Friday, May 29, 2009


Arches National Monument
Note to readers of Ginny Bates: The final post of this draft of the novel (and I'm not sure I'll post future drafts) will be on June 6th, which so happens to be Myra and Ginny's anniversary.

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.

April 2020

Monday morning, Myra called to Ginny from the doorway of the storage room "Ginny, what are you going to do with all these bottles you've been saving? They're piling up in here." Whenever she bought glass bottles of soda from Mexico, or unusual drinks from the U.S., Ginny scrubbed out the bottles and saved them from regular recycling.

"I had the notion of making a bottle tree out front, but I think the snooty neighbors might complain" said Ginny. "Then I had an other idea -- well, Kip told me about it. If you bury them upside down, so the bottom half is sticking up about three inches from the ground, they make a gorgeous edging for a flower bed."

Myra looked at the array of colors and shapes, and said "You're right, that would be amazing."

"It's a bright clear day, we could do it this afternoon instead of Dance Class. They'll get as much exercise if we work 'em hard” said Ginny.

"Where are you going to put it?"

"By the whaleshark." Ginny came into view from the other room, looking at her with smudgy eyes. "I want to plant it with Chris's black-eyed susans."

"And Joe Pye weed, she said" remembered Myra.

"In the center, I'm going to try camas root" said Ginny. Myra felt ache flood through her. Ginny came to hug her. Myra whispered "I don't think I want to be immortal, after all. Not if eventually the names of those I'm having to live without outnumber the ones still around."

"We'd have to all be immortal" said Ginny. "But that would mean no room for new babies."

After lunch, Myra and Ginny carried baskets of bottles outside. Ginny spread a tarp that she piled with compost and a few bags of potting soil. Myra lined the children's gardening gloves and mini-sized tools on the bench by the pond, along with baskets. Blackberries and rhubarb had come in. She wanted to set at least a couple of kids to picking, with the promise of a pie in the offing.

By mid afternoon, they were all outside. A foot-deep hole had been excavated for the bed. Ginny was on the ground next to it, letting Lucia select which bottle went into the border next. For the corners, they were using square green olive oil bottles. Myra said “Make sure it's only the ones from Italy, I don't want another accusing look from Frances.”

Mimi and David had begun mixing the soils piled on the tarp, but gotten distracted into creating a town with castles and roads. David dashed into the house to grab some of their Tonka toys. Leah and Charlie were with Myra, picking blackberries. Charlie kept trying to eat red ones, spitting them out each time with an identical grimace. A magpie in the pear tree was watching them closely; Myra wondered if it begrudged them the berries or wanted to swoop down and devour Charlie's pre-masticated leavings.

By the time Allie and Edwina came to pick up the children for date night, Myra was sore from bending and her forearms itched. Ginny said “I wonder if Jane and Gillam are going out. If they are, let's go use the hot tub.”

Nobody answered the house line and the windows were dark. Myra put on a robe and followed Ginny to the tub, which wasn't quite warm enough at first but it was still a pleasure to sink down into the water.

“Once the little ones don't care about our playscape any more, we should put a sauna in that part of our yard” she said to Ginny. She watched Ginny's breasts bobbing at the surface of the water, then looked away.

“Mmm. Listen, Passover begins Thursday after this. I talked with Sima about it, and she's asked that we not have a family seder. She says she'd rather go to one at the Temple or even the Quaker thing” said Ginny.

“Yeah. Sometimes that hole around the table is too much to face” said Myra.

“Plus it was a special time for her and Susan last year” said Ginny.

“Are they in communication at all, Sima and Susan?” asked Myra.

“Sima writes her intermittently, and she told her about Annie. That got a reply. She said Susan made a point of telling her she had a new girlfriend and gotten together with her before Sima and Annie. Sima said she could hear the 'So THERE' in the email.”

“Since Sima and Annie are spending nights together now, are we to presume they've actually become, you know, lovers?”

Ginny rolled her eyes at Myra. “With Sima's sex drive? Of fucking course, Myra. I mean, how she and Chris originally began, it was all about the fireworks. And Susan was approaching menopause, with that state some women have of kinda going into a brief heat around that time. Sima told me Annie has quote stamina unquote.”

Myra stuck her fingers in her ears and began saying “LALALALA” in a loud voice. When she saw Ginny laughing, she stopped.

Ginny said “I used to fantasize about what it would be like to live on Skene, how you wrote about it in your books, where women had periods only three or four times a year but it was more like estrous – they were consumed by sexual craving for a week. And there were no prohibitions about getting pregnant or taking time off to indulge yourself erotically, because everybody understood what it was like when the craving hit. And so many of the partnerships were between three or more women. That ocean-dominated world didn't offer much in the way of luxury, but carnally, they made the most of it.”

“You fantasized about it?” said Myra. “Like, what if we had a third person in our relationship, you mean? Was it Emma Goldman or Toshi Reagon in bed with us?”

Ginny cackled. “Your memory can be freaky, Myra. No, I was imagining being the characters in your books. Specifically Bux, since she was the one based on me.”

And Yerush, a little thought Myra but did not dare say. Yerush was a character Myra loved. However, she had upset a lot of people with her trouble-making in the book.

Ginny was facing the dining room glass wall, and now she said “Uh-oh. The foyer light just came on. They must be home.”

“Shall we slip on our robes and steal quietly away?” whispered Myra.

“Wait. No, they're heading directly for their bedroom.” Ginny grinned at Myra.

“Uh...Then I still don't feel comfortable staying here.” She lifted herself over the edge. On the walk home, Ginny said “I imagine Allie and Edwina will stop by when they drop off the kids at Jane and Gillam's later. Don't let me forget to give them that flat of mizuna starts I have for their greens table.”

“I'm hungry now” said Myra.

“We have leftover ceviche from lunch” said Ginny, heading for the kitchen.

“I don't really like ceviche” said Myra. “Heresy, I know. I think I'll reheat the baked squash, maybe with some steamed broccoli.”

“Myra – that session you have with Nancy tomorrow, you want to make that a couples' session?” asked Ginny.

Myra thought about it. “No. I'm doing hard work, I think it's better if I stay solo this time.”

“Okay. Oh, I forgot. Sima said we need to have a talk about Annie coming here to sleep over with her.”

“Hell, Ginny, the last thing I want to do is tell Sima who she can sleep with, especially when it's Annie -- “ began Myra.

“No, not that” interrupted Ginny. “She's not asking our permission. It's that Annie wants to bring Omar.”

“Oh.” Omar was Annie's middle-aged dog, a poodle mix in a color Myra would call brown and Ginny would call whiskey. He went with Annie to her studio but otherwise tended to stay home because he simply wasn't socially inclined. The only creature he had ever bonded with was Annie.

“Omar has never made a real impression on me” said Myra. “The question is, how does he handle other animals? And children?”

“Sima said he's gone with Annie to Margie's garage a few times and utterly ignored Moon and Gidg, despite Gidg growling at him and trying to throw her weight around. She said there's wild cats that hang round Annie's old studio, and he's never looked their way, either. I told Sima we'll have to give it a trial run. Myra, why are you holding your shoulders up around your ears like that?”

“My neck hurts. I picked all the high berries and leaning back that much, I got a strain” said Myra.

“Here, let me rub it” said Ginny. Myra came to stand in front of her and closed her eyes against the power of Ginny's thumbs digging into her trapezius.

“Best hands ever” she murmured out loud before remembering it was a comment she used to say after Ginny made love to her. She felt the energy in Ginny's hands change. She couldn't tell if it was caution or hunger. Probably both.

After a few minutes, Ginny said “That better?” and pulled away.

“Yes, much. Thank you, girlfriend.” Again, Myra wished she hadn't used the word. To cover her awkwardness, she said “How goes the planting chart for the cabin? You and Sima ready to order plants yet?”

“We have a list, but first we're going to call nurseries in the Colville area and see what they have. It's all native and heirloom species, we may have to use several sources to find them. She and Margie are talking about going up in May, to put in the yard and also hike to the source of Kash-Kash Creek together. Do you want to go?”

Myra still had her eyes closed. “For the yard work, yes. I'm not sure about the hike, depends on how long and arduous it is.” She looked at Ginny. “I'm not ready to sleep in the cabin yet, though. Let's get a motel room.”

“Are you ever going to be comfortable staying in the cabin again?” asked Ginny.

“Yes. Just not yet.” Myra thought That's all I seem to say to you.

At shabbos dinner the following Friday, Margie announced "Next weekend is my and Franny's anniversary. We're going to the coast for two days. You can make us a cake or whatever the weekend after."

"How many years is this?" asked Jane, overlapping Lucia's question of "What's a annibursary?"

Myra waited for Margie to answer "Ten, the big 1-0" before saying to Lucia "It's the day when something special happened, that isn't a birthday. Like me and Ginny's anniversary is June 6th because that's the day we first told each other that we wanted to be more than friends."

"And you asked her if she wanted to have grandchildren, and she said yes, and then you did" elaborated David.

Ginny began laughing. "The condensed David-centric version, I guess that would be."

"I think I remember that day" said Charlie, furrowing his brow. "We lit sparklers?"

"You weren't born yet" reminded Gillam. "Neither was I, so we couldn't have been there."

"Who was there, then?" asked Charlie.

"Just me and Gramma" said Ginny, her expression reminiscent.

"Although as soon as I got home, I called Allie to tell her about it" said Myra.

"And the next morning, she told me and Chris" added Sima. Leah had come to sit in Myra's lap a little possessively. She now spread her fingers lightly on Myra's wrist and said "But you didn't get married, did you?"

"We're more than married" said Ginny. She turned to Margie "Is your anniversary the day you met or the day you told each other how you felt or, well, something else?"

"We celebrate the day we said the words, which is also when we -- did something else" said Margie, determined not to blush.

"What else -- " began Mimi, right on cue. Myra interrupted with "You know, there's a very old poem that I always associate with me and Ginny's beginning."

"A poem you wrote?" asked Leah.

Myra chuckled. "I wish." She covered Leah's hand with her own but kept her gaze locked on Ginny as she recited

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

With a mischievous lilt, Mimi said "Okay, you're growing old." Gillam goosed her.

Ginny said to Myra "You still pronounce Jenny and Ginny exactly the same." Her eyes were soft.

After a minute, Gillam said "All right, you horndogs, return to family dinner participation, if you please." Lucia laughed gaily and Myra grinned around the table, but she kept her foot pressed against Ginny's ankle out of sight.

Allie and Edwina had been out with other friends before coming to dinner, and they had arrived in dressy clothes. Allie was wearing a jet black men's shirt with a fine silver thread in it, a black silk jacket, and a silver tie with small black emblems that turned out, on close inspection, to be fountain pen spilling ink – a tie Edwina had found for her. Edwina had decided to straighten her hair on her last visit to her salon, and it now felt in a stiff silver wave over half her face. She had on a silver rayon shirt with black trim.

Allie had removed her jacket to eat, but now the tie was threatening to spill into her gravy. She loosened it and hung it over the back of her chair. She removed her cufflinks as well and rolled up her shirtsleeves. Charlie watched her with interest, then asked “Aunt Allie, are you a boy or a girl?”

Allie grinned but answered in a serious tone “Depends on how I be feelin' that day. I decide when I get dressed that morning.”

“You can do that?” asked Charlie incredulously.

“Sure. Why not? You can, too. And you can call me either Aunt Allie or Uncle Al, depending on how you feel about me that day” said Allie.

“You can call me Betty” volunteered Edwina. The adults laughed but Charlie looked bewildered.

That night, Sima left with Annie to go to her house. Myra and Ginny puttered around the kitchen. Ginny washed their potluck dishes while Myra put white beans on to soak overnight.

"Are you going to write?" asked Ginny.

"I'm pretty tired. And distracted" said Myra. Ginny waited. "I've been thinking about what Margie said. Not tonight, but back when she said our version of how we got together was a self-serving fairy tale."

"Oh god, don't tell me she was right after all" said Ginny.

"How about if I tell you but not her?" said Myra. They laughed together. Myra slid her arm through Ginny's and walked her to the elevator. When the doors shut, Myra said "The way it's been in my head, I was running around for years being compulsive about sex, but always in the context of reacting to other people's desire. I mean, the minute I knew they had an interest in me, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd act on it. But it seldom led to intimacy because I had no boundaries, and you can't be close if there's no choice in the matter. Or, if we did somehow manage to avoid that logical trap and get close anyhow, I left emotionally. Not honestly, not directly, I set things up so they would give up on me."

"You haven't changed your mind about that interpretation, have you?" asked Ginny, starting to brush her teeth.

"No. I've worked long and hard on it, and figured out the roots, which come from desperately trying to win my mother's commitment -- I had her love but not her commitment, others came ahead of my well-being. Instead of getting her attention, however, I drew the focus of the monster in the household. I had to live a dual existence, dampered down into nothing showing if he was around, throwing myself wide open if it was just me and Mama. Not good skills for adult relationships" said Myra, taking a pee.

"When you put it that way, we're remarkably similar" said Ginny. "Except I didn't go the compulsive route."

"There's a reason for that difference" said Myra, feeling a shiver down her spine. "I don't want to get into that right now."

Ginny glanced at her. "Okay. Back to how Margie might have been right, then."

"So..." Myra was having a hard time cutting through this mental undergrowth. She washed her face and hands, temporizing. Ginny said "I'll meet you in bed, okay?" Myra nodded, brushing her teeth. She put her clothes in the hamper, looked at herself briefly in the mirror, and turned off the light before going to slide in next to Ginny. Ginny put her arm around Myra, pulling her back to spoon.

Myra said "It has really mattered to me that I made a clear-cut decision to stop acting out around sex. To stop cold turkey, to pursue intimacy in other forms. But -- there's a couple of problems with that picture. One is that I did have intimacy already in my life, serious partner-style intimacy with Allie, and then also Chris and Sima. I had stopped having sexual feelings for Allie, but part of why I did all the ground work with her in the beginning of our friendship was because I hoped, believed, it would end up with us being lovers. Isn't that some sort of sexual residue?"

"No" said Ginny. "I don't think so. Our fantasies about where something will end up are often quite different from what reality emerges, and what counts is the final reality."

"Well, then, the story with Chris is -- not that. I now wonder how much sexual tension played a role in our long connection with each other. A tension I never acknowledged to myself." Myra rolled over and looked at Ginny in the lamplight. "I apologize for my failure to see it, I tell you that now. It wasn't exactly a longing, just a typical Myra kind of messiness. The old Myra, I mean."

"Apology accepted" said Ginny. "I think we all cleaned that up. Except for Sima, of course, still got some work there to do. So are those the problems with your image of having gone into recovery?"

"No, there's one more" said Myra, her eyes wide and a little scared. "There's you. You weren't intruding on my space that year, Ginny, you absolutely observed my boundary. But you knew you wanted me. I was in denial about it -- if I had identified you as wanting to come in my direction, I'd probably have treated you like I did Poe or anybody else who approached me without letting me play my games around it, letting me be the compulsive one. All this time, we've acted like I came to you and made the first move. But you kept yourself available. And when I did tell you I'd decided you were the one, you made the next move. You kissed me. You didn't just say yes to heading into intimacy, you took us right into sexual contact."

"Are you saying you didn't want that?" asked Ginny. Her forearm under Myra's hand had gone cool.

"No, I wanted it. But I didn't admit I wanted it, not ahead of time. I was still playing a game in my head, that I took my space and it just so happened when I was ready to go looking, why there you were. It's really mattered to me that I looked completely independent in how we got together."

"You were independent, Myra. I'd never have approached you first" said Ginny.

"Yeah, because your end of the dynamic is to wait to be asked. Your mother shit is that you wanted to be sought after, and my mother shit is that I wanted to do the seeking. But honestly -- you set things up as much as I did, and I -- I let you decide how fast we went into sex. Despite our best intentions, I think we kinda gamed each other."

Myra wondered if Ginny was going to get mad, tell her she was full of shit. Instead, Ginny looked scared.

"Do you think this means we have a rot at the center? Are you considering not being partners with me, because of how we began?" asked Ginny hoarsely.

"No. I think we each have old trauma that crept into even the best parts of our lives, and so fucking what. If we can keep coming back together and facing things together like this, then it was the smartest choice I ever made, deciding to play a game with you" said Myra.

Ginny was breathing rapidly. She lay in silence for a long time. Finally she asked "And what changed? Chris dying?"

"No, long before that. The realization that you could lie to me, in a fundamental way...somehow it made the fairy tale not work any more. Not enough to let you approach me sexually again" said Myra. "Only of course my current clarity is just now arriving. It's been damned hard to admit. The good news is that it is arriving. We're not dead yet, we have a chance to invent a new dynamic."

"Or maybe a new fairy tale" said Ginny, tears in her voice.

"That's a risk" said Myra. "Are you heartbroken?"

"I don't know what I am" said Ginny. "Mostly I just want you to tell me we'll make love again, and it will be as good as it ever was."

Myra didn't reply immediately. Ginny wished she didn't feel too old to invent some sort of melodrama on the spot. Myra said slowly "It's been so important to me to believe I'd found a way around all my abuse crap."

"I think you did find a way around it. The point is that now it's time for you to go through it, right through the middle, and leave it in the dust" said Ginny. "You and me both." She placed a small kiss right on Myra's mouth, and felt Myra shiver.

"Myra" said Ginny softly. "Tell me why you think you went toward compulsion and I didn't."

Myra got out of bed and walked to her chest of drawers.

"What are you doing?" asked Ginny.

"For this discussion, I need clothes on" said Myra. She pulled a jersey over her head and stepped into a pair of stretchy boxers. Ginny said "All right, then, I will too." She found a flannel gown and donned that, meeting Myra back in bed, each of them sitting up. Myra put a pillow in her lap as well.

Myra said, her voice unnaturally high, “My desire...I've had to learn to trust it. My physical desire, I mean.”

Ginny didn't know what to say. There was a pale line around Myra's lips – was she a little short on oxygen? Ginny listened for wheezing.

“Because...he wanted me turned on, you know. They – a lot of them work at it, to get their...victims...aroused. And even though I was so little, I...” Myra trailed off. She looked nauseated, Ginny realized. She put a gentle hand over Myra's on the pillow.

“I'd get wet, Ginny. I never came, but I've talked with women who did. In spite of our terror and revulsion, you know.”

“I know, Myra.”

“So...How could I trust my own body? It took me years. I kept deciding to let the desire of others run the show, women I loved, because why would they hurt me? Then, when it turned out what attracted them was – not who I really am – then it would all fall apart. Until I stopped that decision, and made a new one, that I'd only be with someone when my desire determined all the first moves. Not theirs. And when I knew, without any doubt, they weren't lying to me. Including the lie of not seeing me for who I was.”

Ginny reminded herself If she can bring herself to tell you about her feelings of betrayal about you, it means she IS trusting you. Prioritize the behavior over the language.

Myra looked around for her inhaler. It was on the nightstand. She took a puff and licked her lips.

“You know, Gin, when I said to myself 'No more making messes with sex', it meant I might never have sex again. If that's what it took, I was willing to face it. I think a lot of dykes in our generation, maybe most of us, reached that point. We realized 'Oh, hell, we're carrying the patriarchy into bed with us, even with other women', and we didn't know what to do. Some of us decided having our desire, poisoned as it might be, was more important than anything. Some of us didn't feel that way. I don't know what to do now. If I still have doubts about my own desire, and now I wonder whether how you want me might partly be untrustworthy – what do we do? I mean, this is why you broke up with Bonnie, isn't it?”

Ginny moved her head so Myra's eyes had to look at her again. “Bonnie wanted to fetishize our difficulty. It's not a solution I can live with. But, Myra, as S.E. Hinton told us, that was then, this is now. I've chosen you, Myra. I'm going to go on choosing you. You offer me the soul lessons I want. So...You don't quite trust me. However, I trust myself. And I trust you to grow and change. Therefore, I suggest we both act as if my trust is enough for the time being. We move forward toward desire, without the depersonalization of roles, and we see what happens.”

“You mean, make love” said Myra, disbelief in her voice.

“I mean exactly that. You let my desire lead us. You think that will be the same as what you did with all those other women, but Myra, I'm sure it is not the same, because I know what I'm doing. And even the exalted Karin Barbaras did not know what I know.” Ginny couldn't help herself, she began crying softly. “I love you for every good reason that ever existed, Myra Josong, and I trust my love completely.”

She pulled Myra toward her gently, lying down on the bed. Myra slid on top of her, trembling. Ginny said “I'm going to leave the light on, like our early days.”

“If you're wrong about this, it could break us” said Myra.

“Yep” said Ginny. “It would.” She was grinning through her tears.

Myra looked down into her face, trying to keep her teeth from chattering.

“Kiss me when you're ready, not a minute before” said Ginny.

Myra did.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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