26) Naked in the Garden [Contains very mild sexual content]
We had turned off the lamp about twenty minutes ago, but then, you always think of more things to say in the dark at a sleepover. You can never just go abruptly to sleep. You have to gossip and laugh until your eyelids droop, and your breathing slows, and you can barely make sentences anymore. By all accounts, that's how I should have been feeling this late into the night.
Instead, my heart was racing.
She was so close to me. I liked her smell. I liked the hills and valleys of her body, still just visible in the faint moonlight. I gathered my courage and plotted my next move while I waited for our conversation to die down naturally.
I turned on my side to face her. I lied there deathly still for a few more minutes. I figured she had already closed her eyes.
The next move I made changed my life forever:
I reached out my hand and laid it gently on her waist.
She inhaled, surprised.
My hand remained.
"Ohh. . ." she whispered, like she had just understood something.
I had been trying to communicate these feelings for weeks now; she must have noticed my strange behavior, like that time I called her drunk from a party and slurred, "Lauurrennn, I love you!"
"I love you, too, Sarah."
"Nooo, but like, I looove you. I've been try'na teeeell you. . ."
I knew she was straight, but I was so attracted to her, and she was so comfortable with sexuality in general, I thought I'd take a chance.
I inched closer to her in the dark. Her body language emboldened me.
"Whoaaa. . ." I whispered.
That night, I came alive. She was a moonlit garden of delights, and she let me express all the affection that had been building up between us over the last few months, as well as all the unnamed, sublimated affection I'd ever felt for the women I had admired over the years. Finally, I was in a woman's arms. Finally, I could touch her everywhere I wanted. Finally, her skin on my skin, her breathy, feminine responses in my ears. The smile in her eyes. The safety of it all. A bosom where I could rest my head when it was done.
This! This is why I had hardly dated in high school. This is why I was such a weirdo about my French teacher. For the first time ever, I understood the truth about myself, and I couldn't stop smiling. I was bisexual, or maybe I was a lesbian--I wasn't sure. All I knew was that I loved women, and I could finally, truly, in all the ways, with no holding back, love them fully.
I lied there in the dark and laughed to think of all the times my subconscious had tried to help me figure this out. I reminisced on all those euphoric feelings I never fully understood, feelings which were hardly ever distinct enough to put into words.
It might seem strange, but until that night, I genuinely believed I was straight. My sister used to joke and say I was a lesbian because I didn't date anyone, meaning any boys. I would always calmly answer that I wasn't, that I was just supportive of gay rights, and that I didn't date because I was busy.
And until the falling out with my French teacher, I really hadn't needed to look to any other source for more of the obsessive, lovey-dovey feelings that had been coursing through my veins and flushing my face every day at school since the ninth grade. She noticed me, she thought I was funny and charming and brilliant. She was all I had needed.
After that weekend at Lauren's house, many hours that should have been spent on homework were spent researching this new identity. I looked up "lesbian" on Wikipedia and read the whole page. I learned the word was an homage to a woman named Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos in Ancient Greece. I learned there was lesbian pop culture, lesbian TV shows!
I made a trip to the local video rental store in search of one of the shows. I looked around for a long time, but I couldn't find it. I was desperate. I figured it was worth it to ask the young guy behind the counter.
"Um, 'scuse me, um, hi, uh. . . Do you guys have. . .The L Word?" I asked in a hushed, conspiratorial tone.
"The L Word?" he confirmed, a little too loudly. "Sure, let me look it up."
He typed obnoxiously on his keyboard before beckoning me to follow him to the back of the store.
"There ya go! The L Word--top shelf!" he announced to the world.
I grabbed it and paid and got the heck out of there. Once home, I headed straight to my bedroom, popped it in my DVD player, and stayed absolutely glued to my bed for the rest of the night. I was somewhat confused about the plot, since I had accidentally rented season two in my haste, but still, it was captivating.
These women had their own culture, their own lingo. They were so endearing, and attractive, and complex. I loved watching their stories unfold. I hoped that someday I could be part of a community of women like this one and maybe even fall in love with someone like this Bette character. . .
When I wasn't researching lesbianism, I did the bare minimum on my homework for every class except English. We were reading The Canterbury Tales, and our homework was to write poems, which is exactly what I would have been doing anyway in the midst of all this self-discovery.
How secretly I longed, I pined!
To put my beating breast near thine.
Of all endeavors serpentine,
to this I did concede.
This was always my favorite stanza of any of the poems. It struck me as very true. I also think it's interesting that I used biblical imagery to describe what we had done--my head must have been full of it from The Canterbury Tales. Not that I thought of what she and I had done as a sin, or as "bad," but I did consider it an act of giving in to temptation, this slithering over in the darkness, trying something taboo, and recruiting an accomplice to try it with me.
I was eternally grateful for that night. My eyes had been opened, and now, everything about me made a whole lot more sense. I was Sarah English, lover of women, and I was unashamed.