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When Women Leave Men for Women


Read an exclusive excerpt from a new anthology -- Greetings From Janeland -- of real-life Janes leaving their Dicks.

David, Sawnie, and I shared the kind of friendship you have in college. You stay up until dawn, talking about all the ways you're going to shake up the known world. You philosophize, you dream.

Sawnie and I also had the quintessential girl-to-girl college friendship. We talked about my relationship with David--my fiance--and the guys Sawnie dated. She was a true beauty queen. Her eyes were dark, quiet, confident, and she had a long line of suitors. Even David called her "Beautiful Sawnie." Never just Sawnie. I believed he'd have been with her, if he could. But he was short, and she was tall, and that was the end of his equation.

My equation was a little less clear.

As a kid, I was a martial artist. Martial arts weren't popular back then, so I was the only girl in most classes. I fought men. I won. When I was done sparring, peopled whispered, "Wow, what a dyke." I was twelve. I didn't know what the word meant. I thought they were calling me a dick.

It was winter. David was out of town. I was in bed, swaddled in that sweet space between dreaming and waking, when Sawnie opened my door and said, "Wanna go to breakfast?"

I pulled the blankets tighter. "Too cold."

"I have to tell you something."

"So tell me now."

"No way. Not in this house."

What words were impossible to utter in this house, I wondered. Nonetheless, a few minutes later, we stepped out into snow and ice so slick we had to clutch each other's arms so we didn't fall.

Sawnie was wearing this long black coat that made her seem simultaneously more sophisticated--like some high-brow New Yorker--and more scary. It fell around her like a cape. In recent weeks, she'd been distant, mean. I'd begun to think of her as utter darkness.

We walked under amber streetlamps haloed with fog.

"I have to tell you something," she said.

I thought perhaps she was going to explain why she had been so distant recently. "Okay," I said, "Go ahead."

And she began to speak, and I let go of her arm to face her, and she went down on the ice. Hard.

Later that afternoon, I visited her in the hospital where she'd had surgery on her broken leg.

When she came home from the hospital, David was out of town. She and her full cast clunked into my bedroom one night and said, "I want to take you to dinner."

So the three of us--me, Sawnie, and her massive cast--clunked up the stairs of the Rio Grande. Before we sat down Sawnie said, "I don't want anything from you. I just need you to listen."

I ordered a margarita, and Sawnie drew in a breath, and said, "Okay." I leaned in. "You're not in love with David."

I sipped my margarita.

And she added, "You're in love with me."

My eyes went droopy and I muttered something like, Oh, yes, this is very interesting; I want to hear everything you have to say, because I have a very open mind, I'm a progressive, forward thinking liberal who has crawled my way out of a regressive, redneck family, and if you're a lesbian, I fully support you.

And I can't wait to get home to David.

She then listed all the times I'd "proven" this love to her. That time in the bar when the guys wouldn't leave us alone and--as defense against their advances--I faked like I was going to kiss her. That time when we brushed shoulders and our lips came too close. Those several times when David was talking to me, but I couldn't stop looking at her.
Halfway through her litany, I waved to a waiter. "Sir, could I get a pack of cigarettes?"

"What kind?" he asked.

I envisioned the tough guy on the horse. I needed him now. "Marlboro," I said. Until that exact moment in time, I did not smoke.

They say sucking cigarettes is sexual sublimation. I sublimated a whole pack of Marlboros that night. Sawnie talked. I smoked. I drank. I rested my chin on my twisted up arms. I was exhausted. When she was done talking, my energy returned. "Okay. Let's go," I said.

We walked down the stairs, Sawnie leaning on crutches. "So, what do you want to do?" she asked.

It seemed obvious. "I wanna go home."

"David'll be there," she said.

"Yeah. So?"

"That's what you want?"

"Well, yeah."

When we reached her car I had to help her into the driver's seat. I took her crutches, leaned them on the hood, and she rested her hand on my shoulder for stability.

She rested her hand on my shoulder.

I was a martial artist precisely for this reason. The body needs defending. The body is fragile, the thing that holds the heart, the mind, the spirit, the thing that cannot lie.

She rested her hand on my shoulder.

I was a kid again. I felt my body sparring, winning, and I heard the whispers, she's a dyke, a dyke, a dyke, and I wanted to fight against the thing that erased the fact that I had won, but it did not matter, because I was a dyke. I felt the social straightjacket of high school, and I watched my heart become something I could not fathom, could not see, name, hold, could not love.

She rested her hand on my shoulder.

There was the possibility of love, the possibility that I didn't have to fight, that I could be me, whatever the fuck that was, because it had been buried beneath two decades of--what? Not lies. Not denial, because I'd have to be able to name the thing to deny it.

She rested her hand on my shoulder. She saw my body soften, maybe for the first time ever. She said, "My parents have a cabin in the mountains."

My voice was shaking. I said, "Drive."

BK LOREN is the national-award-winning author of the novel Theft and the essay collection Animal, Mineral, Radical. She lives in Colorado with her wife of 28 years. They are the only two-legged creatures in their family of six. Loren's essay above appears in Greetings From Janeland: Women Write More About Leaving Men for Women, courtesy Cleis Press.

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