Boys and Girls:
The Girls. Fifty metres west or in the backyard of the wartime house.
I’m not a lesbian, I guess. I’ve never worried about that. When you are a kid, it’s safer to be with the girls than with the boys. You are part of the clan, especially with the big girls. One summer I was at Winnipeg Beach, or Ponema maybe, and there was a bunch of families staying in one cottage, one of those that had the wind blowing underneath. The water pump was down along a soft grassy path at the corner and we’d run there, barefoot all the way, in our pajamas. The outhouse was, yes, disgusting. And the outhouse was a dangerous place, too, because the boys would grab you and force you and lock you inside. The big girls were there to protect me.
When we all piled into the cottage at night, after dark, and my sister was in the crib, I was declared to be a big girl now and went into the big bed. I awoke sometime in the middle of the night. I was on top of the stomach of a big girl and the big girl’s friend, my face in their breasts, and I had no clothes on and they were laughing. I totally didn’t get it. They were my heroes. My protectors. I must have started crying because the next thing I knew my mom was in and dragging me out of the big bed. It was never mentioned.
As I grew, the girls back in the neighbourhood played lots and lots of doctor. It started to get exciting when their tits started to bulge, even though mine never did. We’d be under the shed or up in the bedroom closets of the wartime houses, or out in a makeshift fort in the fields, and eventually, in the back seats of derelict cars along the back lane. It involved mainly showing and touching. There was never any kissing. It was a show-off experience, not really a lesbian thing. Once I reached puberty, it ended and was never mentioned again. Not by any of the girls.
I did eventually find some lesbian friends. I didn’t know they were lesbians, though, until much later. I thought that laughing about tits and hugging in tears was all quite normal for jock girlfriends. There were no lesbians in those days. There were old maids and tomboys. I qualified as a tomboy because I had no boyfriend. My brother had convinced me that I was an ugly scab. In grade eight, when I finally started to grow, I became a jock because boys weren’t an option for me. I hung out with other jock girlfriends. Some of them had boyfriends, but there were lots of us who didn’t.
My first drinking experience took place with a gang of my sports friends. I was in basketball, volleyball, track, fastball, tetherball, all of it. This was my world. My high school was located just outside the edge of my neighourhood and I was living it all. We somehow aquired a six pack of Standard Lager and went to Barb’s house, way out of Shaughnessy Heights, past Redwood in one of those really old houses that were scrunched together, before you hit Mountain. After we had drunk some beer, Barb went ballistic and started going on that there was no God and that men were weasels. And the other girls were all with her and I was trying to convince her that God was good, but I simply lost the battle. I puked and somehow got home. The next day I realized that they were lesbians, lezzies, they were called back then. It didn’t matter to me. I was very upset about her loss of belief in God and not at all upset about their gayness. After that I easily recognized my gay friends. But it was never mentioned. There was no phobia about it.
Several years later when I was back in Shaughnessy Heights visiting my folks, showing off my first born, I found out that Sharon, my summer camp friend from the West End, was living just a half block away in one of the slab homes. This was the friend, who was so interested in testing which girl’s breast could hold a pencil or a hair roller or a soup can beneath it. Needless to say, mine held nothing. There was no droop whatsoever. What an athlete Sharon had been, right up to the university level, until she buggered up her pinky in a motorcycle accident. They fused it in the tea-cup position. I guess you can’t make set-shots with a fused pinky.
I wandered up to the house where she was staying, knocked, and entered right into the front room. There were no front hallways in slab homes. I sat on the chesterfield and they called from the back hall to say they’d be right there. Out came two young heavy-breasted women, my age, wearing only t-shirts and panties, and they were very giddy. They had come right out of the closet and into my face.
“You are married?” Sharon asked. “Why?” I admitted I wasn’t sure why, just that it seemed like time. They made me feel the fool for my choices.
I found Sharon one more time after that. We met for a drink in Osborne Village. She was a computer programmer. Today I can’t find her anywhere. Not on Facebook. Not on Google. I do miss her. My favourite memory of Sharon involved an incident that happened back in our wartime house. My parents had left us alone for the weekend, so it was time for the party. Sharon came over in the midst of it and my brother’s friend, Bob, drunk out of his mind, tried to seduce her at the bottom of the stairs. In a wartime house, the stairs go up on a corner making the bottom almost like a chaise longue. She was just around the corner hugging the banister and sitting on step five, and he was sprawled at her feet, mumbling lovely enticements to her. She was loving it.
“He’s sucking my toe! He’s sucking my toe!” She reminded me of the toe-sucking moment when I visited her and her girlfriend that day. It meant a lot to her.