it. It's not like she fell in love, or carried on a secret affair.

The betrayal was in the lie, not the act. And she couldn't- or didn't know how to- tell the truth. So they have a rather large knot to untie. A much larger knot than having had a one time encounter.


I'm interested that the kids are less stuck on monogamy, and I'm looking forward to reading more about that.

Jesse Wendel said...

Kids these days are less stuck on everything than we middle-age folks.

Less stuck on the whole being gay/not thing. Witness Margie's insistence on not naming her relationship with Frannie as being gay.

My #3 daughter is bi; she goes between girls and guys without hesitating. But that's my label. She doesn't label herself at all.

I don't blame the kids for refusing to get tied into their Mom's rigidity. From rigid insistence on honesty no matter what, to labeling themselves as this or that, to excluding people who don't fit into their class structures. That's how Boomers live -- very aware of how they were harmed by this stuff, and determined not to make the same mistakes their parents made. In the same way, their children, the Millennials, were protected from much, and are thus free to reject the endless processing and self-examination of the Boomers, in favor of action and working in teams.

Maggie Jochild said...

I myself would be scrambling to figure out which online chapter had the significant February 13, 2004 section if it weren't for Cowboy Diva, clever woman, telling me it was The Electric Slide, so I'm able to give you an html link here. In my copy, I have the chapters headed by year, which is too much to post online. So I attach a new title as I post chunks online. Thanks, CD.

I went back and reread it last night, aching for them all.

Jesse, I don't know if it's Boomers who've collected identities in a way younger generations have not. We just name ours differently. For instance, "trans" has a multitude of sometimes conflicting definitions which often overlap what we called dyke or lesbian, and although the current generation who call themselves trans would argue they're not into labels, of course they are -- and they want to replace ours with theirs. Just as we replaced the definitions of the women who had come before us.

What does matter is that members of a group targeted for oppression have the opportunity to assemble and communicate with each other and come up with their own definitions, in contradiction to the dominant culture which seeks to exploit and ignore them. That step of de-conditioning is essential to identity formation and re-formation. However, the larger institutionalized systems of oppression are wise to the dangers of allowing this, and have increasingly sophisticated sytems of interrupting it, urging us to fight amongst ourselves and deny one another our own processes of self-definition.

Gillam's frustration with how his in-laws are dumping on his son for his "girly" hair is a case in point. It's gender conditioning, pure and simple. Gillam has to get along with Jane's family but he also has to advocate for his son (and observing daughters), show them the definitions of man and woman are complete and utter bullshit. Yet his generation has no movement, no magazines, no cultural references aside from what was created 30 years ago to serve as reference points, and those are usually considered a joke. Anomie and "I don't do labels" has a price attached to it. As we come out of the onslaught of the past 30 years, Gillam's kids will, I believe, be pissed as hell at their parents' "wishy-washiness", as they'll see it. And the cycle will repeat.

Genuine freedom of choice to create your own identity won't exist until we stop penalizing people for being certain things (not-male, not-white, poor, disabled, children, nonchristian). The toll paid for certain choices means identity will matter, sometimes in a life and death way, whether you want it to or not.

If Margie didn't have a great education, a trust fund, if Frances was working as a short-order cook without culinary training, if walking home from the bus from a crappy job and being threatened on the street because the guys know she lives with a woman, her illusion of "I don't have to be rigid about this" would shift. It wouldn't be MY generation's self-naming, but it would be defensive. Class privilege tends to buy a lot of imaginary freedom.

Cowboy Diva said...

You are entirely welcome, glad I can help. Apparently when this is printed you will need to authorize an annotated edition as well. ;>