I was visiting friends in London, Ontario and I met #55 in a gay bar. She and her friend were visiting from Michigan, staying with her cousin. She was tall and had a labret piercing and she looked good. She was going to join the US Navy. We made out on the dance floor, I think, and then we saw each other again, maybe one night, maybe two, until she had to go back to Michigan. She wanted me to spend the night at her cousin’s place with her, but I didn’t feel right about it. I don’t know. I liked her but I felt like our worlds were too different, like when she and her friend asked me where Ireland was and I was kind of mortified and didn’t know what to say. She bought me a rose and gave it to me and asked me to keep it forever, and I tried but after a week or two of travel it had fallen to pieces and I had to dump it. I guess part of what was going on was I was kind of just trying to be polite: we had different ideas about what we wanted here and how to conduct things. I mean, the rose was a sweet gesture but it really, really isn’t something that works for me; I pretended to like it. Making out was fine but I felt like she wanted something that was more like romance, and I was afraid of hurting her.
She e-mailed me the following year. By now she’d been kicked out of the Navy for being gay. She said she still thought of me sometimes – “even though I think you’re straight”, she said. The qualifier stung; it cancelled out what had come before. When I got her e-mail, I was going out with #67, my first boyfriend in two years. It was a short-lived relationship and I was feeling weird about my return to the twilight world of the heterosexual, and that same day an old friend e-mailed me and made it clear he thought I was a lesbian. Everything felt all messy; I was hanging out with #79 who also identified as bi but seemed content to only be with boys and didn’t understand why it mattered to me to come out and why my family’s reaction made me unhappy. I needed acceptance from fellow queers much more than I did from straight people, so it made me feel kind of insecure that #55 didn’t even think I was queer. I wondered if it was just because I wasn’t a gold star lesbian. I didn’t know her well enough to know what she thought about all this stuff. I didn’t feel like I fitted in to the available frameworks, and I felt kind of like I’d been transported back to my teen angst years, wanting to kick stones and whine about how nobody understood me. But I didn’t tell #55 all that. I just sent her a breezy e-mail saying that I was equally useless with men and women, trying to make light of the truth. I didn’t hear from her again.