March 26, 2005

Queenie and Women

I have always been something of an aesthete; earlier in my life, the combination of disappointment in love, rampant open-mindedness, and heavy substance abuse convinced me that I was a true bisexual. I appreciate the female form, far more so than I appreciate the masculine, truth be told, and I figured this artistic preference could effectively help me cut men - those bastards! - out of my life forever.

You and I, of course, being grown-ups, have probably come to understand that this is not necessarily the way sexuality works, but don't try and tell stubborn Queenie that, especially when she's twenty-one or so and thinks she knows it all. No, as per usual, I had to put my hand on the white-hot burner, just to make sure nobody was lying to me, I had to smell the shit, to make sure it stunk good and proper - not just once, but over and over again. Typical.

I am also a sucker for a pretty face; remind me, one day, to tell you the story of my brief affair with one St. John, the ultimate illustrative story of my subscription to the aphorism. When I was a younger woman, more interested in others, less set in my ways, I was impressionable - more than impressionable - I blew hot on whatever struck my fancy, regardless of external or internal prohibition, until I lost interest and dumped it cold. I'm still like that to a certain extent, unfortunately, but these days, I am far more sedate. I can say, at least, that I learned from my errors in judgment.

I remember one night back in...oh, say 1991. I was still in college, but on my Spring Break I drove over to Atlanta to spend some time with my friend Andre, who had finished a graduate program at my school the previous year. Andre, poor lad, was having a terrible time finding work outside the food-service industry, graduate degree and all, and currently found himself, in his words, "just your stereotypical overeducated black gay bartender". After checking in to my hotel (my own hotel room! in Atlanta - the big city! God, I was so young) I took a taxi over to the bistro where Andre worked, and parked myself at the bar until his shift was over.

A whole gang of Andre's restaurant buddies were going out after the close, and we made plans to join them. Andre and I hugged and cooed at each other, like old friends do, and went down the street for a coffee, to catch up. After leaving the café and smoking an illicit bowl in the car, we joined the rest of Andre's crew at Blake's, a venerated old institution among Atlanta's gay bars.

Blake's was a good time, although when I think back on my cocktail choices in those days, I want to gag. I got friendly with Andre's co-workers over such libations as B-52 shooters, Lemon Drops, Kamikazes, Zombies, and the dreaded Cuervo Gold. How my stomach held that nasty mess as long as it did I'll never know, but it certainly held long enough to almost get me in some serious trouble.

Andre was pursuing a young man, and was therefore a little less than attentive to his out-of-town visitor, content to let me make friends on my own. Particularly friendly among Andre's crowd was one Carmen, a Cubana of dark and drawn beauty. Deep chestnut hair, skin like a café con leche, thick ruby lips, and a figure that would stop a clock, Carmen professed to be thirty, though she looked a bit older, and we sat together talking about her job, my school, her husband, my boyfriend, the whole nine yards. I was largely mesmerized by this chic and urbane lady, and spoke to her in her own language as best I could. I speak decent conversational Spanish for a gringita, and was eager to hear Carmen rattle on in her native language. I was a little disappointed, since a Cuban accent in Spanish was one of the few that my untutored ears were yet able to detect, and Carmen's Spanish was decidedly not Cuban-sounding.

The night wore on, and the drunker we got, the closer mine and Carmen's bar-stools became. I found her beautiful, and she was drunk and horny, so when the call was made by the group to stagger down Piedmont to The Armory (another venerable Atlanta gay nightspot), Carmen and I walked arm in arm.

The nice man at the door thought that Carmen and I were so cute a couple - and such an unexpected one, being women in a mostly-male environment, he let us in for free. Hooray! Viva el bouncer, no? Si! And in this vein we glided to the bar, where the diminutive and bespectacled barman was also charmed, so much so that our first round was on the house. Viva el camarero, no? Si!

We drank. My head was a carnival, a Tilt-a-Whirl, a gigglebox turned over. We danced, wildly and feverishly, and to some sad George Michael remix, Carmen clasped me to her, and kissed me hard and deep. Her mouth was sweet and cold and tasted, still, of Lemon Drop. We stood there, in the middle of the floor, making out, much to the delight of the rest of the dancers. Aww. How cute.

Eventually, we made our way back to the group table, stopping to order a pitcher of beer. As we sat together, the black leatherette of the banquette sticking to my sweaty back, something in my drunken brain prompted me to ask Carmen about her Spanish, about her accent. Just making conversation, really.

"You know, you don't sound very Cubana. I mean, oh, hell - I'm not even fluent - but most of the Cubans I know don't sound like you do."

She smiled indulgently. "Tha's because I didn't learn Spanish in Cuba, or even from Cubans. I'm adopted. I grew up with WASPs like you."

"Wow! So I was right! I'm amazed - I'm never right about shit like that. So where did you learn Spanish?"

Carmen leaned in to my mouth, and kissed me on it. She breathed into my ear, "en el carcel...en Colombia..."

It took me a minute, drunk as I was, to find "carcel" in my mental Spanish-English dictionary, and realize that this woman was telling me she'd learned her Spanish in a Colombian prison. I laughed, weakly, hoping to look up and see a joking, bemused, expression...but I didn't.

" you come to find yourself" I stammered, hoping she was too drunk to notice that I found her revelation seriously off-putting.

Still giving me the smouldering, come-hither gaze, I actually started to get a little scared when she said, "...corriendo drogas y armas, para los combatientes, en las montańas, con mi esposo..."

Carmen's teeth suddenly started to look really, really sharp, and I was barely paying attention while she told me about the men she had killed in the jungles of South America, about the woman she beat nearly to death for "coming on" to her husband. I began to sober up, quickly. When Carmen's conversation reverted to romance, telling me that she was taking me home with her tonight, that I was a little white doll, that she and her husband would ply me with cocaine and both fuck the shit out of my body by the moonlight, I frantically planned my exit strategy. Colombian prison? Drugs and guns? For the rebels in the mountains? What the fuck? And shit on this husband idea...who invited him?

Excusing myself from Carmen's embrace, I headed towards the ladies' room, an oft-ignored chamber in this temple of manhood. I wasn't actually planning to pee, I just headed for the ladies' room - so that I could make a switchback into the dance floor area, where I grabbed Andre, dragging his ass away from his intended and into the ladies' room with me.

"Andre! Dude! You got to get me out of this!"

He looked at me with a flat expression. "What? You look like you're having a ball."

"Dude! She's...she's..."

"She's what? Crazy? Dangerous? Fucking batshit insane for a thousand, Alex? If I were you, I would avoid meeting her husband any time soon. You think she's bad? He makes her look like Mother Teresa!"

I gulped, wiping away a bead of sweat making its way towards my mouth. . "Okay. Okay. You go back to the dance floor. After five minutes, come in here looking for me. I won't be here, but go back to Carmen, tell her I got really sick, and that you put me in a cab. Play dumb. Please? Come on, man. I really don't want to piss this chick off in person..."

Andre complied, laughingly, and told me I needed to be careful, in future, what throats I chose to shove my tongue down. I think I said something like, "This, from Mister Glory Hole?" as I cautiously opened the bathroom door and made my way to the exit.

I got in that cab. I went back to my motel. I smoked a pin-joint, and vomited streams of nasty-mixed up liquor and café-latte residue until the sun came up, sleeping only fitfully until time to meet Andre for brunch.

See? Impressionable. Sucker for a pretty face. But I didn't learn once and for all that I belonged squarely in the camp of heterosex until about four years later, in Los Angeles, with another Latina woman who'd gleefully knife me if she knew how to find me, even today. That's the story Circa Bellum really wants to hear...but that's another story, for another day.

Posted by Queenie at March 26, 2005 03:20 PM

Queenie, I don't know what to say, and then you come up with "This, from Mister Glory Hole?".

Your the best Queenie, just the best.

Posted by: BeeBee at March 26, 2005 05:13 PM

.. Gun Street Girl, indeed...

Posted by: Eric at March 26, 2005 05:33 PM

Jesus wept.

I came.

Easter story, right?

Posted by: Velociman at March 26, 2005 10:24 PM

Welcome back, dear Queenie. Welcome back!

Posted by: Circa Bellum at March 27, 2005 12:14 AM


I still find it amazing that our circles crossed at all... cuz you definitely outpartied yo blog-momma! That is certain. ; )

Posted by: Key at March 27, 2005 01:07 AM

Great story. I know it's true because I've never met anyone named Andre who didn't pack fudge.


Posted by: Sam at March 28, 2005 07:02 PM

Every time I hear about a woman named "Carmen," I think big hat, lots of fruit on it.

It's an age thing, I guess.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at March 29, 2005 12:56 AM

"...disappointment in love..."

So, that means yer lucky at cards?

Posted by: Justthisguy at March 30, 2005 01:38 AM
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