Original Short Story: "Which Hand Held the Advantage"
Painting: She Ain't a Child No More
This story is fiction.
It does not depict any real person or actual event.
Laid Back Summer Sessions
During my tumultuous senior year of college, I enrolled in a course in linguistics, "The Structure of American English." It was summer session. I loved summer sessions; they were much more laid back than the academic year, and the big pay off was that I would graduate a whole year earlier by attending summer sessions. For some reason, I’ve always liked getting things done early.
The prof was a doofus but that wasn’t going to stop me from getting my three credits for the course. The class was really quite fun, and I learned a lot. Especially from one of the students. Her name was Rosaleigh Tompkins. She was almost 6 feet tall and a little chunky but just absolutely brown-skinned beautiful. The prof was always referencing "Black English" and then asking Rosaleigh if she would substantiate his whitey take on that area of language.
One day just out of the blue, I decide to ask Rosaleigh what she thought when the doofus prof kept picking her out for Black English support. I must say here that such cheek was way out of character for me, but I was just so curious. I mean this jerk had no idea if Rosaleigh was an expert in Black English. He had no idea where she grew up, with whom she associated, or if she even spoke that nebulous language.
"Excuse me, Miss Tompkins, but could I ask you perhaps an impertinent question?"
Wow, that sounds ominous, Miss Grace!" said Rosaleigh. Then she quickly added, "Dat be da right name, huh?"
I laughed so hard, and then Rosaleigh began to laugh. And I said, "Somehow I feel like you know what I’m going to ask you? I’ll bet others have asked the same thing."
"No, but there is something in your face that tells me you might know something these others fools don’t," she replied.
"Well, barring sounding redundant, let me just ask, here goes, how do you feel about being constantly asked about Black English by the prof?" I said.
"Do you have a couple of hours? I’d love the chance to unload about that. Seriously, my apartment is about four blocks from here. I make a mean cup of java. Would you care to join me?" she said.
We walked the four blocks to her apartment which was over the bookstore on High Street in the little town of Oxford, Ohio, home of our Miami University. I found out how she felt about the Black English thing, but because of what happened next during the visit to her apartment, the information fades into the background . . .
We talked for several hours sitting on her sofa. She plied me with wonderful snacks, her mean java, and several glasses of tasty wine. I never felt so comfortable, so warm, so involved as I did that day. During one of our many effusive spells of laughter, we began to kiss deeply with such passion. We spontaneously stripped off our clothes; Rosaleigh led me to her shower where we lathered each other’s body, washed each other’s hair, then stood laughing like loons under cold water as it stripped off all the soap suds.
We dried off quickly with gigantic bath towels that were soft and comforting. She led me to her bed, and we spent what seemed like an eternity of pleasure exploring each other’s body. She did things with her vagina that I had no idea could be done.
I was not a virgin at this point in my life. I had experienced loss of that status with a man, a professor who was married and had no intention of changing his marital status. I was devastated when that affair ended and never considered falling in love again, especially with a woman. But that one afternoon with Rosaleigh spoiled me for relationships with men. Or at least that’s what I felt until I had left Rosaleigh’s apartment, drove back home to my small town in Indiana, and my family.
Driving home, my mind seemed to break into two pieces. There is no way my father, mother, and younger sister would ever understand what I had just experienced. I had just made passionate love with a black lesbian. The race issue alone was enough that I could not possibly invite Rosaleigh to my parents’ home. They would never accept my just being friends with a black girl. And that she and I were lovers would not be possible for them to comprehend. I kept envisioning my father and my sister pelting me with accusatory questions: my father says, what in the hell is the matter with you, Guilda? how could you do such a thing? how will you ever get a job as a teacher if you go around with those people? my sister sniffles and wants to know, how could you do this to Mommy and Daddy? how will I have any friends left if this gets out? All the while my mother is sitting off in a corner weeping her eyes out.
Almost home, I think I have returned to some kind of normalcy. Mommy wants to know why I am so late; that’s easy, I had to go to the library and look up some stuff for class. No problem.
Meldings: Minds and Bodies
Rosaleigh and I melded mind and body for two hours almost every day before our first class. Our love-making was the high point of my life the first four weeks of that fateful summer session. Then things started going a little haywire when Rosaleigh expressed to me that we would become a couple, get married, and live happily ever after.
"What do you mean, when we go back to Saint Louis?" I asked her about a week before the summer session’s end.
"After we graduate, we will go to Saint Louis, where I’m from. There’s an underground queer community there. I’m an activist for getting queers their rights," she said.
We had been so busy with the pleasure of love-making and wild, general philosophical tenants that we had never talked about the real world. Now Rosaleigh was filling me in on what she had been concocting in her mind.
"I don’t think I can go to Saint Louis," I said.
"Of course, you can, you can’t stay here, in this environment, nobody understands our way of life here. Eventually, we’ll have to go San Francisco. But first, I’ve got to do what I can to help out our people in Saint Louis."
Lovers Yet Strangers
Rosaleigh seemed like a complete stranger to me at this point. I had no idea she was making such plans. My plans were pretty flabby, but I knew I could not do what she was planning. I could not leave my family this way. They would never understand, and they would never get over it. I could only imagine the pain and anguish they would experience.
At this point, I realized something important about my family: even though they were provincial bigots, they had feelings, and I could not be the culprit that would so deeply hurt and destroy these people I loved, who loved me, who raised me, cared for me, and made my very life possible. In addition to my dad, mom, and sister, I had uncles, aunts, and cousins. Plus the many friends of the family who had shared in the glories of my many academic achievements. I couldn’t let all those people down.
At one point I considered telling them about my lovely black lesbian. But I just couldn’t imagine that they could wrap their minds around the situation. So I decided that I’d look for an occasion to make a joke that involved my situation and see what their reaction would be.
One night we were all gathered around the TV watching a comedy routine. Daddy loved comedy, Mommy tolerated it, and Pepper loved anything Daddy liked. The routine began with the words, "Two queer negroes walk into a wedding chapel in Las Vegas."
I immediately piped up: "Hey, Pepper, would you attend my wedding if I was getting married to a big black dyke?"
"Eeww . . ." Pepper whined. "Daddy, what’s a dyke?" Pepper was only sixteen at the time. We can forgive her for not being acquainted with the term, "dyke"; after all "big black" were enough to turn her stomach.
"Pepper Jane, you're better off not knowing that kind of shit!" my dad gruffly responded.
"Guilda Elane Grace, what the hell is the matter with you?" Daddy spit out the question he had so often addressed to me over the years.
"I was just joking. It’s a comedy routine, for Christ’s sake," I tried to defend myself. "Can’t I offer my own take on a little joke?"
No Joke, It Would Kill Me Dead
"Guilda Elane, you shouldn’t joke about such things. It would kill me dead if you ever did such a thing," Mommy added with her usual maudlin take on matters.
"Guilda, you’d better change your ways or you’ll never get a job as a teacher. You may be getting a college education, but you could take a lesson from your sister. She’s got more common sense in the tip of her little finger than you have in your whole body. You’d better do some changing in your head, young lady. I’d hate to think that all this money I’m spending to get you an education is going to waste. But goddamit, it looks like it is," he shouted, his face turning red as he stormed out to seek his consolation somewhere I was not.
So, guess I had my answer. Rosaleigh and the queer life had to go . . . but how? Try as I might to convey these facts to Rosaleigh, I could not. She was adamant that we would be together always, and she based her belief on the fantastic love-making and incredible conversations we always experienced with each other. Every time I left her apartment, she would say the same thing, "One day, my little Guilda, we will not have to part like this," and she would give me kiss that made me almost believe her.
Still, I had never considered myself a lesbian. I knew that I still wanted to marry a man someday. Rosaleigh would always poo poo such an idea, and I would tell her over and over that I knew that was true. I would tell her how special she was and that I would never forget her, but I knew that someday I would want a man, a penis, a real marriage, and a traditional life. I stewed and worried and thought and rethought how I could break off my affair with Rosaleigh. I had no idea how to do it. Partly, because I didn’t want to do it. My vagina was in love with her with all its heart, even while my brain said, you can’t keep doing this.
I was not a praying person at the time, but my pleas to some invisible Being seemed real and continuous: I begged to be let loose from this conundrum. But over and over my mind keep saying, you just don’t have a clue what do you, do you?
But it turned out that I didn’t have to do anything.
The weekend before the last full week of classes, Rosaleigh flew back home to Saint Louis to attend one of her queer meetings. But then on Monday, Rosaleigh was not in class. We sat there waiting for class to begin. The prof was now late as well. The students began to fidget, and grumble, and some were preparing to leave, when in he ambles.
He looked quite serious as he announced, "I'm so sorry to have to announce this, but one of our class members was killed over the weekend. Miss Rosaleigh Sasha Thompkins— you might remember her, she was our expert in Black English—was killed in a riot on Saturday in Saint Louis. Sorry I don’t have more information about that. She offered such an important contribution to this class. And I’m so sorry to announce this. So let’s have a moment of silence in respect and memory of this student."
I was stunned! I sat there during the moment of silence and wondered, "What the hell is this?" On the one hand, I was devastated; I had thought I would have at least until the end of senior year to figure this out, while enjoying my love affair with Rosaleigh; now it was gone. What would I do? On the other hand, I was relieved that I did not have to face the eventual break up.
I could not decide which hand held the advantage.
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes