“The Lonely Wooden Lighthouse” by Nathaniel Redcliffe

The Lonely Wooden Lighthouse

By Nathaniel Redcliffe

There is a lonely wooden lighthouse on a small lonely island, occupied by a very lonely soul whose name is Seth Douglas. Seth grew an intolerance for others, he can’t bear small talk and refrains from any sort of emotional attachment; that is why he chose to work and live out the rest of his days, isolated in a light house. The sea separates him from the mainland and the people on it, but that was about to change. On a typical Tuesday morning, Seth is wearing a big old black coat, baggy blue jeans and a t-shirt with the name and logo of an unknown band. If anyone has heard of them they would think they’re pretentious and not as articulate as they like to think. At the present moment, Seth is on top of his cold and windy lighthouse that sits underneath the grey clouds, using his binoculars to look out at the many faceless people distracting themselves from their meaningless lives by spending it on a beach. The mainland’s weather, is in contrast, to Mr. Douglas’s little island, warm and the sun made the sand more golden and the calm sea clear blue. On that gold and sunny beach, a girl had caught Seth’s eye. A woman with lovely long blonde hair, pretty, round face with sparkling green eyes, smooth, soft and tanned legs underneath her slightly curved hips. She is sitting on her own, cradling both her crossed legs, looking as if she was stuck in deep thought or even over-contemplating something. Even though Seth was struck by her beauty, he never thought she would be remotely interested in him due to many years of being alone. Seth had tended to “let himself go”. His light brown hair was getting too bushy, there were big purple bags hanging of the bottom of his sad watery blue eyes, his beard was in need of a trim. The fat on his big hairy pot belly needed to be cut down so his stomach could be firmer. Age was another concern for the lighthouse keeper because this woman looked as if she was in her late twenty’s to thirties, while he is approaching fiftywith many wrinkles on his tired-looking face. In the end, Seth decided to no longer pursue his thoughts (and desire) towards this mysterious woman anymore, even though the image of her lingered in his head for the rest of the day.

Seth woke up the following day in his cold bed. He naturally finds it hard to climb out of bed, what would be the point? Ships have not passed in months. The only thing that wakes him in the morning now was the sound of waves hitting the rocks below the lighthouse. To Seth, the sound was like two aggressive goats ramming their heads together; despite all the years he’s lived on the island, it still remains a sound he could never get used to. Once awake, Seth slowly climbs up the round spiral staircase with the weight of his own head forcing him to look down. Outside, Seth lent on the cold and rusty rails for his morning inspection of the people below. He noticed a group of young, vibrant and handsome male surfers flexing their bulging arms and dripping wet rock-hard six-packs, impressing a group of young, beautiful, skinny, bikini-wearing, impressionable, girls who swoon helplessly to the looks of the athletic youth. Seth is watching the girls lean on one leg, giggling and playing with their hair. Seth loathed people with arrogant and over-confident characteristics. “Lady killers” are completely unaware of the real world around them and have no real intellect to fall back on. Seth’s spirits were raised when he saw that beautiful blonde Suddenly a young, dark skinned, tall, bold, strong surfer approaches her. In Seth’s head, he is pleading that the man is not going to talk to her and hopes she is not going to succumb to his lack-of-charm, confident ego and masculinity. To Seth’s horror, the younger and superior looking gentlemen begins to chat up this exotic blonde, causing Seth’s heart to beat fast and his chest tighten. However, to his delight, the blonde-haired girl shakes her head towards the bloke has a sign of rejection. Of course, this did not the really affect the womanizer, he just walked off like she was nothing, but she was not nothing because now Seth knows that she is not just smart and deep but also never be easily won over by an aesthetically pleasing meat-head (even though it would probably help).

Over the next few days, Seth had noticed the girl was coming on the beach roughly the same time every day to either sun bathe or to read. He didn’t gaze upon her too long because he doesn’t want to feel like a “stalker”, however he decided to give this woman a name, but what? Tiffany? No, that makes her sound like a floozy. Gwendoline? no, that makes her sound old. Rachael? yes, that sounds like a respectable name for a beautiful and intelligent lady. Seth was unaware that Rachael had become a reason for him to jump out of bed in the morning. She also made him want to be a better man, so he took up jogging. Seth would jog around the grass on the small island, starting regular routine of push-ups, sit- ups, and pull-ups on his creaky door frames to not only look better, but to feel more confident within himself. Seth trimmed his messy beard to a perfect stubble line, trying to look younger and cleaner.

Two weeks had passed; the lighthouse captain was gazing at Rachael from a distance for a minute or so like he normally did every morning; frustratingly he couldn’t stand the idea of not knowing her any longer. He contemplated trying to swim all the way to the mainland, but he knew he would not make it. He even considered drowning if it meant just being that little bit closer to her, surely that was an irrational idea so then he immediately rejected his own concept.

Seth fell into a deep daydream; he was no longer alone on top of his lighthouse, he was sitting across from Rachael in an empty restaurant surrounded by long dark purple drapes. Rachael is wearing a long and lovely blue dress that’s supported by the straps on her shoulders and has her long blonde hair tied up in the back. Rachael is staring into his sad, weary eyes. The pair are having a conversation over a romantic dim-lit candle light meal, they sit at a table with a long white cloth and a glass of white wine at each place. Rachael is moving her mouth to talk but no words fall out. They were having a discussion about their favourite books and he could just sit and listen to her all day. Rachael’s hand reaches over the table to place it on top of Seth’s to bring him comfort, something he has not felt in years. Suddenly, they were no longer at the restaurant. Instead, they are tangled bodies lying in a wide, open field on a warm summers day. Though there is a light breeze, it can’t cool their skin. Rachael’s soft and curvy hips are thrown into Seth’s waist while her hands were holding his chest. His left hand is supporting Rachael’s back and the other one is gently touching her lower backside. Their eyes look heavily into one another’s as if they were seeing deep into each other’s souls, sharing what they know, sharing what they are hiding and sharing an experience. They both tilt their heads to kiss, their lips touching softly and briefly. They slowly pulled their heads away, then Seth kisses her again with much more passion. Seth’s right hand moves up onto her waist, Rachael’s body begins to tense up with much excitement, causing her to dig her fingers into Seth’s back. Seth moves to kiss the side of Rachael’s neck causing her to tilt her head back and release a gasp. Seth loses control of his hands and begins to caress every part of her body. Surprisingly tears form in his eyes. Although he had made love before in the past, nothing compared to this overwhelming emotional connection.

A ladybird shattered the day dream by landing on Seth’s arm, bringing him back to reality. He did his best to flick of the ladybird from his arm without causing it harm. Seth placed his arm against the lighthouse wall in hope it would crawl off. Failing that, he tried flapping his arm up and down comically, but the stubborn insect would not budge. Instead it crawled up his pale, yet hairy arm as if it wanted to get closer to him. Seth even thought about condemning the creature to its fate early, before it eventually flew away. Out of his own interest, he used his binoculars to follow the ladybugs path. He watched the insects flight as it made its way to the sunny beach, watched has the lady bug navigated its way over to Rachael, and watched it land on her tanned arm, feeling an instant connection between them. The ladybird obviously startled Rachael at first but when she realised what it was, it caused her to bring out a big smile towards the adorable, innocent looking insect. Her gaze began to look more intense, as if she was studying it. Her look gave an indication that she was puzzled, drawn to search for something towards the direction of the lighthouse, for a reason she couldn’t explain. Much to Seth’s surprise, Rachael looked up through the lenses of the binoculars as if she was looking straight into the lighthouse keeper’s eyes. She batted her long black eyelashes flirtatiously. Seth jumped back in shock, how could she possibly know that he had been watching her? Has the isolation finally driven him to the brink of insanity?

The following day, after his morning workout; to prove that he had not lost his marbles, Seth looked across the water again and Rachael drew something in the sand with her fingers, it read: COME AND MEET ME. Still bewildered to how she could have known, Seth immediately ran inside the lighthouse and used the control panel to signal a boat from the mainland to pick him up, something that he should have had the courage to do days ago. Seth ran into the bathroom washed his face, brushed his teeth and maintained his stubble over a dirty old sink that was practically hanging off the wall underneath the mouldy bathroom tiles and the cracked and misty mirror. He threw on his tidy suit, a tight white shirt, sharp dark blazer with thin red stripes and matching trousers that grow thinner from the hips down to his flat black shoes. With all the weight he had lost, he needed to pierce an extra hole into his black leather belt.

Two hours later, Seth heard a ship’s horn blow, meaning that his transport is soon about to dock. Seth walked along the grass to the docking area where a small white fishing boat floats. The young captain laid down a wooden plank which bridged the gap between the island and the boat. The handsome and chilled out young captain gave Seth a friendly white smile and offered a welcoming hand. As Seth stood on the narrow wooden board, he suddenly became paralyzed, which troubled the boy opposite him, who pulled back his gesture of a welcoming hand and frowned. Meanwhile Seth had a lump in his throat, his sweaty hands began to shake, his chest was getting tight and it was becoming harder for him to breath. The lonely lighthouse keeper believed that he could not sail the sea to be a good man Rachael deserved, because he was too broken, too damaged, and been on his own for far too long. What if she is terrified of him? Seth’s eyes began to burn red and leak tears that slowly ran down his cheek. Mr. Douglas walked backwards off the plank and onto the familiar, safe ground that he knew. The other man tilted his head to respect Seth’s wishes, pulled up the plank and sailed away.

The next sullen day, Seth could barely lift his heavy head from his pillow, never mind get out of bed. In the late afternoon, he managed to get up and look out on the real world that he knew he would never be apart of. His walk was slower Seth was disappointed in himself and in a moment of rage he threw his pair of black binoculars as far away from him as possible, into the lowest depths of the deep blue sea.

The next two days Seth stayed in bed, wallowing in his own depression. It was only till the third day, he was woken up by the sound of a boat horn, the same fishing boat that came to pick Seth up earlier that week. Not in the mood for any visitors, he threw on his unwashed, tattered out band-t-shirt, black jacket and blue jeans on, and stumbled outside to wave off the visitors. To his surprise, the young handsome sailor was carrying Rachael on his vessel. Seth started to panic; he wanted to run away, but where would he go? Just before he was about to lock himself in the lighthouse, he caught a glance of Rachael, which then turned into a stare. He couldn’t help but notice how beautiful Rachael looked with her long blonde hair, thick black bikini and bra that’s behind a very thin, completely see through, red dress that ran from her shoulders down to her knees. The ship docked by the island where the baby faced young captain escorted the lady off the boat onto the island, in a gentlemanly style. This woman always foreseen as Rachael was in fact called: Louise. She instantly was attracted to the older, rugged, loner vibe that Seth was giving. However he was too nervous to talk and when he did it was mere mumbling. They gazed into each other’s eyes like Seth had always imagined. For a moment, he forgot what it was like to be alone on the island. Together they would make the lonely wooden lighthouse into a home.

About the author: 

Nathaniel Redcliffe, 25, born and raised in the mining town of Doncaster. Son of Alison Chambers and Paul Redcliffe. Studied at Ridgewood Secondary School but did not go into further education, instead he joined an apprenticeship scheme at the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. Currently working has a Health Care Assistant at Doncaster Royal Infirmary but has taught himself about creative writing and enjoys doing it in his spare time. Until TROU Lit Magazine had published The Lonely Wooden Lighthouse, he had never been published before. Only reached the semi finals at the Laugh or Die Comedy Festival for the horror/comedy film script titled: Head; formed by being admirer of the mixed horror/comedy film genre. He also received an Honorable Mention at Sky Fest 2014 for the film script titled: What We Live For; inspired by his love for music.

Cheesy Christmas Movies, Give Me Something Diverse!

It’s that time of year again… It’s cheesy Christmas movie season! I must confess, that I

Christmas

Image description [A red heart ornament hangs from a green pine branch. Snowflakes have landed on the ornament and there appears to be snow in the background.]

love this time of year and all the gushy, sprinkle covered, romantic Christmas viewing there is from the beginning of November until the New Year. I love getting out my knitting projects, curling up with a fuzzy blanket and my fuzzy dogs and just relaxing for a few hours while I watch some beautiful people fall in love amid the backdrop of Vancouver or down town Toronto in July attempting to look like there could be one speck of snow on the ground. Bonus points if I can recognize a Canadian actor in the cast.

There is one glaring problem (only one you ask?). Okay, okay. So the writing is bad, the plots are predictable, and most of the movies require a hard core commitment to suspension of disbelief to even begin to enjoy them. But the main problem to which I am referring is the lack of diversity in these films.

This year, I saw one movie that had Amber Riley from Glee as the star. I was shocked to see an African American actress in a lead role, which is a terrible reaction to have. It was a much appreciated change from the tall, blonde, thin, white women who fall in love with dark, handsome, tall, rich men.

Despite my love of these movies, I find myself craving more. I’d love to see more diverse body sizes and skin tones in these films. Differently abled bodies would be a welcome change too. Same sex story lines? Yes please. Gender fluid or transgender leads, alright!

I cannot see why the lead roles in these films couldn’t just be given to other types of actors than those we are traditionally used to seeing in these types of stories. Would we find it so hard to feel excited for two women falling in love at a ginger bread competition? An elf in a wheelchair falls in love with an elf of colour? Surely Santa’s workshop is an equal opportunity employer.

I’m not talking stories that play up people’s differences, or pull at our heart strings because the romantic lead is blind. No. I’m talking let’s just put normal, everyday people, of different shapes, sizes, abilities, and colours in the roles and see what happens. A great example of a film that did this was Hitch, though not a Christmas flick, it is a good example of a movie that had two actors of colour in the lead roles, and no one died of shock. Will Smith and Eva Mendez star in this movie, where their race is never once discussed as part of the story. They have the romantic leads and fall in love, just like all kinds of people do everyday. If you’d like a Christmas example, check out Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah and L.L. Cool J. Their race is never mentioned either. As I always say, acceptance through representation. Here we have two perfect examples.

So maybe I’m filled with the Christmas spirit of wishful thinking. But if there is ever a time of year when people of all kinds deserve to fall in love, shouldn’t it be now? Come on cheesy Christmas movie makers, give us some diversity.

-Whitney

Birthday Celebration Give Away

Hello Lovelies,

Whitney here to tell you to keep those submissions coming. I’ve had a few pieces hit my inbox since I stopped publishing weekly pieces and it has been a pleasure to read them. Unfortunately, they haven’t been quite right for the magazine, but I am always happy to see your work and to read the amazing things your love filled brains and hearts create. Please keep sending in those love stories. Representation matters.

In other news, it’s my birthday next week. So that means between now and Tuesday, I am giving away FREE creative writing critiques to celebrate. If you are interested, drop me a line at troumagazineemail.com to claim your spot. These critiques can be on any genre or style, they don’t have to be love stories, though you know those are my fave.

Some parameters:

Prose pieces: up to 10 pages long.

Poetry: up to 8 pages.

Looking forward to reading what you’ve got!

Note from the Editor: Submissions and moving forward.

Hello lovely readers,

I write to you today to let you know we have reached the end of the stock pile of submissions I have been receiving over the past months. I have enjoyed reading every single piece that hit my inbox and cannot wait until I get to see some more of your wonderful work.

Since I first published Birthday Cake by Chale Needle, TROU has managed to have one story or image to share with you each week, which honestly amazes me. I never thought that I would have such success with this little magazine right out of the gate.

I have received messages from some readers about how valuable they have found the content here. I believe it matters so much to provide a platform to showcase acceptance through representation, and the love stories of regular, everyday people who are as much the same as I am as they are different. I will continue to leave the magazine open to submission, just as I always have. I hope I will receive something wonderful in the next few days that I can share with you next week. If that should not happen, then the structure of the magazine will shift a bit to accommodate the  new speed at which I receive suitable material to publish. Ever the optimist, I believe there are lots more stories to share out there.

If you would like to help keep the weekly publications going there are several things you can do. You can share the calls for submission I put out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in your feed. Or you could share the link to the submissions page directly with your friends, family, and fellow story tellers.

Best of all, you could submit a story, essay, memoir, poem, or picture yourself. Have an idea I did not think of that you think would fit the mission of the magazine, send that in too! Love appears in many forms, and I am always up to be shown new ways to love.

Building a community from scratch takes work. I hope you will join me in hammering in a few nails to build things up.

-Whitney

“Take Back The Night” by Mary Fairhurst Breen Part 2

Take Back The Night: Part 2

By Mary Fairhurst Breen

Kate and I became the epitome of Lea DeLaria’s popular joke, “What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul.” I was smug, so sure that at the advanced age of forty-four, I could distinguish love from lust. I convinced myself that house-hunting with someone after four months together was a perfectly rational thing to be doing. In truth, I was ignoring ample evidence to suggest we had nothing in common, stumbling along in a constant post-coital haze. Our lovemaking was affirming and unrestrained, and I was giddy.

I saw no comparison to my first illogical leap into domestic partnership, two decades earlier. I felt utterly comfortable with Kate. We fit together, and we laughed. I experienced a small flutter of joy when her car pulled into the driveway. After so much solitude and plain hard work, I relished our weekend ritual of tea and coffee in bed. Our politics were aligned, so we had things to say to each other about LGBT issues, workers’ rights, women’s equality. We just avoided the dozens of topics which held no interest for one or the other of us. Kate had been a star athlete until an injury ended her promising sports career. I had been the kid with a puffer and perfect grammar.

My daughters thought I was being ridiculous, of course, but were happy for me. I had let them make their own mistakes, and they granted me the same courtesy. For a while, it seemed pleasant enough at our house, though Kate and fifteen-year-old Maggie rarely spent time alone together or interacted. At dinner, they both directed their conversation towards me. We had lots of space, so if I was out teaching at night, they’d more than likely be watching separate TVs on different floors.

In our bedroom, which we’d merrily painted a colour called “lavender lipstick,” we continued to experiment unabashedly and to satisfy each other in ways neither of us had enjoyed before. I’d always loved sex and orgasmed with minimal incitement. My last male lover, whom I’d been seeing while also sleeping with a woman for the first time, jokingly lamented that by defecting to the other team, I was taking away my gift to the male ego. I figured the male ego would manage without me.

My work had become ever more precarious. I had an unerring ability to choose a job dependent on funding that would dry up with the next political shift. After yet another layoff, I decided I’d fulfill a fantasy and open my own retail arts business; to facilitate this financially, we rented out the basement of our house, meaning that Maggie had to share much closer quarters with us. She and Kate began to grate on each other. Kate had no patience for Maggie’s snippiness and self-absorption. I remembered myself as a teenager and thought we were getting off easy.

Kate started to make noises about not being able to live with Maggie, and I became uncharacteristically passive, afraid of losing my relationship, afraid of loneliness. It was such a welcome relief to share the burden of being an adult with someone. Maggie got the message and moved out shortly after her eighteenth birthday. She put on a brave face, and went along with my rationalizing list of benefits to independent living, but felt forced out of her own home.

Kate had a condo picked out before Maggie’s boxes were even packed, and I numbly agreed to move into it with her. I didn’t even like it. It was in a fancy concrete box full of old people. Rose joked that we had gone beyond Lesbian U-Haul Syndrome and were suffering from full-blown Lesbian U-Haul Chronic Disorder. I chose to keep only a quarter stake in our communal property, freeing up more cash for my fledgling enterprise. Maggie seemed okay in her shared digs nearby, and I went back to the comforts of hot sex and hot dinners, both waiting for me after a long day at my shop. Just as I had with my husband, I let myself be soothed by a nice roast chicken.

Maggie and I had it out after a weekend when she’d been cat-sitting. All her life, I had been the fierce Mama Bear she could rely on to protect her. She did not spare my feelings in letting me know how much I’d hurt her by putting Kate first. We cried and yelled and hugged and cried some more, and I apologized for my unconscionable maternal offense. That was what she needed – acknowledgment that I’d fucked up badly. At the same time, she had the generosity to acknowledge how hard it must have been for me as the only competent parent, and then the only parent, of two headstrong girls who’d suffered severe trauma. She quite liked living on her own, but I made sure we saw more of each other after that.

Kate never joined Maggie and me on our excursions, but she made the sweet gesture of flying Rose in from Halifax for my birthday, about ten months after we’d moved into “Club Crone” (my name for our empty nest). I was delighted to have my daughters together, and the three of us spent a week playing Scrabble and seeing plays. Meanwhile, Kate stewed because her space had been invaded, and because I was so noticeably enjoying activities she disliked.

Rose went back east to university, but Kate became sullen, barely moving from the couch when she got home from work. She wouldn’t open up to me, insisting she was had to work through her own shit. I tried to let her be. She was still physically affectionate, although we were rarely making love anymore. A few times I brought up the obvious issue that my children were never going to go away, suggesting we see a counsellor to help us resolve it.

I think Kate had assumed she’d have me all to herself the minute my children turned eighteen, perhaps because she’d had no further use for her own parents as an adult. She made what she called “stay-in-the-will” visits once or twice a year, and hadn’t even come out to them until after we were living together, and then only because she couldn’t sustain the web of lies surrounding her change of address.

The truth was forced out of her during a conversation with her parents, each on separate phone extensions. Her dad asked about our newly acquired property – the driveway, the garage, the roof. She’d told them she was moving in with a friend, closer to her work. I could hear Kate telling him about the layout, explaining that my daughter had her own sitting room and bedroom in the basement.

Suddenly her mum chimed in, “Do you have your own bedroom?”

“No,” said Kate after a deep breath. “I share a bedroom with Mary.”

“Well, do you have your own bed?” her mum asked mischievously.

“No, mum,” said Kate at long last. “We share a bed. We’re a couple.”

After a pause, her dad broke the tension: “Well, do you have your own office?”

“Yes!” said Kate, “I do have my own office!”

“Well, that’s good,” said her dad.

Soon after this momentous exchange, her mother’s Alzheimer’s rapidly worsened, which meant that Kate had to come out all over again, every time we saw her, and sometimes several times within the same conversation.

“Katie, honey, do you think you’ll ever get married again?”

“Mum, this is my partner, Mary, remember?”

“Oh yes, dear, is my Katie nice to you?”

“Yes, Mrs. Cochrane, she’s very nice.”

“Katie, dear, the doctor here is single and quite handsome.”

“Mum, remember Mary, my partner? We live together.”

“Oh, yes, of course. Do you girls like dancing?”

Nobody could have confused Kate for a straight person, not even in the photo of her at four years old, looking miserable in an itchy wool dress, forlornly holding a softball in one hand. We found Kate’s wedding album at the family cottage. Inside were pictures of a small-town lesbian and gay man doing what they thought they must. On the outside, in her mother’s writing, was a label that read, “Katie and Carl, 1985 –    .“  She was well aware that union had an expiry date.

I had not come out to my own parents, either, but this was mostly a matter of timing. The incident involving the Robert Palmer video had hardly seemed newsworthy, so I hadn’t mentioned it to my mother. My father wouldn’t have dreamed of asking me whether I was dating or interested in marrying again. He stuck to the short list of topics he could handle: watches, dogs, cars, and items found in the L.L. Bean catalogue, for which he had developed a peculiar attachment. Kate and I met the spring after he died. I would have told him about her, introducing tidbits of information in tiny, digestible portions. He had learned not to call grown women “girls” after many decades of reinforcement. I expect he would have come to accept that being gay was fine.

One Saturday morning, as I was getting ready for work, Kate announced that she couldn’t stay around and was going out of town for the weekend. I attributed this to Maggie’s presence in our spare room, where she was spending a couple of weeks before heading abroad. But the desperation in Kate’s tone scared me. I asked a question I was sure she’d answer with a resounding, “No!” Did she want me to move out? She answered, “Yes… but I don’t want you to lose the shop.” Those would be the last words we ever spoke aloud to each other.

I found an apartment that very day. I couldn’t stop crying, and had called in my part-time employee to cover the shop. Maggie came with me and instructed me to sign the lease. It was the first time our mother/daughter roles were reversed. Kate couch-surfed for a couple of weeks until Maggie and I had cleared out. In a small but satisfying gesture of pettiness, I got our collection of sex toys from its discreet location, took the incomparable Hitachi wand for myself, and strew the rest around under the bed, hoping that on Kate’s moving day, some burly guys would lift the box spring and find them there. A month later, I also snuck into our little garden and ate every last cherry tomato we had planted together.

I passed quickly from the shock of being blindsided to the mortification of having been blindsided. I had clued in to the fact that my relationship was in trouble at the eleventh hour, but had never expected to be thrown out like a used Kleenex.

With such a small share in our property, and no further access to credit, I really was at risk of losing my business, which I loved, and had vowed to give a fighting chance. Since this had been the gist of her only comment regarding our break-up, I thought I could expect a decent consolation prize. I sent a few emails proposing what I thought would be fair. The next thing I knew, I received a letter from a lawyer, telling me that a) communication with his client should henceforth go through him and b) I deserved diddly squat. Kate made a tactical error there. I qualified for legal aid and had the power to drag things out indefinitely. She couldn’t sell Club Crone without my consent; I held the card I needed to negotiate a small spousal settlement.

My sadness turned to rage. I can’t abide rudeness. My mother instilled in me a deep appreciation for good manners; hearing from someone’s lawyer is just not called for. Although I had daily conversations with Kate in my head for a full year, they were not laments for lost love, but rather diatribes about proper break-up etiquette. I adopted Maggie’s pet name for her: DevilHornMcPoopFace.

I reached out after a while to ask if we could talk. I would have liked an explanation, since I’d been left to draw my own conclusions. But all I got back was a text that sounded like it was drafted by either her lawyer or her therapist: “I don’t think it’s in my interest to communicate with you.” From U-Hauling to playing an annual round of Dodge-the-Ex at Pride… my first major same-sex love affair ended as it had begun – with a cliché.

About the author: Mary Fairhurst Breen is pursuing writing after thirty years in the not-for-profit sector, working in the fields of adult literacy, popular history, social services, community arts and women’s equality. She has been involved in the publication of feminist histories, and had her first creative non-fiction story published in a feminist anthology. This was her first foray into memoir, and led to work on a full manuscript that combines memoir and social commentary. As a lesbian over fifty, she is experiencing both the freedom and frustration of being unnoticeable. Mary has two adult daughters and is a foster parent. She lives in Toronto, where she is chair of the board of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Read Part 1 of this story.

“Hormone Replacement Therapy” by Axel Craig Osterberg

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

 

By Axel Craig Osterberg

 

“Hey, Faggot, you are going to get your ass kicked. Oh great, I am almost home from school and here’s Jimmy Walmart and his cousins. I start running fast over the crust of snow and cut across Old Lady Henderson’s field. Big mistake. The crew fans out. Jimmy by-passes me left, and the Walmarts, big beautiful red necks that they are, out run me by a mile. I’m surrounded and the beating begins. I fight like a girl, I am later told by Kenny Walmart. Kenny is one of my secret boyfriends. My eyes tear up and my nose breaks as they punch me. I can see Kenny standing back a bit, his face all twisted and purple from the hatred he is screaming.  I am glad he doesn’t hit me though. Old Lady Henderson starts yelling from her trailer door. “You little shits, cut that out!” She runs out wielding a broom. Jimmy and the crew land another kick apiece as I lay on the snow. “Faggot” Jimmy hisses as he spits in my face. They all run off laughing. Old Lady Henderson swipes at them with her broom as they fly past her.  My nose is gushing blood and now I am pissed. I am up on my feet when Old Lady Henderson gets to me. “Jesus H Christ! What the fuck did you do to them?” She cackles as the snow cracks under her slippers. “Shit, boy, you are a mess.“  She holds a handful of snow to my nose and it turns crimson in her weathered hand. “Oh for Christ’s sake stop crying! You’re Lil’s kid, ain’t ya?” I nod. Inside her trailer it’s hot, like a nursing home. The blue and white flowered wall paper is yellowed from years of chain-smoking.  We light up together and smoke in silence. She hands me her drink and I quaff it down fast., “Easy, buddy! Easy! Hey, you want me to call your mum?”

“No thanks“ I sulk. The walk home is cold and my head starts to throb. Mom’s shiny new Gremlin X is parked in the driveway. I decide to go to Dale’s house. Dale is my other secret boyfriend and my neighbor. He is also Jimmy Walmart’s cousin, those backwoods freaks! Dale’s mother Kitty opens the door to their trailer. Her dinner smells great! Suddenly I am starved: for dinner, for Dale, for love. I hear Dale’s father yelling inside. I hear Dale, too. He is crying.  He is getting another beating. Kitty draws deeply on her Marlboro Light. Marlboro Lights are the cigarette choice of every white trash girl and trailer park faggot in Maine.

“Oh, honey, you’d better get out of here! Dale told us about you two, you know, and Dad is just rippin mad! He says you can’t ever see Dale again, and said if you ever come down here again he’s going to kill you!” Kitty hugs me because I am crying again. “Oh, honey, I love you and I always will. It’s okay to be, uh, like you boys are. I still love you. You are a good boy but you gotta get out of here, now.”

Kitty is crying a little too. I stumble home. I am scared. Mom’s in the kitchen with the lights down again. She’s drinking vodka and seven with a Marlboro Light dangling from her lips.” Old Lady Henderson called and said you been fighting”. She was pissed. Her hand stung hard as she reached out and slapped my face, “Don’t lie! You were, weren’t you?” She slapped me again.  I run into the bathroom and puke. Sometimes I just puke, just like that. I think “What a shitty day!” I open the medicine cabinet. I look at all the bottles of Mom’s pills. After a while, I take her bottle of tranquilizers and pocket them.

In my room, I roll a joint and put on Joni Mitchell, real loud. Now I am scared, pissed and depressed. Self hatred fills in all the holes left by my self pity. Stupid Dale! “Fuck fuck fuck FUCK it all!” I turn Mom’s pill bottle over and over in my hands. I take the pills one by one. Then I lay down and start to cry, loudly, being prone toward the dramatic. I can’t wait to die. “I’ll show them! They will all be really sorry when I die!” I tell myself, but in my heart I know it’s not true, nobody will care.  I start to feel funny, light headed, you know. And is that my stomach starting to hurt? I try to puke but can’t make myself throw up. Suddenly I am terrified! This isn’t nearly as glamorous a death as a fourteen-year-old faggot had imagined! “Shit, shit, shit!!” I think as I sneak into the living room to steal a smoke and get the phone. No problem! Good old Mom is comatose on the couch. I pinch a cig as I grab the phone. In my room, I call my best friend Liz. I am now dying so I spill my guts. “Liz I’m a fag! And Kenny Walmart told Jimmy that we did it, and him and the Walmarts beat me up after school, and Dale told his Dad the we did it too, and Mom and dad and they are going to kill me so I took a bottle of Mom’s pills and I am going to kill myself.”

Liz, a strawberry blond Aries girl with big boobs flies to the rescue. She is my best friend.  Everyone thinks we we are boyfriend and girlfriend because we disappear together for hours, but all we do is talk and smoke a lot of pot.

“Where’s your Mom?” she asks. “Passed out on the couch drunk” I answer.

“Hang on! I will be right over!” She hangs up. I wait 30 or 40 minutes to die. I don’t. Liz shows up finally and she has got my dad with her. Great! She has called my Drill Sergeant dad away from his job to bring me to the emergency room because I am committing suicide because I am gay! Good call Liz! We are silent on the 30 miles drive to the hospital except for my occasional sigh. Dad keeps eying Liz’s tits. “Nice sweater” he finally barks and Liz and me nearly die trying not to laugh. In the emergency room Liz blurts out “He’s trying to kill himself because he is GAY and he took a whole bottle of his mom’s tranquilizers.” Nurses and orderlies surround me. I am whisked off for examination. Lights shine into each of my eyes. “What kind of pills did you take? How many pills did you take? What is the name of the pills? When did you take them? All I can do is cry. They pump m my stomach. In a little while I see my dad and he is talking to the doctor. They are whispering but I hear them talking about Ward 86. I know it’s the psychiatric wing of The Maine Medical Center. Mom stays there from time to time. In the Emergency Room Waiting Lounge, an ambulance driver chats with Liz’s breasts. She likes it/him. Liz suddenly remembers. I have given her the pill bottle on the ride to the hospital. She jumps up shouting “I have the pill bottle! I have the bottle!” She thrusts the bottle into the doctor’s hands. He studies it intently. He pulls my dad aside and they whisper again.  As they approach me I hear the doctor “I still think he should spend the night on Ward 86, just for observation.” Dad groans audibly and barks “No fucking way!” He barks a lot. He grabs me by the shoulder and drags me out of the ER. We are silent on the ride home too. Dad’s old GMC 8-cylinder lulls Liz and she falls asleep with her head on Dad’s shoulder. At home, I am immediately sent to my room. Liz is told to wait in the car. I hear Mom and Dad arguing. Dad leaves to take Liz home.  I wait a few minutes, then sneak into the living room to snag another smoke. Mom is talking on the phone laughing. “Yes, the stupid little queer tried to kill himself!” her laugh was filled with disgust.
“Oh, yeah, he’s a faggot alright! The neighbor caught with his son. I’ve known he was a little faggot since he was six years old.” She is laughing again. “I know it’s not funny! You know how much this little stunt of his is going to cost us? Stupid little queer can’t do anything right, not even kill himself. I mean, stupid little faggot took a whole bottle of my Premarin. Yes. Premarin, my estrogen replacement pills! Thank God they pumped his stomach, he’s queer enough already!” I hear my Aunt cackling over the telephone line. Mom suddenly sobers up a bit. “Oh, yeah his father knows all about it! He had to leave work to take him to the ER!”  And he is going to kick his faggotty ass when he gets home! That ought to teach him!” She hangs up and hears me crying. “I know you’re there! I can hear you blubberin’!” She knows by my tears that I was listening. “That’s right little mister, you are going to get the ass kickin’ of your young life when your dad gets home. Just you wait!”  I make her a drink, real strong, out of habit. I hand her the tumbler of vodka, seven and ice. She laughs as she palms me a smoke and settles in on the couch. In my room, the cigarette helps.

Liz calls me the next day because I didn’t go to school. “You alright?” she asks.

“Dad didn’t beat me up” I say.  Liz hesitates just a second, then she says “I let him feel me up on the ride home.” I know right then that she is the best friend a fourteen years old fag could ever have.

“I owe you big time” I say.

“I liked it” she says.

“I know” I say.

About the author: Axel Craig Osterberg lives in San Francisco. He is facilitator of All Tribes Playhouse, a living arts workshop whose mission is to Celebrate the Sanctity of Daily Life with creative arts. Axel volunteers at Maitri Hospice. He writes, acts, and directs for the Theater. He has two amazing service dogs named Tuffy and Lovey Howl Osterberg. HIs astrology column, ASTROLOGIK has appeared in HIP INK, Odyssey, CreamPuff and Oblivion Magazines. HIs plays include “12 Steps to the Bar”HOMELESS, the OdysseyViagra Falls, and HOSPICE or Dancing with Starlight. 

“Take Back The Night” By Mary Fairhurst Breen Part 1.

Take Back the Night

Mary Fairhurst Breen

I was twenty-three years old, and had just given birth to my first child. One night, pacing frantically back and forth with my wailing newborn strapped to my chest, I discovered that I was, at the very minimum, bisexual. And it was all because of Robert Palmer.

MuchMusic was new, and I had the television on in the background while I wore a path in the carpet. The now iconic music video for Addicted to Love came on, featuring Palmer’s signature back-up “band” of models with shiny red lips, slicked-back hair and micro-skirts. It’s quite dreadful, really – all those glassy-eyed women fake-playing guitars. I was recovering from an infected episiotomy, yet somehow, in my sleep-deprived post-partum state, I was wildly turned on by them. I thought, “Huh,” and filed the incident away.

My mother had always been my grounding force. She was a scientist and an artist, a pragmatist and a creator. Her death when I was twenty-six left me with only my young husband Dan to lean on, and he was not a solid structure. My intense grief coincided with two conflicting impulses: I decided I wanted another baby; and I fell in love with a woman. Dan had lost interest in sex, probably because he was drinking heavily by this time. This impeded the first situation and facilitated the latter. But having just been through the agony of dealing with one terminally ill and one mentally ill parent with no siblings to share the load, I was determined that Rose should not be an only child.

My professional circle in the not-for-profit sector was disproportionately full of out lesbians, closeted lesbians, and women who, like me, were curious and would later make a full switch. During my mother’s illness, I had gravitated towards my co-worker Joan, who could not have looked more butch, but was married to a man. I obsessed about her, and directed much unsolicited attention her way. Six months after my mum’s death, although I was diligently forcing myself on Dan on ovulation days, I professed my love to her at a Take Back the Night march. I had no clear intentions, just a fantasy in which we absconded from real life to raise babies together. She gently indicated that she didn’t want to leave her marriage (yet… she did come out later), nor did she want to have an affair. It was too uncomfortable to be around her, so I left that job. Immediately upon starting a new one, I got pregnant.

I felt it only fair to tell Dan about my attraction to Joan. He had never been the jealous type, and was remarkably unperturbed. He dismissed my feelings as a reaction to the void left by my mother. He was on board with having another child. He loved our first daughter with all his heart, and was a hands-on, diaper-changing dad.

After I left him, I dated men for another few years, then I took the plunge and asked out another mum at Maggie’s school. Chatter quickly spread among the parents, which struck me as odd. It was a liberal alternative school, and by then Ellen had come out on TV and Will and Grace was a primetime hit. It was uncomfortable to be the object of so much attention. I remember another mother saying to me in a hushed voice, “I saw your ‘friend’ in the paper,” referring to a front-page picture from the Dyke March. She seemed to be going for a wink-wink-nudge-nudge tone, but couldn’t manage the word “girlfriend.” Even Dan didn’t like it when he overheard one mother say to another, “There’s nothing wrong with it, but I didn’t want to have to introduce the subject so soon.” As if the mind-boggling mechanics of heterosexuality require no explanation to a child!

I preferred to keep my adult adventures to myself, but Rose had picked up a suggestive message from my lover on the answering machine, and another grade two kid had told Maggie that her mummy was dating Janie’s mummy. Neither of my daughters batted an eye. Dan opportunistically ventured the opinion that I was adding to the girls’ burden as children of a broken home, but he didn’t really buy into what he was saying, and sheepishly let it drop. We had raised our children to be ambassadors for inclusion, and they had other preoccupations. If asked, they would probably say that the most interesting thing to happen in our family in 1999 was that we got a dog.

After my initial foray into lesbian life (the other mum had several girlfriends, which wasn’t really my cup of tea), I had another quick fling with a married former colleague, whose husband seemed to feel that sex with a woman didn’t count as infidelity, and was probably titillated by the whole thing.  When she had an indiscretion with a man some time later, he divorced her ass in a flash. What senseless power penises hold. But not for me. By that time, I was in hot pursuit of the alternative.

Online dating had become the new normal, so I tried my luck on a site called The Pink Sofa. I had just started seeing someone I’d met in cyberspace, when another suitor appeared out of the blue. As it turned out, our meeting was not coincidental, but in fact orchestrated down to the very last detail. A mutual acquaintance had arranged for Kate to attend an Equality Day event where I had a key role, and had fed her as much biographical information as was available. Oblivious, I brought my Pink Sofa lady, confounding everyone who was in on the scheme.

Undaunted, Kate took several opportunities to flirt, sidling up to me at the chocolate foundation and suggestively immersing pieces of fruit. She made an awkward joke about bananas being too phallic for the occasion. Once the dignitaries were gone, I unwound by dancing with some spritely young grassroots activists, inadvertently affording Kate a clear view down my blouse. The next day, our matchmaker was more forthright in her meddling, asking me if she could give Kate my phone number. It was all very flattering.

We had brunch the following weekend. Kate had a second activity up her sleeve, in the hope we’d want to extend our date. She took me to a flea market at a hipster hotel – a fundraiser for a local LGBT film festival. It was a treasure trove of books, which I kept holding up for Kate as I added to my pile. “Have you read this?” I’d ask. “Don’t you love Jane Urquhart?” She mumbled something and wandered off towards the used biker boots. It turned out Kate had not picked up a book since university, and never read for pleasure.

And yet. I did not run the other way, library card clutched firmly to my chest. Instead, I shook myself free of the other woman I’d been seeing, and Kate and I became the epitome of Lea DeLaria’s popular joke, “What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul.” I was smug, so sure that at the advanced age of forty-four, I could distinguish love from lust. I convinced myself that house-hunting with someone after four months together was a perfectly rational thing to be doing. In truth, I was ignoring ample evidence to suggest we had nothing in common, stumbling along in a constant post-coital haze. Our lovemaking was affirming and unrestrained, and I was giddy.

I saw no comparison to my first illogical leap into domestic partnership, two decades earlier. I felt utterly comfortable with Kate. We fit together, and we laughed. I experienced a small flutter of joy when her car pulled into the driveway. After so much solitude and plain hard work, I relished our weekend ritual of tea and coffee in bed. Our politics were aligned, so we had things to say to each other about LGBT issues, workers’ rights, women’s equality. We just avoided the dozens of topics which held no interest for one or the other of us. Kate had been a star athlete until an injury ended her promising sports career. I had been the kid with a puffer and perfect grammar.

… Continued in two weeks.

About the Author: Mary Fairhurst Breen is pursuing writing after thirty years in the not-for-profit sector, working in the fields of adult literacy, popular history, social services, community arts and women’s equality. She has been involved in the publication of feminist histories, and had her first creative non-fiction story published in a feminist anthology. This was her first foray into memoir, and led to work on a full manuscript that combines memoir and social commentary. As a lesbian over fifty, she is experiencing both the freedom and frustration of being unnoticeable. Mary has two adult daughters and is a foster parent. She lives in Toronto, where she is chair of the board of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Read Part 2 here.