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Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:46

The Portal – stories of timeless love

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Tale 1 in "The Portal" series by Marianne Puechl:  The Crush 1971

______________

 

Everyone thought Celia and I were just friends... Part of the party scene. Sure, we'd kissed, but no one thought it meant much. It was 1971 – love was free, love was casual. But when I saw her dancing across the room, when I brushed those soft curls aside so that I could kiss the mahogany slope of her neck... I knew it was something more.

It took me awhile to convince her. She was scared to hold my hand, or even to stand too close when we walked the few blocks to Center City. But in her heart she knew it too- she knew she loved me.

We became adept at scouting out gatherings that were just for women, so we could be together comfortably; more safely. Some of the local folk musicians were women, and attracted a particular crowd – we didn't start out as music lovers but it quickly became routine on Saturdays to find ourselves, hips close, stretched out together on a picnic blanket, giggling as we sang along to some of our favorite tunes.

There was a pamphlet that circulated around town sometimes: it highlighted feminist news and a few meeting dates for "empowerment groups" or pot-luck dinners. We drew circles around the dates on the calendar and rarely missed an event. It was empowering – to be in a room sharing dinner with friends, cozy and unburdened by expectations that didn't suit. Sometimes, Celia mentioned how she missed the company of men, or she longed for a little more spontaneity... but those things came with certain risks.

One summer, Celia and I organized a softball team. Every Saturday at 11am, several of us girls met at the park. The faces often changed, week to week, but that didn't matter: it was still a real feeling of community.

One of those Saturdays, I pulled my girl under the bleachers. She swatted at me, laughing, when I stole a kiss, and I tugged her to the grass.

"No, no Baby," she said when I slipped my hand under her t-shirt. And with that, she pulled away, sitting herself up to face me.

There was a little sweat glistening on her brow; she was 24 years old and her skin was aglow with the fresh beauty of blossoming youth. Truly, I was taken with her.

"Dana," she told me, breaking my stare. "Sometimes I think we need to stop this craziness. We need to get real. Get real about our future. You know?"

I shook my head, reaching to dab the wetness at her eyebrow. "No, I don't know what you mean."

"Yes you do, Baby," she said. And she pulled my hand aside to emphasize her seriousness. "We can't play like this forever; we can't be lovers forever."

My gaze darkened. I looked squarely into her eyes, and told her plainly, "I love you, Celia. I haven't ever loved anyone like this before, I don't think I could ever love anyone else. Why would we want it to end?"

Something of the intensity between us brought a tear to her eye. She let it slip down her cheek in silence. I leaned in to kiss it away, and there were no more words between us as we lay down in the grass once again.

___________

But I knew why her heart ached: Our future was something of mixed shadows... Certainly a normal journey for the two of us, as a couple, was impossible.

She dreamed of having children, having a home... decorating together for the holidays, taking trips each summer to the beach, filling photo albums with family pictures that told a story that made sense.

How would there be children? was the real question she put to me. How could we build a home together in the suburbs? How could either of us pursue sensible careers? We didn't fit the roles of secretary or nurse... At times Celia considered becoming a schoolteacher, but she was hesitant: if it was discovered that she lived this lifestyle during off-hours, without a doubt her job would be taken away.

I lay awake that night, wondering. My thoughts spiraled, my body was tight with confusion. How could an easy, tender connection that found its way to love abruptly have to sever itself and die? What was the point?

I remembered a preacher from a church, back when I was a teen. There'd been an implication, that I'd barely made sense of at the time... 'The Devil,' he proclaimed, 'works in terribly cunning ways, to beguile us into his fold... Beware ye, of his temptations!' But I didn't believe him. Not then, not now. This love I felt for Celia was not a sin. It was a gift. And it was worth fighting for.

________

The next morning, unable to coax sleep any longer, I rose early and took a run through the neighborhood. The sunlight, as it cast its morning glow across the land, was breathtaking. Droplets of dew on the leaves of the bushes and trees scintillated like tiny diamonds; small twinkles that seemed to dance alongside as my shoes pounded against the gravel. Morning birds added their call, cheering on the rays of sunshine as they extended further and silently tempered the night shadows. The colors of the day came to life, and I found myself suddenly smiling.

After awhile, a park bench beckoned. I wiped at my brow and took a seat, breathing hard and allowing myself to pull in the taste and cool fullness of the morning air. I felt re-charged. The day was a promise, hope coursed through the flow of my breath... yet there seemed no answer that made sense. Still I had no words to offer back to Celia.

Then, something caught my eye. There, tucked in the shadow at the base of a nearby tree... a bundle of color that seemed out of place.

Stepping closer, I saw that it was a piece of fabric of some kind; the colors were a vibrant mix. I was sure it must be a discarded tie-dye, but as I tapped it with my foot, it unraveled a bit, revealing itself. –A thin, rainbow colored scarf. And something, I could tell, was folded inside.

__________

Celia couldn't believe it; she quivered when I handed the little box to her. "Who could they belong to?" she wondered aloud, tenderly running her fingertip over the curve of each ring.

"I have no idea," I told her. "But here, look at them Celia. Really look at them..." Do you see?"

Tugging the rings free of the box, I lifted them to her, pointing at the metal work framed between the little gemstones. The rings were identical –each sparkled with twin diamonds and was capped with a small symbol. –A tiny cross of sorts extended out from a perfect circle.

"It's a symbol of femininity," Celia said, looking up at me.

I nodded, knowing full well. "They're wedding rings, Babe. For two women. Two women, like you and me."

She was baffled, and gasped a little in disbelief.

"It's magic," was all I could think to say. "Somehow, some way... it's a magical message, Celia. I love you."

___________

We didn't show the rings around much but, curious, we took one to a local jeweler to see if he had any insights.

He told us the rings were worth more than we might have thought. The diamonds, he said, were of exceptional quality and the precision of the cuts on each one was, as he said to us, "highly skilled." The metal work too he found very well-crafted, and he pointed out that the bands were not simply silver-plated, as we thought, but that they were fine white gold. "Quite lovely, the craftsmanship," he repeated. "Quite nice."

Something about the mysteriousness of the treasured rings inspired me. I began applying for new jobs -higher paying jobs- and I started encouraging Celia to re-think going back to college. She'd smirk, and ask where we were going to get the money, but I didn't let up. "Let's just imagine a future for ourselves," I whispered to her, one night as we shared a pillow. It was a strategy I also recalled from my days long ago at church. "We get to decide what we want, Babe," I continued, "and start living in that direction. Can you do that with me? Can you give it a real try?"

She leaned forward and kissed me sweetly; I could tell I'd touched her heart.

Not long after, at a party, some of us got to chatting a little more openly than usual. One of the women was going to law school, and Celia quizzed her about entrance exams and tuition and financial aid. She mentioned a few programs we'd been unaware of, and suggested Celia pick a few schools nearby and set appointments with the counselors. "Some of them have gotten a lot more keen on the idea of assisting young women," she said, smiling to us. "You can make it happen."

Some time later, as the conversation shifted, I asked if any of the others had heard of someone losing a unique wedding ring at the park. No one had, but they were curious about what it looked like. One asked if I'd reported it to the police. "No," I said, "it's a lesbian's ring... I just thought we'd ask through the channels; might find its way back to her quicker this way..." Some of them nodded, then there was a moment's pause. Celia sighed, though I don't think she really noticed it herself, then she got up to grab each of us another beer.

One of the older women across the room watched us another minute or so, then said, "You know, Girls... there are a few of us seasoned dykes and queens around town who have been married, had kids. You know that, right?"

She kept her gaze on Celia, who was rather wide-eyed. As there was no one else offering comments, the older woman continued: "Some of us have settled down with a gay guy, even married maybe, to keep up appearances. But we don't sleep in the same room, except to become parents. For some, having kids is too important. You don't want to cheat yourself out of that..." She went on, "The husbands come and go as they please, lots of the women too. They live down the street from their real mate, or across town. It works out..."

Celia returned to her seat next to me, perching forward with obvious piqued interest.

Another woman spoke up, "It's not so cheery when there's a marriage partner who's not in the know," she said. "Some women, especially, don't realize their husband's gay and they get their hearts broke. It's sad, real sad."

"Those guys should have the balls not to marry," said another. "They try to prove they's a real man by marrying... thing is, they'd be a real man by staying single."

There was some agreement, then the first woman re-steered the conversation: "I know of one lesbian who adopted. Not sure how, on her own, but she did get two kids. Then her partner lived with them, understood to be a paying renter. They were a happy family, real happy. The kids are nearly grown now, and they'd say they had two good, devoted parents."

"You can make it work, Celia," she added, directly to us. I just about broke out in laughter: the words made me giddy. Surely, I thought, thinking back again to my days at church, they were heaven-sent.

______________

A few months later found us in a larger, 2-bedroom apartment. It was bright, especially in the mornings, and we had indulged in new furniture, patterned drapes and a color t.v. On paper, we were just roommates; beyond that, we were a family.

I had a new position in retail down at the airport, and I was sure I'd be working my way to manager or someday applying for a clerk's post with one of the airlines. Celia worked part-time assisting the manager of the apartment complex, and sometimes providing the housecleaning services when tenants moved out. She was registered for classes at the community college for winter quarter, and it came up often over the dinner table, when she beamed at me with sheer excitement. She had lots of ideas for her major -her current first choice was to become a high school English teacher, or a psychology professor- but she was leaving her options open, at the counselor's suggestion.

We had made a chart, and with a thumbtack had pinned it to our bedroom wall. It outlined our plans for college, savings, buying a car in two years and a Polaroid camera to capture the blossoming of our family life together, a week-long escape to Florida, and our deepest hope that by age 30 we'd somehow have a child of our own. Celia had already begun researching the area foster care system, and we were both planning to begin volunteering for the local youth mentoring organization by the following summer.

I found us a new church. It was a smaller congregation, and we couldn't be together openly as a couple, but the preacher's message was optimistic and we felt supported in certain ways. And of course we continued joining the potluck dinners, and stretching out together on our flannel blanket at the concerts on Saturdays. Our lives felt much more vibrant, and nearly complete.

And then, one Sunday afternoon, my sweet girl and I dressed in our best and took a taxi around town, past Independence Hall, past the Liberty Bell, circling back to our neighborhood park. The date had been marked on our calendar for months.

We found the little bench, and our special tree. With its leafy branches like a canopy overhead, Celia and I looked deep into each other's eyes and spoke a few timeless words. Of love, of intent, of the beauty in life that we shared and that we were creating for ourselves. We made a simple promise, and there in the glittering sunlight, we exchanged the rings we had found. Hands trembling, we slipped them on each other's fingers. Once and for always. Our dream was coming true.

______________

Coming Soon... Tale #2 in 'The Portal' Series
For other works by RWN co-founder & author Marianne Puechl, visit her website:  www.MariannePuechl.com

 

 

 

 

Read 5224 times Last modified on Friday, 08 November 2013 10:40
Marianne Puechl

Marianne Puechl is senior editor and co-founder of RainbowWeddingNetwork.

Website: www.mariannepuechl.com
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