“Why not? Because I was tired of men. Hanging in doorways, standing too close, their smell of beer or fifteen year old whiskey. Men who didn’t come to the emergency room with you, men who left on Christmas Eve. Men who slammed the security gates, who made you love them and then changed their minds. Forests of boys, their ragged shrubs full of eyes already knocking you down, taking what they felt was theirs.
Because I could still see a women in a red bathrobe crawling in the street. A women on a roof in the wind, mute and strange. Women with pills, with knives, women dyeing their hair. Women painting doorknobs with poison for love, making dinners too large to eat, firing into a child’s room at close range. It was a play and I knew how it ended, I didn’t want to audition for any of the roles. It was no game, no casual thrill. It was a three bullet Russian roulette.
I painted a mirror on the wall opposite Claire’s dresser where there was no mirror, and in the red tinted darkness, my own staring image, with long pale hair, in the crimson velvet Christmas dress I never got the chance to wear. The me that died with her. I painted a crimson ribbon around my neck. It made my neck look slashed.
“Are you gay?” Paul Trout asked me.
I shrugged. Maybe that would be better. I thought back to how I felt when Olivia danced with me, and the time Claire kissed me on the lips. I don’t know. People just want to be loved. That was the thing about words, they were clear and specific chair, eye, stone but when you talked about feelings, words were too stiff, they were this and not that, they couldn’t include all the meanings. In defining, they always left something out. I thought of my mother’s lovers, Jeremy and Jesus and Mark, narrow waisted young men with clear eyes and voices like slipper satin across your bare chest. I thought how beautiful Claire was, dancing in her own living room, jete, pas de bouree, how I loved her. I looked up at him, “Does it matter?”
“Doesn’t anything matter to you?”
“Survival,” I said, but even that sounded untrue now. “I guess.”
“That’s not much.”
I painted a butterfly in Claire’s room. Swallowtail. Another cabbage white. ‘I haven’t gotten any farther than that.’
” -Janet Fitch