I've changed everyone's name, randomly. This article, had it not been killed, woulda been worth four grand -- ultimately there was "too much queer content" in the issue, they'd overassigned, someone had to go -- and as I was the second lesbionic piece in the issue [the article'd originally been conceived as a bisexual love machine story, thus not initially conflicting with the lesbian wedding story, but then we had to change it because my life changed] [I say "bisexual love machine" with irony.] and the only literary essay they'd ever commissioned at the magazine -- that someone was me, which was a totally reasonable choice, obvs.
It was okay, ultimately, because I think it was too much personal information to put out there, especially considering everything that's happened since *cough*. Ha. I was shocked to read it, at how much I was willing to give to make this article work. I changed a few things slightly here (like a word or two) because I wanted to scale a few of those things back just a tad. Anyhow, it's mostly intact. I'm not sure if I like it or not. I think it mostly just annoys me.
When it didn't get published I decided I didn't want to sell it anywhere else. I didn't want it to be out there, then, but I also didn't want anyone to pay me for it. I wrote it for one specific place, that was what it was for, regardless of what happened.
Someone asked me recently what I was doing with this article now, I responded: "I think reading it might break my heart." But I just read it, and it didn't! It's weird, but I'm used to that feeling sort of. The one of reading about the past at this sort of intensity, but maybe it's also because we had so many rounds of edits with these things, I can barely even see the words anymore, they're like so much of something memorized and known and sometimes even re-used ...
I might put up some photos with this, but they won't be the photos taken for the article because we never got to see those, waaa.
Also, I'm totes OK, the same as I've been every day for a long time. Look at the South of Nowhere recap! We're having totes fun! We're having auditions! Totes Team Caitlin! Seriously/obvs.
This is the Riese paradox. Y'know what I'm talking about. Someone[s] does. Holla!
The [Redacted] Magazine Article from 4/4/2007
March 16th: It's mid-afternoon, the slushy Friday after our "first date," and my Deli Guy is dishing to Kaia like he's my Jewish mother and my processed-snack habits are unseemly adolescent photographs. He knows! My Deli Guy, that lesser god of New York City, knows my own secrets before I do; knows that I'm smitten, that I've spent the day in bed-- "You're her friend?" he's asking Kaia as he rings up my Luna bar, which I'm now too riled up to eat, and she grins: "I slept over last night." He looks straight at me, Kaia tugs at my arm and drags me outside onto 106th, laughing: "I'm sorry if I just outed you to your deli guy."
Outed as what, exactly?
I've always felt "outing" oneself as bisexual is alternately irrelevant or counterintuitive, though maybe I just told myself that 'cause I'm a bad bisexual, or at least I was. "Bad bisexuals" are the slutty psycho sweeps-lesbian kind: they're in a phase, doing it to please a boy, kissing girls but dating guys, stealing handsome husbands from Hollywood princesses, needing both or more than one of each, cheating like love is strip poker, and always passing as the status quo when it's easier that way. But I doubt my plaid-and-sweater vested cherubic Deli Guy was thinking about all that. He's remembering the other girls I've brought in, including my best friend Abigail, who, like every girl I've dated, is unintentionally undercover with her long hair, earrings and tight jeans—though Abby's the only 100% lesbian among them. Kaia's obviously gay, and now obviously mine, which is fine, because we bisexuals do this now, too, you know?
We're falling in love, I'm choosing the fringes because I'd been doing it all wrong until this moment, when, just before dashing across the street to the bus stop on Columbus, my heavy boots slamming rain-puddles, I shout "I think he's just happy I'm settling down!" and Kaia asks where are you running and strides, cigarette in hand, across the street, meeting me safely on the other side before we part ways for the afternoon.
The sense of her lingers the whole drizzly day. I feel underwater; who am I? I've lost control of my limbs and my heart and the sky's lost control of and conviction for its contents and yet all this emotion I'm letting myself have is the closest I've felt to getting it. Being queer, being bi, thinking this was something I had to decide—boys or girls. I was looking for clues everywhere, blaming gender instead of personality when things didn't work out.
Kaia calls that night: "Wanna cuddle, light candles, get a cat, be lesbians?"
3/15, 11:56 pm, text:
"I really miss you lately."
So, that "first date," Thursday night: I meet Kaia in the Financial District, it's pouring. All our previous meetings have taken place alone in small dark spaces, this is our first outing (pun, pun) and the first time I'll meet her friends. She emerges from heavy glass doors: she's 5'8", Filipino/Thai, chin-length black hair, serious eyes, a killer jaw. I can imagine her pushing me against a wall really hard and then laughing. My umbrella is broken: "Fuck this umbrella," she says and tosses it into a sidewalk trash can. I float into a cab with her hand on my back.
We arrive at Lower East Side club/lounge The Delancey to see emo rocker Scot Matthew play for the Shortbus DVD Release Party. We smoke and drink on the pseudo-tropical roof deck. Kaia tells me to look her in the eyes, which is scary because I notoriously avoid eye contact with everyone. Also scary: meeting her lesbian friends, 'cause bi girls have a lot to prove to lesbians. They've known bad ones, you know? They think we're slutty unicorns with horns like arrows aimed at their specifically-oriented hearts, groping aimlessly towards some hedonistic polyamorous thing (like Shortbus!).
Kaia's told them: "She's bi, but she's a blogger for The L Word Online." So obviously I'm not just passing through.
Kaia's got her bad-bi ex, too: "This bi chick I was dating cheated on me with the suspension freak dude who introduced us."
Clint texts—he's my winter break sweetheart, we hook up when I'm in town and he makes endearing promises to visit but he never does. He e-mails me poems with lines like: "I've taken / the Adderall / that were my friend's / and to which / I'll most likely / become addicted." I literally chuckle when he says he really misses me "lately," because I specifically don't really miss him lately. I ignore it.
The damp room starts to fill with people, including a burlesque-outfitted midget and a woman on stilts. Kaia takes my hand, scratches my palm. I've done good with the friends.
"Driver's outside, lets go, yeah?" Kaia says. We go.
3/17: 1:00pm, text
"You missed a hot party last nite! How are u? Are u in love? Cutting down on diet dr.p is EXHAUSTING! how does anyone do it without caffeine? miss u! ily"
"no idea how anyone makes it through the day w/o caffeine. no clue. you can try: carbs, bright lights, up tempo music? (read that somewhere?) totes in love, etc, amazing/terrifying. ily!"
The Deli Guy is giving me weird looks as I select my hot chocolate. He's totally thinking lesbionic things about me.
Later, Abigail calls to discuss--she's been riveted to "Marie actually falling for a girl" since the first week of February, when Kaia found my blog and emailed me. I liked her writing. She'd just gotten out of a relationship and promised herself not to get into another before her 30th birthday, but then our electronic and telephonic correspondence began spiraling out of control and we couldn't take it anymore--she agreed to meet me. In her car. Three times. It was hotter each time. She sent me roses and The Paris Review Interviews. All month I've been feeling clandestine, restless, alive, at attention.
"I'm obsessed even more now!" I yell. "It's real!"
"God, you guys are gonna have ridiculous sex," Abigail says.
"Except I don’t know how to have sex!" I half-joke. Abigail knows what I mean: I've had it, with women, but relative to how experienced I am with men, women make me feel clumsy, inexperienced, thirteen.
"You'll very quickly learn, my dear. It took me like, five seconds with Jenny. I was like OHHH!!" Jenny was Abigail's first girlfriend: she was 18, Jenny was much older.
Abigail's a Savannah-bred actress (currently on Broadway as the Factory Girl in Les Miserables) with fairy-tale brown hair and a been-there-done-that confidence. Her myspace headline reads: She be but little, but she be fierce. She doesn't know it, but she's normalized and glamorized this queer world for me in a way my gay Mother and hippie-upbringing never did. Her matter-of-fact acceptance, the opposite of my bumbling confusion, has re-oriented everything for me. I'd always liked girls, and kissed them, but what I knew of lesbian life was my Mom's friends, who tucked in their t-shirts and worked at food co-ops. But Abigail, The L Word, Ellen, Rosie, all of it: my "gay half" is increasingly compelling. And now, I guess, very real.
Abigail and I dated, sorta, a thing we tried out before we became codependent and broke up to ensure we'd stay friends forever, which is precisely the sort of logic-over-abandon decision I'd never have made three years ago.
"Time to mount the barricades!" Abigail says, sing-songy, and we say we love each other, and we hang up, and I go to the gym, and I get dressed, and I go out.
3/17, 4:30pm, text:
"hey can u email me about the best donuts in America for something I'm writing? I know I owe u 700 emails and a phone call."
"will u marry me? I'm serious."
I'm meeting Kaia at Karma, a hookah lounge in the East Village (her favorite place--they allow smoking indoors), for her 30th birthday party. Her grip is firm and large on my waist. Her energy--totally stripped of feminine self-effacement without obscuring her doubtful, earnest heart--is restorative. She makes me feel like a hot little princess, frantic, heart-leaping, wall-jumping type stuff. We squeeze each others legs a lot.
She'd happily shown her friends--who I meet, when they arrive about an hour after I do--my Ourchart.com Guestbian column. I'd wanted to write about bisexual stereotypes but Kaia said that'd be like "making a giant bullseye and putting it on your forehead." So, instead, I wrote about her.
I'm happy to get compliments from friends I've just met and I'm happy being a girlfriend. It feels as easy as anything else. She knows the ropes, like Abigail. I feel like I've got an established lead to follow and so there's no fumbling. Joe, the donut-eater, was my first leader, my high school sweetheart. He was a weirdo like me, maybe the only guy I've been with who didn't make me feel sometimes like we were communicating via foghorn. Joe was bisexual too, and a brilliant actor.
That was art school. That was then, this is now, and so I don't text back.
When I'd be out with other feminine girls, we apparently suggested theater to whomever cared to watch--the Deli Guy included--and it's nice that Kaia's more boyish. I always assumed I liked girly-girls because I knew I didn't like the "butch" women my Mom hug out with, but I'd crushed on androgynous models and movie stars all my life, so I shoulda known better. It's like everyone's at one level and then above them are the boyish girls, they turn me on in a way no other permutation of human being does. It's entirely elsewhere, but maybe I didn't want to know that then.
Or maybe it's because bisexuality was so much theater to me for so long.
Masculine women are sexy because they've chosen transgression, scoffed cultural norms, embraced willful deviance. They're layered in the thick skin one grows on the outer circles I've just been running in and out of, setting a bad example for everyone. Also, they're just hot.
The night tumbles on. We drink, bar-hop, hold hands, shout sweet somethings into each others ears. We barter for our St.Patrick's cab, shoot uptown, and into bed. Abigail's right. I learn real fast.
3/18: text message, 10:20 AM
"how was last night? whats up 2nite for l word? happy bday kaia!"
It's been ten years since Thursday, a lifetime since February. Kaia's playing sidewalk chess uptown with a bookseller she's known since '95 when she moved here for Columbia. I live here now, she doesn’t.
We hit The Heights, a bar&grill on 110th frequented by Columbia kids, for some mid-afternoon mid-life crisis drinks. We sit at the bar. I'm gazing at her, suffusing my guilt over lending her the red athletic hoodie she's wearing (Thou Shalt Not Lend Ex-Lovers' Clothing to New Lovers) because she looks so beautiful in it.
The hoodie belonged to Benny. I'd met him at a CAKE party two summers ago; he wore it his first time to my Sparlem apartment, when he stood square in front of me, the way hot male models can do to remind you that their cock is in the perfect position to ram it straight in and keep you. It was like riding a bike; men. Benny embodied everything I loved about men physically; his rusty tan skin that always smelled like American Spirits, his MacGyver attitude and ability to fix anything, his height, his beautiful long blonde hair and perfect blue eyes, his big car, his shit-talking and the Russian models calling him all the time. He was simple and uneducated but aesthetically sexy—and our sexual chemistry was nearly non-existent. In bed, our true selves were peeled back and inescapable: his was stubborn, mine is complicated. We'd war over how I was most likely to have an orgasm, best staged to me as "How can I best fake an orgasm?"—I knew is that it definitely did not involve two of Benny's fingers up my ass. I thought that meant I was a lesbian, or maybe I was just not sexual, or maybe just nothing. Maybe I'll never know ever more than I know exactly what I know right now or right then.
Benny wasn't aware, after all, that he was auditioning on behalf of his entire gender. We became friends. He liked to tell me: "I think you're more than just half a fag."
"This's my best birthday ever," Kaia says, holding my hands. I hold them back, look her in the eye, I want her so badly, all over me, just her.
Blake calls. I know it's him from just glancing at my phone 'cause of the photo ID that flashes when he calls, which is often, cause we've been flirting/talking ever since I left Michigan 2.5 years ago. The photo was taken the day before I moved to New York, he's lying in a hotel bed, we'd just made love. I should change it. I flip my phone over, I don't answer. For the very first time since that May 2004 day in the hotel I have absolutely no desire to speak to him. Like, ever.
Someone else has captured my half-empty heart in it's entirety, and I can't seem to get it back.
text/ 3/18, 3:00pm
"Did u fall off mother earth or something wsup?"
"yes I fell off the face of mother earth and now wallowing in the underworld."
Abigail and her girlfriend Annie—she's a stage manager at Altar Boyz--come over for The L Word. Before the show, we're looking at the prints from a photo shoot I'd done the week before: I'd done half the photos in a suit, the other in a poofy yellow prom-dress--and Kaia comments: "You're so not a convincing dude. But you're a convincing superhot girl, so fuck that. "
I protest: "I used to get mistaken for a boy all the time when I was a kid!"
Kaia clicks on another photo. "You look like a cute girl with a hat on."
"Riese thinks she's so boyish," Abigail adds.
"No," Kaia interjects. "I am. I get called 'sir' all the time."
They affirm the female-ness of my body, which they both know, biblically, and then Abigail mentions: "your gestures, Riese, are so like, demure—"
"They are," Kaia says. "totally are." Abigail then imitates my apparently quite coy-and-demure gestures and speaking patterns, which involves a lot of averted eye contact, crossed arms, and giggling. Kaia agrees, they share a laugh.
I let them.
However, we do not laugh during The L Word:
Abigail: "This music is awful, it's bothering me."
Annie: "This episode is awful, it's boring me."
Kaia: "I can't believe I'm watching The L Word. This is the gayest shit ever."
3/21, 11:04 AM
kaia: I woke up 2 c u and hav on the view. I'm b4 the teevee. on mute, don't like the talking. ur wearing red n white. I see you! xo
My day begins far too early, outside the ABC studios in dark sunglasses, holding a tank of coffee and Annie. Abigail met Rosie O'Donnell in Fiddler, they became fast friends, now she's swung us tickets to The View, Abby's performing. Last summer, Abby and I'd gone on the R Family Cruise, where same "difference" that mortified me at 15 when my Mom came out was exactly what made me feel comfortable on the boat, knowing every person I passed knew that I didn't belong; just like them. I felt different when I came home. Less embarrassed to read Curve at the gym. It reminded me of when I lived on 127th and Manhattan Avenue for a month in 2001: I loved being the only white person in Duane Reade. Here I am, it said: I am not one of you. I do not fit in. I am queer.
And now, I'm with Annie in the front row of the studio audience with Kelli O'Donnell, on National Television with the most famous Lesbian Couple ever, possibly, and Rosie says Hi TO ME when the show wraps up, Abby clicks over in her Les Mis costume and chirps: "Two more shows to go, on three hours of sleep! Wheee!" Annie turns to me: "She's dying."
text 3/22, 8:45pm
aaron: Can I take u to dinner next week?
I'm at my part-time job at a literary agency and my top office-buddy Nathan, a Jersey-bred Ivy-educated lit-agent, is girl hunting on myspace: 'Woah!" he exclaims as a page loads. "Easy girl! Easy with the John Mayer!" Nathan's tall and he swaggers and sells books in genres he never reads. He makes me laugh.
"She's a writer, I flirted with her, her agent got pissed at me, I'm like, whatever, it's my personal life."
I work, he takes a book to the couch in the middle of our 5-man office.
I ask: "Are you reading The Art of the Deal?"
"I'm not into Trump's stuff that he's doing now? But this's a good book, from the 80s. You know, like The Game." We used to swap locker-room chat about my girl-hookups—that's a bad-bisexual thing, 'cause I'd never brag about men, it'd make me sound too slutty.
On the way to Tia Pol, a crowded Spanish restaurant in Chelsea, totally raining again, Nathan's telling me that the women of publishing are onto his tricks: "I'm not finding anyone interested in casual sex sans obligations," he shrugs.
"Haven't you already slept with like, every girl in publishing?"
"Nah, some are married."
I think of one unmarried agent I'm sure he hasn't banged and I ask him, he declares: "She gave me a blow job at her desk." I'm floored.
Later, after wine and six plates of tapas, Nathan asks: "Do you still talk to Kat? She was hot."
She was. Kat was all fire. Together, we were a forest fire and everyone would turn to look. One night, in bed, she'd asked: "Do you ever miss men?" and then described her boyfriend's beauty as she lay on my chest and I'd responded: "Sometimes I think that I like the way men feel but I like the way women look."
"Yes," I respond to Nathan. "We're talking now. She says she's coming to The L Word party on Sunday, which'll be awesome for Kaia. Maybe I should invite Aaron too, for good measure."
"Why don't you invite me to your little parties?" Nathan asks.
"You can come if you want," I drink, do my best fake hostess smile. "But it's all lesbians. I mean, I'd never really invite Aaron." Aaron was the only ex who thought my bisexuality was gross, which made me think he was gross, though not gross enough to rule out marriage, which I'd strongly considered. I mean, heterosexual marriage has been a fairly popular and mildly successful activity over the course of human history—at least more likely to provide happiness than most other silly things that humans do, and certainly it would've put a cute Band-Aid on my peculiar brand of loneliness. But the straight world always felt like lying to me, the queer world by definition more comfortable.
"Hey, there are bi-girls, right?" Nathan shoots a cocky grin. He's Aaron's opposite—like most men, he loves bi girls--and the fact that he actually did swing a threesome with a lesbian and her bi-girlfriend several months ago didn't help my case that these sorts of things don't happen except in porn and imagination.
"After watching an hour of hot girls kissing on each other, their Kinsey-meters are gonna be way-gay."
"Are you forgetting the lesbian threesome I had?"
"No, Nathan. I will never, unfortunately, ever forget the lesbian threesome you had."
"That's right. It's all about The Game, baby, all about The Game."
Here's the thing: it doesn't actually have to be.
aaron: "I know ur a busy girl but I'm only 5 mins away—u know I have a car now!"
The city's eating me alive because all this emotion isn't mixing well with all these people everywhere, all these buildings and the train and everything. I'm in sensory overload, like my skin dissolves away until I see her and then it returns so she can touch me. I'm compensating by drinking more and earlier than usual and carrying a half-dead phone with me everywhere: it shuts off when it wants to, here and there, miles from home.
I meet Kaia at Panna II, an Indian restaurant downtown—it's a tiny place with red chili lights hanging from the ceiling. I've been here before, on a date with a boy I met at a nerve.com party, I was charmed he found me charming. A painter, Princeton, rent-controlled West Village apartment: perfect on paper, but he kept eyeing me like I was a magic trick, about to turn into a rabbit or a flower or a girl who thought he was charming too. His wine pour was condescending: here, little girl, drink up.
This time with Kaia's better, she smiles: "I really like you, Marie. I am -- so glad that we found each other."
It's all happening so fast, but it feels safe. I feel like I can put more on the line with her than I have with men. Like I won't be speaking in tongues, slamming into a wall of non-communication disguised as a conversation about our feelings--though I'll likely be having a lot more conversations about our feelings than I ever had with men. Which is fine. It's worth it.
After dinner we go back to Karma and settle into a booth in the back room: "Do you think people do it back here?" I ask. "It's been done," she says. She's done it, I think.
We're finally together. Alone. On a bench with our drinks and I keep reaching for her hands, or her arm, or really anything. We smoke a little. I like that she smokes, which I shouldn't, but I do. I think smoking can be sexy. I totally bought it: James Dean, et cetera.
We're due at Vox Pop in Brooklyn to see Kaia's friend play, so Kaia calls for directions. I scan the room while she talks, it doesn't sound like she's getting anywhere. I reach for her hand.
She hangs up and turns to me: "Dude, this gig's light-years away."
"Where is it?"
"Where's that, Japan?"
"Australia? New Jersey? Coney Island?"
"One stop from Coney."
We've got no clue how to get to Ditmas Park, and neither do two cabbies, and it's raining and we never replaced that umbrella. Kaia gives me the eye of defeat. "Lets go home and --"
I look her in the eyes.
She knows, asks: "Yeah?"
Home in Michigan for the holidays, I went out with Clint in what could've been my last "date" with a man, ever. It was so different then it had been a year ago because I'd spent those 12 months in between thinking way too hard about what it meant to be bisexual, wondering if I was born this way, if everyone is, thinking that choosing a gender would enable me to chose a person. We want sexuality and desire to be biological because choice isn't very romantic. We doubt the permanence of anything we're capable of changing. Maybe if he lived here, Clint and I could've gotten married and I'd never be with another girl again, who knows? Because when you splice romantic comedy with bi-dogma, you get something like this: we fall, we surrender, when you find the right person you just zoom in and the rest of it goes away.
For a long time, I thought I could never have a girlfriend 'cause then I'd have to tell my Mom, which is like telling your father you've decided to go into the family business: you just can't give him that. Maybe that's also why I thought coming out as bisexual was irrelevant, cause I needed to justify the fact that I never bothered to "come out" to my Mom til that aforementioned holiday journey this past December.
Just in time, I guess, because I told her about Kaia right away, and they met this past weekend when my Mom came to visit.
"Well, you know, Joe's always been my favorite," my Mom told Kaia after they'd gone out for brunch without me. "But congratulations. You've ascended. You are my new favorite."
Kaia smiled: "I love your Mom."
If my 15-year-old self could see us now, she'd probably give me the finger.
In spite of all this, because of this: I choose. I choose Kaia.
aaron: "I WANT TO SEE U!"
clint: "maybe im too young to keep good love from going wrong, but tonight youre on my mind"
So back to Saturday: Sated, Kaia and I cab to midtown club Nation—they host a popular lesbian night on Saturdays and my friends and I've been thousands of times and every time, we resolve to never go again. Then we do, cause we're sheep with jello-pudding for brains. Kaia's never been, and she wouldn't be here tonight but Abby's been selected "as one of the hottest, most fit lesbian to compete for the title MISS GIRL NATION 2007!" which entails dancing in her "hippest outfit" to TRL-ish music while the crowd—tonight it's jailbait, the uniform is backwards baseball caps and popped collars—"votes" by screaming, and so we're there too, cheering so loud our throats might split open, just like my heart and my life and this city.
Kaia's got her arm around me, Annie's photographing, our other friends—straight, gay, bi, even male—are booing the competition and downing the drinks we're planning to cover with Abigail's prize money.
Abigail is crowned, given the prize and details for the next round of the competition, and then she descends the staircase and finds us in the crowd.
She laughs, shrugs: "I wish they'd given me a mike, I woulda been like: world peace."
I could've texted Clint back with the next few lines of verse: too young to hold on, too old to just break free and run, but that would have been a lie.
Cause I'm not, you know? I'm holding the fuck on. And, clearly, the Deli Guy knew before I did, 'cause he smiles at me now like he never did before, and sometimes I smile back, and sometimes, even, sometimes as we break into spring and all that slushy electricity turns into green and her hand reaches for mine in something more and more like second nature -- I will look back, I will make eye contact. Kaia smiles, our eyes meet in air.