Casting Against


She dresses her androgyny in heavy-soled shoes, men’s jeans worn loose and low, wide leather belt, bold silver buckle, wool jacket over a thick black t-shirt. Her style’s classic; like archetypes the pieces complement and conceal her Artemis breasts, Atlas shoulders, David legs. I am contemporary with my fade haircut, Vans, purple cords, and  small-scale polka-dot tie.

Fashion can defuse the challenge of understanding individuality by superimposing types. Like android keyboards suggesting words, or worse, autocorrecting, we want to be able to predict how the strangers around us may act and assure them in kind that we can be classified.

Let me tell you a secret. When I kiss her, her taste is pure rain, sweet sea salt. Her touch is an ocean I feel like invisible  waves on my body the next morning back on land. Our love is elemental, essential, not trend, though it can flirt like a sext, swagger down a sidewalk, and look, from a distance, like dudes in love.

I know what you’re thinking: who is she kidding? She looks like a cute dyke, not a dude. That is until you see the guy I greet and kiss and sit on the park bench to canoodle with. Not that your educated eyes would make that mistake. You’d probably see that she’s a cute dyke too, the handsome kind that gets called “sir,” as people’s eyes slip on the bowling lane of androgyny into the gutters of female or male.

The human brain takes the charge of the moment and wires it to the past to interpret what’s happening and project a possible future. Like a poker party full of queer women who’ve known each other for years, the connections are hazardous. Behind the loud art on the muted walls, uninsulated patches of wire cross and spark. With a cry, my ex spills her wine on my phone, I jump up and glimpse the woman I’m fucking on the sly kiss my girlfriend down the hallway.

I can’t cast blame. I’m the one using them to predict what’s in the cards for me. Snap, like that, my goofy metaphors of bowling alleys and faulty wiring have given in to cliché. We all do. The anti-survival mechanism of seeing one thing as another to make it less strange and threatening becomes the anti-intimacy mechanism of transforming the unique and wonderful into the common and predictable. Strangely, threatening. As Maude said, being this, but allowing people to treat you as that, or conversely, treating this as that, my unique lover as someone that I used to know.

My android keyboard wants to complete my sentences as I wait for my sweetheart in the park. Even as an essayist, I want to rhyme everything, make it seem poetic, each idea meant to go with the next, building to an obvious climax and gentle dénouement. Classic structure like her jacket, with contemporary details like her faux mullet. Romance or tragedy. Withholding or needy. Easy dichotomies. Stereotypes. Reduced variables. Predictability. Control. Life can be like that, but not if it’s honest. Be vigilant over the autocomplete, I tell myself, and rise to greet my handsome lover. Fictionalized, even as I lean in to taste the truth of her.




I wrote this to process some big feelings and ended up memorizing it and using it as my audition monologue for a play. (I got that part.)


What seas what shores what grey rocks […]
What images return
O my daughter?

– T.S. Eliot, “Marina”

Marina’s hands on my hipbones, my boots wide apart on the dancefloor, everywhere women, and finally she is my woman, I figure, moving with her.

“Looked like you had fun Friday night,” Jo says to me on the bus Monday morning.

“I did.”

Josée grins. I’ve never seen her smile on the bus before.

“Did you meet her that night?” she asks, wrapping another grin around that sweet little voice of hers.

“No, I’ve known her for awhile.”

It was a gradual climb into Marina’s arms. A supper. A play. Her fingertips sliding down my arm to take my empty coffee cup and throw it away. Then in one hour on Friday night, a whole bottle of expensive wine and my confession, laughing through the Village, that I had a crush on her. She pretended not to hear.

“Hey, isn’t that your one-night-stand?” Marina asked me, spotting Jo at the bar, as we got our wrists stamped at the door of the Lookout.

“That’s her. Bus woman.”

Marina took my hand, led me past Jo, “Come on, let’s dance.”

I didn’t even care if Jo was jealous (she wasn’t). Oh Marina, I just wanted you, my hands on your hipbones, these women, this ecstasy swelling up and through and all around me. The opposite of isolation.

“I like you,” I told her.

“I…” she hesitated, and I braced for losing what I never actually had.


The Gatineaus stretch out behind the Ottawa River, a lazy couple, as the 96 takes Jo to her law firm, me to my not-for-profit.

“She’s just a friend,” I tell Jo.

Quick as the cat she is, she comes back, “See anyone else you liked Friday night?”

I recall her coterie.

“No, I was pretty focused.”

Marina was my rainbow pride passion back alley spraypaint statement till she whitewashed our story. In front of our friends at a barbecue on Sunday, she complained, “I was out of my comfort zone on Friday at the club. I didn’t enjoy it.”

Facing her, I put my hands on the edge of the table, pushed my chair back, remembering how I’d felt on the dancefloor as her sweat ran between her breasts onto my back, speeding towards this crash. I should have kept my eyes focused on hers instead, checked in to see if she felt it too. Too late.

I roll my shoulders back and down like I’m gripping a barbell, squeeze the muscle as I lift my heart from the chair. Breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth.

This is how it feels to go, to come, to get