A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
The Ballad of Lisa and Lacey (Part XI)
(for Part X click here)
The irony was Lacey never intended to do anything — not that night — not ever. It was just the night. The warm spring night and the light — the half light smoothing through the glass wall open cabin door, fluttering the winter-length lace curtains. And the distant sounds of music, low over the water, elegant and primitive, and the Danube slowly dreaming them along. They were like shadows in the floating false twilight, unreal phantoms of themselves. Lisa on her stomach, half asleep and half covered in folded white marble. Lacey sitting in the doorway, all legs and carefully balanced. They’d been talking and drifting and talking and now quiet again, time out of mind.
“God, I’m tired,” Lisa sighed without actually speaking. “We must have walked a hundred miles today.”
Hypnotized by the shape of Lisa, statue grey in the teasing light, Lacey heard all the words but they were just sounds, female noises exhaled into the darkness. It was the deep even whisper of Lisa’s breath Lacey had been listening to, the slender tremors that moved her shoulders, slight and rising like a long lingering pulse. Unconsciously, Lacey had fallen into their rhythm — breathing in and breathing out. And she could see her there — Lisa — her face, her arm tucked under her chin, the fall of her hair, the sloping muscles of her back, the swell of her hips, all sculpted out of a moment in time. Time that was going to vanish, telescope into a memory and maybe even disappear. There was a deep sadness in that, that Lacey didn’t want to understand. She wanted forever. She wanted it for her — she wanted it for always — but more than anything else, she knew she wanted it for Lisa.
Lacey pushed herself out of the doorway, took three deliberate steps and knelt at the side of the bed. She put her hand on Lisa’s back. She could feel the warm of the touch between them. She moved her hand down across the tiny soft hair in the small of Lisa’s back. She could feel Lisa moving to follow her hand. She leaned forward and softly blew a long point of air up Lisa’s spine. Lisa twisted her shoulders, pushing her hips down into the bed. Lacey moved her face forward and kissed the intimate hollow between Lisa’s shoulders, wetting her lips with her tongue. There was a sound from Lisa’s throat, deep and moist. Lacey brushed Lisa’s hair away. She could see Lisa’s eyes, half awake and half aware. She ran her tongue slowly across Lisa’s shoulder bone and kissed her on the neck. She could feel the pulse jump. She kissed her again. She reached under Lisa’s cheek, turned her face and held it in her hands and then she kissed her, opening her lips with her tongue. It was luscious, long and tender with desire. She could feel Lisa’s hand reaching into her hair. Lacey moved her lips across Lisa’s cheek and, ragged with breath, kissed her again — bigger, fuller, more demanding. She could feel Lisa’s body reaching up to meet her. Lacey moved her mouth back and holding Lisa in her hands, paused — waited. Lisa opened her eyes and the two women looked at each other. There were no words. Lacey leaned forward.
“We can’t do this.” Lisa said, turning her head.
“We can’t, Lace.” Lisa pleaded, “We just can’t.”
“Yes, we can,” she said, slyly. “I’ve been practicing.”
Lisa turned her hips and tried to put her feet on the floor, but the sheets held onto her and she kicked her legs. Lacey leaned forward again and Lisa grabbed her wrist.
“No, Lace.” she said firmly, trying to sit up.
Lacey stayed on her knees, dumb with confusion. Unable to kick free from the sheets, Lisa pushed Lacey from the wrist and, off balance, Lacey sat down heavily. Lisa let go and, in one motion, swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up. She stepped over Lacey’s knee and her leg brushed against Lacey’s arm.
“Don’t!” Lisa said, finally and completely, stepped around the corner into the bathroom and slammed the door.
Hours later, or maybe ten minutes, Lisa opened the door and turned on the light. Lacey was back in the doorway, numb in the breeze. Lisa just stood there, in the green and gold #12 shapeless sports shirt she always slept in. More time passed.
“Say something,” Lacey said, without looking.
“It was you who said no. Way back when: ‘I’m not gay. Don’t expect me to be.’ You said it.”
“I know I did, but … I thought … I just thought.”
“What did you think?” Lisa cut her off, “Rub the old girl the right way and that’ll keep her happy?”
“No, Lis. It isn’t like that. You don’t understand.”
“No, Lacey. You’re the one who doesn’t understand. You made the rules. You made all the rules. Have they changed now? Nobody told me. I didn’t get that memo.”
“I just thought…”
“No, you didn’t. You didn’t think about tomorrow. Or the next day. You didn’t think about where this little escapade was going to leave me. You’re not gay, Lacey. Did you think I wasn’t going to notice?”
There were so many things to say, so much Lacey had to explain. But Lisa cut her off again.”I know it was never me. It isn’t me you want. I can live with that. I have lived with that. But why is it always about you — always?”
“Me?” Lacey scolded, before she thought, “Me? You’re the one who’s going to leave me standing at the airport. And what do I get after that? A couple of phone calls. Three — if I’m lucky. And maybe, when you can fit me into your schedule, you show up for a visit. But, believe me, I don’t hold my breath waiting anymore. And do we ever do anything? No! We pretend we do, but we don’t. And I can’t come and see you. God, no! Your precious reputation couldn’t take that. I don’t even know those people and I’m scared of them. Bullshit! It’s not always about me.”
“You do the same thing.”
“Did you just hear yourself? You’re pathetic. If you want to stay in the closet, fine, but you’re keeping me in there with you. And it’s not even my closet.”
“That’s not true.”
There was a long pause.
“We’ve been doing this for eight years, Lis. Eight years. And in all that time, you’ve never been to my apartment. Never. Not once. It’s a ten minute cab ride from your hotel. I should know; I’ve done it often enough. You’re so damn worried about where this leaves you. Where does that little fact leave me? Where has it ever left me? I was just trying to be nice. I wanted to be nice to you. It’s all I wanted to do.”
There was silence — a long silence.
“Turn off the light and go to bed, Lis. I’m too tired to fight with you, anymore.”
The next day was long and sunny and sad — and slowly they apologized to each other. It cut both ways and the hurt wouldn’t go away. Despite their best intentions, the distance between them was too uncomfortable to maintain. Intimate strangers unable to look at each other. That evening, they decided that the next day, in Vienna, they would cut things short and just go home. And that’s what they did.
At the airport, Lacey hurried Lisa along and Lisa lingered. Finally, they both ran for Lisa’s plane, and it was a quick hug — the first touch — and then goodbye. Lisa called as soon as she got home and many times after that. Each time, there was more Lisa and less distance.
Lacey stayed home that year. The parents’ condo was too small, the brothers weren’t interested and honestly neither was she. She took night courses in accounting and decided to learn French. There was time for such things.
And now it was the afternoon before Christmas and Lacey was pouring more wine into her glass when the telephone rang. She spilled some, grabbing the phone.
“Hi, Lace. This is Lisa. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, Lis.”
There was a pause.
“Do you remember the first cruise we took, Lace, down the Rhone?”
“Remember the night I embarrassed you talking to the steward?”
“Yeah, I remember. You never did tell me what you said to him.”
“That’s what I need to tell you now. I told him that we weren’t a mother and daughter. I told him that we hardly knew each other and that I was an old dyke trying to seduce you into my bed. And you know what he said to me? He said, ‘Don’t worry, Madame. You’re not fooling anyone. The only one who doesn’t know it is your girlfriend.’ I’d like to go back to Paris and start over, Lace. Do you want to come?”