word by Alisha Mascarenhas
colour by Tomasz Kartasinski
The bend in her legs is relaxed; easy.
She folds one beneath the other, waiting for the night to set in.
The loop in each clean, white hightop precise and dangling with that quiet anticipation that comes after sucking back the frenetic bubbling of the first beer. Giddy elation that rises to the sternum.
From where I stand in that hot pit of a parking lot all I can read on her body I feel in my hands: blunt fingers softening into the pinch of polyester jacket pockets.
All my life taught how to be seen by men, I don’t know what it is to look at a girl. I never gave myself permission. I want to know how to look without inhaling her; to let my gaze settle on her whole being; the space she inhabits and the retreat of a sleeve that licks her inner forearm.
She won’t look at me. At home with the other queers I’ve found ease in a different norm. Ambiguous friendships warmed by late night snuggles on that long, blue couch in my apartment, kisses on the mouth and other quiet affections. Sometimes sex.
But to her, I’ve decided, I’m someone to compare haircuts and outfit choices with. She might squeeze my hand later, or borrow my jacket as we walk home. We might share a cigarette and she won’t give a second thought to what’s passed between us. To her, I’ve decided, I’m another girl and she won’t ever look at our intimacies as anything other than sweet, dry and easy.
If she calls, it will be easy. The gesture only half thought through as she decides what to do with her Sunday afternoon. Not the tense thrill of an inhale that catches at the throat. Not the fleeting imagination of all the ways our bodies might move against one another. I’m a girl. We are girls. She’ll talk about boys. Girl talk. Girl love: not a boy-girl kind of a thing.
She won’t need to think about what to wear or how she smells. She might take a shower just to clear her head of the day; show up at my front door with her hair disheveled to eat ice cream at the kitchen table as I shrink into the wall across from her, afraid that if I get too close I might feel her breathing.
When we part, she’ll give me a little squeeze. Like a friend. Like girls do.
From the author: “I wrote this as a commentary on how systemic narratives of heteronormativity seep into the ways girls are taught to relate to one another and to their desiring selves. It is a response to how friendships between girls are mediated by romantic relationships with boys: constricting the kinds of intimacies that are permissible. I chose to use the words “girls” and “boys” to speak to a process of revisiting an adolescent self: a critical time during which heteronormative scripts can be particularly forceful.”