Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Something I Couldn't Have

Have you ever wanted something that you couldn’t have? Have you ever been surrounded by something that you need more than anything in the world, but it’s just beyond your reach?
I kissed my best friend when I was thirteen. I’d like to blame it on chemistry class. Things were weird that year because, as usual, they couldn’t find enough teachers who were qualified and who would work for such low pay. So they figured out this system, you know. Low track had class during second period, the way it usually was. High track had class during lunch and got second period free. Miriam and I were both in high track. We’d eat lunch during class and then, during second, we’d find some abandoned classroom and we’d just…talk. We talked, oh G-d, we talked about everything. Music, books, philosophy, G-d, sex…Mostly sex, actually. When you go to an Orthodox girls school, you really don’t know much about sex and it becomes this huge mystery. We really were so naïve.
Sometimes I think that people assume that I’m some kind of pervert. That I chose her out and led her on. I didn’t. I really didn’t. Miriam and I, we’d been friends since first grade, before we even knew where babies came from. We grew up together and we were friends. Best friends. I never thought it was anything more than that. I only knew that there was no one else I ever wanted to be with and, when we weren’t with each other, I missed her so badly that it was almost like a physical pain in my body. Yeah, I used to dream about her sometimes and we’d both be in our underwear, but it never meant anything at the time. We’d slept over at each other’s houses a hundred times. We’d seen each other in our underclothes before. It didn’t mean anything. I told you that we were naïve.
We were in the classroom. It was a Thursday. I remember that it was Thursday. Isn’t it stupid, the little details we remember? I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but I remember that it was a Thursday and that she was wearing these long silver earrings. The kind that swing when you move your head. What were we talking about? I wish I remembered. It might make sense. I don’t know. I just remember that it was a Thursday and those silver earrings and her lips. She was saying something and it was like, suddenly, the world didn’t have sound anymore and all I could see was her face. Her beautiful, perfect, imperfect face with a little white scar just above her lip where she’d cut herself on a rock when we were eight. That scar just sort of…undulated. Like sunspots on the water. It moved when she talked. Like it was saying something all on its own. I don’t know what I was doing. I needed to hear what the scar was saying. So I moved in closer so I could hear. And then I kissed the scar. And then I kissed her lips and all I could feel was the softness of her breath against my mouth and those silver earrings resting up on my cheeks.
I would have stopped. If she had pushed me away, I would have stopped. I loved Miriam. I didn’t know at the time what sort of love it was, but I really did love her and I never would have done anything she didn’t want me to do. I’m not blaming her. It’s not any more her fault than mine. I guess it was something that we both wanted and we just didn’t know it. I don’t think either of us knew what was going on. It was like being tipsy on Shabbos wine. I was totally unaware of anything that was going on around me, only that I was so, so happy. Happier than I’d ever been before. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy since. Just happy and totally unaware. Which, I guess, is why we didn’t notice it when the principal came in.
In case you’re worried, I should tell you that he was great. Nothing like you’d expect a principal to be when he accidentally walked in on two of his students kissing each other in an empty classroom. He told us to come into his office. I thought he was going to expel us. I was positive. I told him that it was my fault and that I’d started it because I didn’t want Miriam to get hurt and Miriam was right next to me saying that it was her fault and that she should be punished and not me. I guess she didn’t want me to get hurt either. I never got to ask her.
He wasn’t angry, the principal. I can’t tell you his name. He has a position and if word got around…I don’t know if everyone would understand. Maybe some people would think that he should have kicked me out. Kicked both of us out. Told everyone we were sick perverts. Maybe some of you think that. I don’t know. Maybe he should have. But he didn’t. He looked so sad. And so understanding. Like he knew how it was. Sometimes I wonder if maybe he had the same problem or if someone he loved had the same problem. I asked him once. I call him sometimes, just to talk, and I once asked him whether he, you know, knew someone else like me. He just changed the subject. It’s a pretty raw thing to talk about. Believe me, I know.
He said he wouldn’t kick us out of school. He wouldn’t tell our parents, but he thought we should. He gave me the phone number of a rabbi who ‘dealt with this sort of thing’ and then he gave me his home phone. He said not to give it to anyone else but, if I needed to, I should call him. Whatever time.
I told my parents. I guess Miriam must have told hers too because I tried to call her that evening and, when her mom picked up, she told me to stay away from her daughter. They transferred Miriam to a different school. I never got to say goodbye. Sometimes we see each other from across the street on a Shabbos afternoon and we sort of half wave, but we never try to get together because if her parents found out, she’d get into trouble and…and I love her.
My parents…my parents did not take it well. They said it was something I had done because I’d been influenced by, I don’t know, books or films or music or something like that. I wanted to agree with them.. I asked them if I could call the rabbi that the principal had recommended. I think they said yes because they thought he would talk me out of it. I never had such a long conversation with a rabbi. It was just…intense. He asked me about everything. My dreams, how I looked at girls, how I felt when I was with boys, who I was attracted to when I walked down the street. That sort of thing. Lots of other things too, but it’s kind of embarrassing, so I won’t mention it, if you don’t mind. But you get the idea. He called my parents into his office and he asked my parents if they loved me, no matter what. They said yes and he said good, because I was a lesbian and I would need their love more than ever. And that was it. He gave me a card for a psychologist. He told me to give him a call if I needed him. We went home and all my parents wanted to do was talk to me. How long had I felt this way? Did I think I could change? Was it their fault? How had this happened? Then it was like they didn’t want to talk about it at all anymore. Like we could talk about anything else, but not that. They would tell me they loved me a hundred times a day and ask how I was doing, but we couldn’t talk about ‘that subject’. And we didn’t. I talked to my psychologist every day. I called my principal almost every night. But at home, it was like nothing had ever happened. Oh yeah, wait. One thing did happened. I got my own bedroom. I didn’t have to share a room with my little sister anymore. Funny, isn’t it? I’d been begging for my own room for years and I finally got it because my parents were afraid that I was some kind of sicko.
No one else knows. Not my friends. Not my teachers. They’ll say something in class about building a Jewish home and I want to cry. I want to burst into tears and run out of the room, because it won’t happen for me. My friends talk about when they’ll start dating or their sisters who got engaged. Never for me. I’ll never have that. I’ll always be alone.
Sometimes, I think that my parents still think it’s a phase. That it’s something I’m going to grow out of and one day I’ll wake up normal. I wish I could. Every night, I go to bed and pray that I’ll wake up and have a crush on some guy I see at Shul. And every morning I wake up and I’m still me. And every day, I have to go to school without Miriam. Every day, I’m surrounded by people that I want. The girls in school. The women who sit with me in shul. The people in the girl’s changing room at the pool. I’m a teenager. I’ve got all the normal hormones. They just got mixed up somewhere. And now I’m trapped with all of the people that I’m most attracted to. And there’s nothing I can do. Because no one knows. And even if they did, what could I do?
Have you ever wanted something that you couldn’t have? Have you ever been surrounded by something that you need more than anything in the world, but it’s just beyond your reach?