(Continued from Queer Girl, Part 1)
We cut through the bar to get to the restaurant. Holding the side door open for her, I could smell stale grease and smoke hanging in the air. The bar was roadhouse style. Dim lighting hung from the ceiling in large metal fixtures and tall booths of black Naugahide with black Formica tables ringed the wall. A pool table with red felt stood in the middle of the room. The requisite Budweiser light hung above it. A CD jukebox played Aerosmith.
Above the long wooden bar, a Rainier red R neon sign was flanked by Olympia and Henry Weinhard’s mirrors. Bud, Bud Light, Rainier, and Olympia were on tap.
The patronage was thin at the early hour. Middle-aged barflies in blue jeans, jackets, and ball caps sat at the bar nursing schooners filled with pale beer. The booth tables contained a loose scattering of couples nursing cigarettes, bottles, mixed drinks, and fried food served in red plastic baskets with black and white checkered paper.
I followed Hailey across the floor towards the restaurant section, her boots clicking on the hardwood floor, appreciating her walk and curves while wondering what I had done to deserve being her date. Halfway across the room, the usual bar chatter fell silent as guy after guy at the bar swung around to stare at her with glittering, hungry eyes.
A quick sweep of the room showed that even the men with their girlfriends or wives were staring with the same look, while their companions scowled hot daggers. The room suddenly felt claustrophobic as leering, predatory faces with toothy grins mentally undressed and fucked my date on the pool table, over the bar, in a booth, and wherever else their minds took them. Hailey seemed unperturbed and if she noticed, she didn’t show it.
If I was a guy, I suspect I probably would have felt like the cock of the walk and strutted appropriately. I wasn’t, so I almost had a panic attack and my feet felt like clumsy cinderblocks.
Latent sexual malice filled the air like an arcing electric current from man to man and I felt afraid. The room felt claustrophobic as the leering faces seemed to morph into predatory, toothy grins. I feared some invisible switch would be thrown to set off a chain reaction, and my mind whirled and my heart hammered in an attempt to formulate some sort of response other than fleeing.
A guy would have probably put his arm around her to clearly signal that she was his, but I wasn’t, so Hailey turned to take my hand with a big smile and pulled me along behind her and out of danger. Passing through the baffled doorway into the restaurant, raucous laughter swelled behind us.
It was a moment I’ve returned to several times. How did she so easily ignore the un-ignorable? Why did I feel so lost in that moment and not know what to do? It was another piece of the puzzle of figuring myself out.
The first question was answered last but faster when I began my own tentative steps out as myself a few years ago and learned first-hand the feminine art of watchfully ignoring the male gaze and comments. It’s self-protection and self-preservation against a man’s world hostile to women.
The second question I wrestled with for years. I used to tell myself it was because I wasn’t a very good at being a guy because I didn’t understand the signaling well. Throughout my life I had been coached on how to ‘be a gentleman’ but no one had ever covered how to be protective of your date. It’s apparently such a fundamental behavior, it wasn’t considered worth remarking upon.
The truth is that I wasn’t a guy, so of course I was terrible at. Hailey’s behavior again lit the way: get the hell out of there as fast as possible with a smile on your face to hide any fear.
If she showed any concern at my lack of gallantry, she didn’t let on. Conversation over dinner was nervous first date talk about family, weather, and the current events of 1990.
Halfway through our second beers I realized she was flirting with me. Between sips of beer and through lidded, smoky eyes she said, “I think you’re really cute.”
I stammered out a thank you while realizing she had probably been flirting with me all through dinner, but I was missing the signals so she decided to be more direct. I returned the compliment and after a bit of back and forth she suggested we shoot some pool in the bar.
This struck fear into my heart. Head back into dangerous territory? But how could I say no? I couldn’t and didn’t. After paying and being fortified with beer I followed her back into the bar.
There were more people now and the tenor and makeup of the room had shifted to more of a younger, louder, after-work crowd. This was a relief to me. There was safety in numbers and diversity.
I racked the balls and Hailey leaned over with a smile to break, providing me a direct view down into her ample cleavage. I swooned with triangle hanging in my hand. The crack of balls clattering in their scattering brought me back.
We played a couple of games and she asked for my help a few times. Being the dumb bunny I am, it took me a while to realize was maneuvering me to touch her.
A few men tried to insert themselves into our game and each time she’d sidle up to me and sweetly blow them off. I was content to let her handle this, because I had no idea how to get rid of them.
After being pounded on by her with the cluehammer for most of the night, one entered my head. I asked if she wanted to come back to my place in Seattle. She agreed.
I shared a rental house with my best friend and his girlfriend. It was your typical small, Seattle box house built in the 30’s. By the 90’s and after years of being a rental, it was a beat-up shack with a chain-link fence and gate in the front yard. A long-unpruned apple tree graced the back yard next to a rusting garden shed. A wild tangle of white grape vines grew on the side next to the car port.
On North 87th street up the block from Aurora Avenue, a tavern was on the corner, street walkers strutted up and down cruising for dates, and gunshots were a regular occurrence in the summer from the tavern or the motel a block north. The neighbor across the street had his Jetta broken into twice, both times to steal the front seats.
The night we moved in we watched a large cocaine or heroin deal go down on the sidewalk out front by a guy on a moped and called the cops. They never came. If she was concerned about where I lived she didn’t show it as I parked in the car port.
My room was in the basement and we entered through the ground entry in the back to avoid the kitchen by the front door and my roommates. The state of the kitchen often ranged from untidy to health hazard and there was a 50/50 chance my roommates would be arguing.
We kissed standing in my room and the smell of her intoxicated me. Her soft body felt lovely to hold. My excitement was rising. And per usual, I was lost as to what I should do next. Squeeze her butt some more? Rub her breasts? Start to undress her? Undress myself?
Sensing my uncertainty, she pushed me back and shyly pulled her dress off. Taking the hint, I started to undress. She looked slightly embarrassed at being seen in the shapewear she wore under he dress and, if anything, this made her more attractive to me. I would have killed to have her body. Feeling more certain of the next steps I led her to the bed and we began the final steps of the dance we started when she had beckoned me to her table.
The entire act was unremarkable except for the fact that while we both seemed to want each other, we were wildly out of sync. She offered zero guidance and little feedback as I blundered about trying to prolong things.
I’d ask a question like, ‘Here?’ or ‘How’s that?’ and receive not much more than a shrug. There were awkward pauses as she looked at me like she was expecting me to do something and then looks of confusion when I didn’t do whatever it was she was expecting that she didn’t ask for. This was and remained a common motif in my life for many years when it came to dating and sex.
In my first relationships hormones drove passions on both parts and mistakes were a part of figuring things out and easily forgiven. My second serious partner claimed throughout our relationship she never had an orgasm, and I look back and laugh at what was either my naïveté at a blatant lie on her part to get me to try ever harder or our shared naïveté at being unable to recognize her orgasm.
The rituals of courtship were still slippery things for me to grasp up until a little over a year ago. I’ve been on a few dates post-transition and they’ve been…easier. There’s an ease I never felt before in just talking and getting to know the other person.
The navigation of these encounters has been smoother because instead of being a woman pretending to be a man for a woman who’s expecting me to act like a man, I’m a woman for a woman who expects a woman.
It shouldn’t surprise me because I’m more comfortable with myself, but it still does. It’s been another one of those pleasant post-transition surprises. The energy is just different in a more relaxed way.
And what of Hailey?
After our awkward sex we went to sleep and I drove her home in the morning. On the way there she asked if I wanted to get high and while I’m not opposed to it, I don’t drive intoxicated. She looked at me strangely and proceed to light a joint. We fell to talking and she told me her parents moved to Washington to get her away from her friends, who they had deemed a bad influence.
She also said she went to visit them once a month as part of her job.
‘Yeah, I take the train down to California to visit with them overnight and then bring a suitcase full of pot back up with me that I hand off to some other friends up here.’
Dating a drug mule whose friends were probably in a biker gang didn’t fit into my life plans so I dropped her off and didn’t look back.