“That’s when I used to love her, but it’s all over now . . .”

MLK Day 2002
So this all happened a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t remember everything about this day. I don’t know how I felt as I drove down to pick Charity up from her house. I don’t remember if I was in a bad mood or not. I doubt I was. I think I’d been in a bad mood earlier in the weekend and gotten over it.

I remember it was beautiful and sunshiny outside. That kind of blue sky that pierces you like certain women’s eyes. Unbroken blueness slowly fading into white near the horizon, with maybe a hint of brown from the smog and dust of the city and desert so close together under the immense spread of the sky.

At her apartment she took us to sit on the curb and we flipped through photographs Annie had taken at the Ruta Maya closing (we call it the closing, but actually Ruta Maya — or some portion of it — has remained open throughout this time except for two days immediately following the closing party). She threw them on the ground facing up, one picture of each of the main group of friends that were there: Brian, John, Annie, Charity, me, Jorge, Oscar, et al. You could stand back and see the night come alive briefly in that collage of faces. The joy and sadness, smiles and longing glances at spaces soon to be safely tucked away in memory, the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime institution, the coffeeshop we compared all others to (no matter how bad Ruta Maya coffee was/is).

Finished glancing back, we drove over to Stacy Park off Riverside and walked around. Parents and kids were out playing, so I couldn’t commandeer a swing. We walked deeper into the park, down to the creek that slices through the limestone floor. We explored a bit. She showed me the clay sculptures she and Annie had left there the last time they’d come. We followed the trail of their red clay that a kid had made with his/her hand along the creek. The trail ended abruptly underneath a promontory of limestone that hung low over the bank.

I sat down in a piece of shade and lie back listening to the water flow over rocks and twigs. Birds chirped. It was entirely peaceful. Charity came and sat down next to me. We talked a bit. I told her my thoughts of leaving Austin. Going to Europe for a couple of months and then moving on to Los Angeles or New York or New Orleans. Somewhere. Anywhere. Something to break me away from the comfort zone I’ve built for myself in Austin over the past three years. She supported the idea.

As was the usual case, she started kissing me. I let her come down to me where I lie on the limestone of her own volition, supporting herself with her own arms. For me, the tension grew as the passion did. For the three or four weeks we’d been dating, she’d get really turned on and then leave me to drive forty minutes home to finally relieve myself alone. I’d grown more and more disillusioned with those circumstances and had even told myself after each instance that I would no longer actively pursue any sort of physical element in our dates beyond holding her hand and light making out.

I let my guard down. Again. I thought that her apologies saying she didn’t feel comfortable finishing what she started after each time in the past three weeks might finally lead to reciprocation now. She wouldn’t start something again not planning to finish it, would she?

I touched her until she stopped me.

I looked at her and could tell by her eyes that it had happened again. Again her desire would be fulfilled and my own left to slowly dissipate over the miles and time between her apartment and my destination.

“That’s okay,” I said, as I stood up and moved away from her so she could straighten her clothes, “I’ve come to expect this.”
I sat down not far away from her.
She buttoned herself up and put her arms around me. I kept my hands locked in front of my knees, pressing them against my chest.
I watched the water flow down the creek. Ripples and splashes of white as it came over the rocks and around tree roots.
She looked off into the distance, down the creek, away from me.
Her silence begged me to ask, so I did.
“What are you thinking?”
“You won’t like it.”
“Then its better to get it out there now, isn’t it? Rather than let it fester under your skin.”
“I wish you had a vagina,” she said.
“You wish I had a vagina…”
“Penises turn me off.”
My mind flashed back across the last three weeks. Everything fell into place. Except one thing: Why hadn’t I been told this before?
“I mean, you turn me on so so much, but penises turn me off,” she explained.
I thought, I know you said you were bi. You’re not bi, darling, you’re lesbian.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“Used,” I responded. There was no better way to put it.
“Well, now you know how women feel.”
The words burned in my ears.
“Oh, so you’re trying to make a point here?”
I couldn’t look at her. She didn’t say anything. I was thankful for the creek at that moment. For the sound of the water flowing and splashing down. It meant I didn’t have to listen to her breathe next to me. It could have even blocked out her words had I wanted it to. I was thankful for the sun shimmering off the water and the designs reflected from the tree branches above. I could search for answers in the shallow depths there rather than the shallow depths of her eyes.

We sat mostly silent there for a while. My eyes rarely leaving the water below us. When she asked the time, I gave it to her. She wanted to go home.
“Will you take me or should I take myself?”
“I’ll take you.”
I drove her home.

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