I became a liberal when I met her.
She was sitting in the audience at the Tribeca Film Festival and I said to myself, “she looks gay but I think she’s straight,” and when we finally met after opening night, her seat next to mine, I transformed from neoconservative to a liberal on the war in Iraq because endorsing Dick Cheney was not going to get me to the grand summit of lesbian orgasm. Plus, I think it’s okay to temporarily exit my small world of predictable Republican gatherings, which include bitter Soviet immigrants with wool socks who attend libertarian meetings and drink iced tea. In addition, these ex-Soviets go to the beach with umbrellas and/or hit on me at frat parties. I’m usually not interested.
Of course, my true thoughts are: we should let the world sink or swim, but as Saddam Hussein killed numerous Kurds, it is imperative that we bomb the shit out of him. This thinking, however, leaves little hope that you will get laid because lesbians with short hair at film festivals do not want to comprehend that you are particularly in love with them or the war. They like distance, heartache, a little game playing, some internet exploration, and a few words about why you were not at last week’s peace rally or Whole Foods during the mad rush at Meatless Mondays between 5-7 pm.
The female at the film festival is a lawyer. She works at a prestigious law firm and eats salad from Starbucks with a not-so-inexpensive vinaigrette. She’s Starbucks socioeconomics. Between Tribeca Film Festival and walks through the Berkshires, she marches with Jersey girlfriends to protest “Bush” in the White House. But she does so with a sense of humor, a smirk, and a blink in the midst of the film’s urine scenes where we are perplexed. We are perplexed because my mother is sitting on my left and she is on my right and how do I explain anonymous gay male sex in the Indonesian film to my mother and that’s why she blinks at me. The blinking, which is done so well—exquisite 20-year-old eyelids—is no indication that we’re going to…you know. I can’t even get the energy to bump into her knee while she’s chewing a brownie.
“Do you like that scene?”
“It’s brill.” I reply.
“You know, brilliant.”
She hopes that I will comment negatively about Nicole Kidman’s repetitive performance in the Lars von Trier movie.
She also pesters me about the upcoming LGBT march in Washington next Tuesday. This chick is a rare breed of contemptuous progressive who sees movies and attends rallies and detests drama, which I find strange because war rallies comprise the neuroses of pragmatists who don’t act out emotionally until they’re yelling how much they hate Cheney or his right wing daughter (not the lesbian, though his lesbian is conservative, but not as vehement, I believe, as her hetero sister).
“Well,” I say, remembering that my subscription to National Review will run out next week, “I’m not sure I can make it, but my support is unconditional.”
She seems disappointed. There are dykes in New York City who don’t understand when you say that you are a Republican. They envision Log Cabin Republican fags living in new condominium complexes in the West Village or Chelsea—indeed gay men can meander in that realm; but if you’re female and not a fan of Kate Millett—don’t believe Kate is the female Socrates of a new generation and the older ones for that matter—then you are behind the times, not the New York Times, the Sappho Times.
For years the pink triangle ladies have shunned me. They consider me so self-involved that I am missing a link in an ideology that is about me. One former girlfriend left a message, “Why don’t you try Buddhism instead of solipsism?”
The lawyer dates former biological men with insecurity complexes who are now present-tense women. She is that ripening between male and female. I might as well retire from dating because I don’t fit into her exponential zone of hormones. They just keep popping all over the page like last year’s fireworks and here I am an antiquated cherry bomb, hoping she’ll celebrate with me. She dates post- and pre-gender; she likes men-to-women or women-to-men who have become complex yet impassioned folks. It’s all very discombobulating—a Blade Runner scenario where transgendered beings, rather than replicants, replace biological males and females.
She’s so discerning in her diminutive haircut and pleasing neck and luscious demeanor but giggles during the film’s perspicuous moments.
She’s David Carradine chasing Uma Thurman, she being the chaser of poor George Bush, Jr., a great man who merely wants to capture terrorists and fry them. I find nothing so exhilarating as that. Tell that to the queer thought police. Unless you are becoming a male-to-female version of Theodore Roosevelt (he had liberal leanings, though he did hunt elephants) you better forget quick-witted girls whose teeth resemble a Broadway theater curtain.
Lawyer girl is a riddle in God’s path who enjoys my stories, smirks implicitly, likes my matter-of-fact idiosyncrasies, my tranquil persona. Doesn’t dig my cellulite. What can we do to seduce 20-year-olds weighing 120 pounds with a sweet temperament? We are two sad ships eclipsing generations. Plus, she’s dating twenty people at once and trying to find herself though she’s earnestly mature for her age.
Several of my friends who don’t support her anti-war gatherings and could give two shits about the pro-PLO contingency she marches with—they’d rather be watching the war between the Yankees and Red Sox—say she likes me.
She gives me the same amount of attention during this film festival as my friend Rosamunde, who sits with us. We all giggle at Hell in Bangladesh, a film when people sneeze you hear the footsteps in the background. Although it is based on Ibsen’s Cherry Orchard, they write “Inspired by Ibsen’s Cheery Orchard.” The movie’s melodrama is the antithesis of cheery, especially when the young boy is eaten by a snake in the lake. We expect hell, the existence thereof, to be a place where one is eaten by a crocodile; the snake in the lake, which serves as the Freudian Bangladeshi basis for the tragedy, is not what we had in mind.
“Edward Said wrote that movies are a manifestation of Western imperialism,” the attorney tells us.
“Isn’t he dead? Didn’t Professor Said pass away last Tuesday?”
“Did he? I didn’t know that.”
She wears bright red lipstick and black stockings and black shoes and looks like a totem pole from an Indian reservation.
We go to the local Starbucks, of course, because we both have discount cards. This all goes according to my expensive cognitive therapist’s advice, “Ask her out for coffee.” If she says yes or no it will nevertheless determine my fate, like sticking my feet in water; is it cold or hot, should I dip in?
Pragmatists are not romantics. I still have not invited her to coffee. Therefore, she could not reject me. However, today I asked her, in self-indulgent real time, “Will you be my lawyer?”
It did not work.
“Let’s be friends.” Whenever anyone uses the “f” word they don’t likely mean the more vulgar “f” word.
When she refused to be my lawyer and instead chose to be my friend, I asked the people in my office, “If she wants to be my friend, does that mean she doesn’t want to be my lawyer or that she doesn’t want me to put my hand on her knee during the next screening?”
“Clearly,” says Hank K, notorious for his confidence in his own viewpoints, “she wants to be your pal.”
To get yet another opinion, I asked Sandra Piquet who lives in the Bronx and has an itinerant brainpower for reducing all of us to mere consonants while she stretches along the ocean as a vowel—loud and in-sync with the water’s rhythms. An empty consonant has no destiny but to follow the vowel.
“You gotta be friends before you can be enemas, I mean enemies. Enemies are sexy, but friendships evolve to fights so don’t woooooooooooorry, you’ll be fine.”
I have changed my outer appearance, given into my nonrealistic political view, and made a tentative promise to go to a peace rally, where lots of pro-PLO groups will marvel at my “I am a Zionist” button.
“Will you come with me to the peace rally?” she asks.
“Is that all this will come to?”
“I think you can surmise this will not be sexual.”
“You mean like two feather pillows shaking hands?”
“Like two doves rubbing beaks.”
With that I decide to renew my subscription to the National Review and think about getting one to the American Spectator. George Bush, Jr., has been soliciting money for his second term and I keep the fundraising campaign envelope conspicuously on my night table.
True, the embittered Soviet girls with woolen socks at the Young Republican meetings couldn’t light a fire to my prima donna, but at least I won’t have mindless conversations with blonde-haired Whole Foods cashiers to determine if my ATM card is working.
In the end, I go hear Mr. Norman Mailer speak at the 92nd Street Y and decide that it’s okay to see people like Norman as the multifaceted creatures they are: half liberal, half reactionary, with an extra plus—he makes fun of Robert Lowell, a quasi-liberal with a trust fund.
Eleanor Levine’s writing has appeared in more than 50 publications, including Fiction, Evergreen Review, Fiction Southeast, Dos Passos Review, The Missing Slate, Literateur, The Toronto Quarterly, Juked, Barely South Review, The Denver Quarterly, Pank, SRPR (Spoon River Poetry Review) and Wigleaf. Levine’s poetry collection, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, was released this year by Unsolicited Press (Davis, California). Eleanor is a copy editor who lives in Philadelphia, PA.
Image credit: Brian Healey is an artist and lawyer whose street photography, sculpture and multimedia pieces have been included in numerous shows at galleries in Brooklyn and New York City, New York, USA, including the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Brian currently lives in Brooklyn, where he scrutinizes his life through a lens.