Saturday, August 27, 2011

I kissed a girl and I liked it!!!

…the taste of her Skoal stained chapped lips. She leaned over in the dimly lit bar while I kept my eyes fixed on the prize. A faded and oil-stained baseball cap perched clumsily on her forehead. Remnants of a mullet peeping from underneath the embroidered words ‘I Love BUSH’ as her lips parted to reveal a smile. And a missing tooth. A bottle of Heineken clutched in her hand, she moved her face inches from mine where I could count the axiomatic traces of a moustache on her upper lip, just days away from a full- fledged handlebar fit for a Chowkidaar. I gave her ensemble one last look: Birkenstocks on grubby feet and a gray tank-top underneath a stained red flannel shirt. Khaki shorts courtesy of Walmart contrasting with my black satin pants, courtesy of Marc Jacobs. Alas, I had no choice but to take the plunge. So I went for it and pressed my tender lips on Britney’s. Oh and by the way, if you haven’t guessed by now, this wasn’t the same-sex kiss that I had enjoyed. That one came a few minutes later. But lets rewind to a few hours earlier and how I even found myself in this situation.

Why Yes!

One night, Jenny, Julie and I decided that enough was enough. Tired of this boring and depressing turn that our lives had taken, we were going to treat ourselves to a night of unabashed clubbing. Just us! A fun girls night out like old times when life was carefree and exciting. Before emotionally unavailable boyfriends and just as emotionally unavailable futures. Junior year had been very difficult for all of us. While I constantly found myself sulking over a desultory relationship with a boy called Mustafa, Julie fretted about her future after graduation. She hoped desperately to score a job – any job - so she would not have to move back to Staten Island with her parents. To pay for the extra credits for next year, Jenny had picked up extra weekend shifts at the Blockbuster. Thus we barely ever saw her on the weekends now. Weekends which were often spent chasing after so-called boyfriends on the phone while Julie sat staring at her half-page resume ensconced between a thick Psychology textbook; a class she hoped she would pass on her third attempt.

So it was decided. That Saturday night we were all going dancing like we used to. I should mention here, that the only thing remotely similar to a club in our undergraduate lives was a dive bar called Aces, about a half hour away from campus. After paying a buck for a cover, you got the pleasure of enjoying a rickety dance floor, bad strobe light and an obese DJ who doubled as a bar-back. Yet, when I look back at my college years, it was a place that brought us all the joy we ever needed on a Saturday night. Memories of excitedly dressing up in skimpy clothes to tastefully show skin. Pre-gaming at the apartment to Julie’s Napster collection and then piling into my Mini Cooper to zoom out of our small campus town. Speeding on highways, dancing as we drove and then entering the exit for the closest excuse for a city. Bestowed the label of a metropolis only because it had a movie theater, a shopping mall, a bus system and two ‘dance clubs’.

Getting dressed for a night out at Aces was a memorable ritual among the three of us. Although we would commence the process in our own rooms, we would somehow end up convening together at the large full-length mirror by the staircase that had been picked up for 5 bucks at a garage sale. There, we would fight over our reflections, share make-up and ask for advice on shoes and tops. Plenty of times, entire outfits had to be revisited based on each other’s frowns.

We each had also our own designated roles for the night. Julie was in charge of picking the music as we got dressed and she gladly obliged with the interminable list of Pop hits on her Napster – later replaced by Limewire - to help us get pumped up for the evening. That night she blasted Missy Elliot’s ‘4 My People’ as we danced together while fluffing and patting our hair and faces. Jenny was always in charge of fixing us drinks for the pre-game and then sometimes, if we wouldn’t stop at a diner on our way home, she was also responsible for fixing us a post-dancing meal in the kitchen. I owned the car so obviously, I was the designated driver for the night but at the same time I was also responsible for attracting some old geezer with my cleavage to buy us all the first round of free drinks.

The bottom-boyz as we liked to refer to our downstairs neighbors, would be engaged in a similar ritual themselves. Usually we would run into them on our way out the door. In their tight tank-tops and tighter jeans, glow sticks between fingers and glitter on their faces; they too would be piling into their Yellow VW Bug to hit the gay bar which was conveniently located just a few blocks down from Aces. One of them liked to dress up as a woman when he went out dancing, and would often walk upstairs in his wigs and stilettos to borrow some of our makeup. Saturday nights was the only time this poor boy could escape the jocks and the bullies to sneak out into the dark in drag and we applauded his fortitude. I should probably add, that he is now a professional drag queen in Buffalo and even stayed at my apartment one year, when he came down for NY Pride.

Around 9pm, we rounded the troops. Last sips of mixed drinks, lip gloss smeared, ATM cards and IDs in back-pockets along with a dollar in our purses for the cover. With Missy’s song blasting from our windows, we swerved our bodies with the car. The light blue ray of the moon soaking our skin and tingling it with thrill. The usual knots of excitement and uncertainty in our stomach as we entered the city and parked our car outside the club. For once there was no talk of GREs, resumes, shifts, Mustafa or any other disconcerting topic that could remind us of reality. It was girls night out!

And boy we should have been careful what we wished for! Even when the disgruntled blondes in their hooker boots stalked angrily past us scowling ‘This is Bull-Crap’ we remained clueless. As far as we knew, it was 4 less hot girls at Aces to compete with. The woman checking IDs wasn’t the usual one and her glance of skepticism at our clearly expensive outfits baffled us but only slightly. Confidently, we marched into the club, peeling off our coats with the signature gusto that announced our arrival before making our way to our usual booth. Cigarettes lighted, first round of drinks ordered, we began to survey the land. Handsome men walking around but dressed in extremely casual clothes. I use the word ‘casual’ here as a euphemism for poor taste. Flannel numbers with sleeves rolled up, Leather jackets, Timberland boots, fitted caps cocked to the side and large White Fruit of the Loom T-shirts.
‘That one is cute!’ Julie pointed at a short white guy that resembled Eminem.
And we agreed that once his bail would be posted, he could very well be a contender for the evening’s company. But when the DJ kept playing KD Lang mixes and the bartender brought us a round of drinks with the disclosure ‘these are from the ladies on the far table’ we finally put two and two together. What we thought were handsome construction workers were actually butch women. Nervously we looked around the club again and saw tiny little humps bulging through the flannel and the white T-shirts. All the Eminems, Snoop Dogs and Kid Rocks in the place came with their own set of breasts. That’s when it dawned on us that we had decked up in our finest to go out clubbing on lesbian night. Not exactly what we had in mind when he had hoped for a girls night out!

‘Dyke night!’ The bartender informed us loudly over the shrill beats of a country song ‘Some lesbian softball convention in town so they booked this place for their social event. You should have checked our website.’
Who the heck checks a clubs website before they go out? Heck we didn’t even know the place HAD a website. As our bartender flashed us a sardonic smirk and walked away, we looked at each other and then broke into baffled hysterics.
‘I guess we have no choice but to make the most of it!’ I announced as I dug for a cigarette. ‘I mean we’re already here. Why not schmooze with the ladies!’
‘Hey…free drinks taste like free drinks no matter who buys them, boys or girls!’ Julie gave me a high five.
But Jenny wasn’t convinced. Tonight – just like any other night – she was on the hunt for a penis. Unfortunately, she wasn’t really going to have much luck there. Unless she was willing to settle for something that came with a strap.

The DJ was surprisingly good and we danced from our booth while graciously accepting all the free drinks being sent our way. Let me add that this isn’t the first time I have been around lesbians. I had plenty of gay friends in college but those girls were stylish intellectuals with sun-kissed skin and surfer bods who only dated feminist Women’s Studies majors. These hyper-masculine women with boots, mullets and missing teeth were a different breed altogether. These could make Chastity Bono seem like a beauty pageant contestant! Still we tried to make the most of the evening. Mustafa texted me to inquire about my night and was more than amused when I informed him of the fiasco which we were now attempting to salvage.

At around midnight, Julie disclosed to us that she had been making eye contact with a gorgeous – and hopefully biological - male across the bar.
The only man in the club that night was a good-looking Hispanic dude that looked like he was from of a Reggaeton music video. Just the way Julie liked them. Tatted up, a wife beater, a perfectly trimmed goatee and a body which could only have been sculpted in the recreated gyms of penitentiaries around the world. Of course, we agreed he was delicious.
‘Some more liquid courage and then I’m making my way over there to holler at him real quick!’ Julie announced ‘Padash quick flirt with some more Lesbos for free drinks!’
I guess I wasn’t working hard enough!

When Julie finally downed her next drink and made her way over to Papi Chulo, Jenny leaned over to me.
‘I feel really bad.’ She whispered.
‘I think he was actually making eye contact with me.’ She explained.
‘You sure?’ I asked.
‘Pretty certain. We always flirt at Aces…we have been doing it for years. He even hit me up once on yahoo chat.’
I didn’t know what was more disturbing. The fact that my best-friend had not informed Julie of this little tidbit or that she frequented chat-rooms on Yahoo. I mean who did that!
‘Why didn’t you tell her?’ I asked her pointedly.
‘I didn’t wanna come across as arrogant and she seemed so hell bent…I just felt terrible…’
‘Yeah but we’re friends…you could have saved her the embarrassment…oh wait look.’ Across the bar I could see the man write his number down on a piece of paper and hand it over to our Puerto Rican girl ‘Looks like she got her some digits after all.’
Jenny didn’t reply. This all seemed sort of shady but Jenny had always been my best friend and much closer to me than Julie so I decided not to push it any further. Still, I thought…girl code should be followed, especially at a lesbian club of all places.

Julie’s walk back to us wasn’t nearly as intrepid and seductive as before. Sliding back into the booth, she dropped the chit of paper in Jenny’s lap.
‘He’s all yours Chica…’ She sighed ‘Turns out he was actually interested in you.’
Jenny feigned shock and I guess Julie was dumb enough to believe it.

For the next few awkward minutes, Jenny sat fidgeting with the number in her hand while Julie stared straight into the flashy lights of the discotheque. I just kept my head down and continued to reply to Mustafa’s intermittent texts.

‘I’m gonna go get a drink’ Julie announced and then walked away to the bar. I figured she needed the time alone. So far, girls night out wasn’t turning out the way we had planned.
‘I’ll be right back.’ A few minutes later, Jenny too grabbed her purse and slid out of the booth.
I was glad that Jenny was going to go talk to Julie because she was already dealing with a lot these days.

The bartender brought over another drink to the table and informed me that it was another complimentary gift from the ‘lady’ in the baseball cap. I thought it was quite ironic that the manliest specimen at the club was being referred to as a lady but who am I to judge…or turn down a free drink. I held up the glass in gratitude and smiled back. Then I immediately looked away before she got any ideas. When I searched the crowd for my friends, I saw Jenny engaged in a flirty conversation with Papi while Julie was ignoring the sight by dancing alone, head lowered, eyes closed, swinging her hair from side to side. Ouch! I guess that’s not who Jenny went to talk to!

‘Hey what’s shaking Mama Sita…COMO ES STAAA.’
Great! I gritted my teeth and looked up at the source of this pathetic salutation. Baseball cap ‘lady’ had made her way over and then slid comfortably beside me in our booth. Then, before I could even conjure up a reply to Martina Navratilova’s stunt double, she added ‘I LOOOOVE Mexican women.’ Flashing a big, libidinous smile. And oh yes….there were definitely some teeth missing!

I spent the next hour talking to ‘Lady Baba’ whose name was actually Britney! Really? Somehow that name would not have been my first guess for this female Sasquatch seated besides me scratching her stubble. But, to be truly fair, she did make for interesting company and as we made flirtatious jabs at each other, I figured if nothing else she was good for practicing my flirting skills.
‘By the way’ I replied to one of her pickup lines ‘I’m not gay.’
‘I know’ she replied ‘And I only date straight girls.’
She may have even winked and flicked her cigarette at that point. I was reminded of Ajab Gul in a ‘Swaad A gya Badshao’ Embassy cigarette commercial.
‘So…I see you’re a republican eh?’ I frowned at one point as I noticed the words ‘I Love Bush’ embroidered on her baseball cap.
‘What makes you think that?’
I pointed at her cap with disapproval.
‘Sweetie, who says I’m talking about the President!’
‘Oh’ I silently mouthed with my lips.
‘You can have it if you want it?’
‘You can have it if you want, you know!’
‘Excuse me?’
‘I’m talking about the cap…but it will cost you?’
‘Oh really?’ I already suspected the answer.
‘A kiss!’
To this, I couldn’t help but emit a loud cackle.
‘Hey’ she held her hands up ‘Don’t knock it till you try it!’
‘That’s ok…you see I’m from Pakistan. I’m pretty sure by now that I’m not a fan of the Bush.’
‘They don’t have lesbians in Pakistan?’
‘Oh they do….we have plenty of lesbians…we just don’t allow republicans.’
‘I guess that means I still have a chance?’
I had to give it to her. This country western biker chick was good. Smooth even! Heck, I could take a few pointers from her.

I didn’t realize how much time had passed till the bartender announced last call. As was tradition at Aces, the DJ always ended his set with an extremely mushy love song at the end. His words – and we almost knew them by heart by now – were always:
‘Alright good peeps…its that time…time to say goodnight. So this one goes our to all the lovely couples in here tonight….But if you’re single grab the new friend you just made…hey this may even be your last chance to get the courage and make that final plea for that person you have been eyeing all night… go ahead, ask them for a last dance.’

Luckily, my new friend had informed me earlier that she wasn’t much of a dancer. I’m pretty sure its harder to bust a move in Birkenstocks than Manolos! Whitney Houston’s beautiful voice spread across the club, and women all over coalesced to slow dance with each other to her song ‘My love is your love’. Heads buried safely on each other’s shoulders and arms wrapped around waists; they moved side to side with true affection. It was actually quite sweet to watch them. Love was truly never supposed to be confined to boundaries.

I even saw Jenny and her Papi amongst the crowd. His strong, inked arms holding the back of her waist with such delicacy as if he was holding a petite and fragile doll. Her beautiful face next to his, cheeks brushing against each other and that tender sight brought another rush of endearing emotions through me. But then I looked over at Julie, who had walked away from the dance floor. Quietly leaning against the bar, she watched with eyes that narrated envy, longing, sadness and fear. All at the same time.

‘Lets do it!’ I spun around towards Britney almost shocking her.
‘Excuse me?’
‘You got a deal…5 minutes…no tongue…’
‘I was only joking…’
‘Are you backing out now?’
She was almost cute as she blushed. ‘I guess you are a Republican after all…’
‘I like to think of it more as experimentation.’ I winked and leaned over.

That was when I could almost taste the Skoal on her chapped lips. As she leaned over in the dimly lit bar. My eyes fixed on the faded and oil-stained baseball cap. Remnants of her mullet peeping from underneath the words ‘I Love BUSH’. A smile, a missing tooth. Traces of a moustache on her upper lips, just a few days away from a fully fledged Chowkidar handlebar. And as I described earlier, just like that, I took the plunge and pressed my lips on Britney’s. Oh and this still wasn’t the same-sex kiss that inspired the title of this column. As I mentioned earlier, that one came shortly after!


Pushing my hair inside the cap, I made my way across the bar to where Julie stood by herself. I mimicked a masculine walk as I went up to her. Scratching my crotch and then tapping her on her shoulder, I deepened my voice, ‘Hey shorty…I couldn’t help but notice you from across the bar…don’t really know if you play for my team but would you be kind enough to give me the pleasure of this last dance.’
I think I may have even spat on the floor but hey, a little overacting never hurt anybody.
Julie stared at me with her mouth agape for a few seconds, truly speechless. I will never forget the smile which then spread across her face as she shook her head with disbelief. ‘You are crazy’ she smirked and then accepted my hand ‘And I would love to!’
I gently kissed her hand – still taking my role very seriously - and then with a ‘You wont regret it Madam’ I led her to the middle of the dance floor where I cupped her waist with my hands and asked her to lay her head on my shoulder.

That song seemed interminable but it didn’t matter. The moment felt good, as we held each other close and slow danced. I could even feel a tear escape my eye, because just like her, I too was petrified of the future. Our perfect life of dwelling in a campus bubble was slowly coming to an end. We had no idea what lay next for us. So, we held each other closer and tighter. That night, I realized how much I was going to miss Julie. I had never been as close to her as I had been to Jenny but somewhere along the way, she had turned from being a third-wheel in our group to one of my closest friends. Now I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like after she would graduate and leave.
‘Thanks’ she looked up at me with tears in her eyes not shocked to see some in mine too.
‘No sweat’ I winked.
‘I’m scared.’
‘It will all be ok.’
‘Rejection hurts…’ she shared as she glanced over at Jenny and her Papi passionately French kissing on the other end.
I searched for something to say before Julie completed her sentence.
‘I found out today that I didn’t get the internship in DC that I had applied for. I had such high hopes for it too.’
‘I’m sorry…’ I wiped a tear from her cheek. It was the most intimate we had ever been.
‘Its ok…like I said, rejection hurts…’
‘But we might as well learn to deal with it now…something tells me it will always play a part in our lives….even the best of us…’
‘I guess that’s exactly what I need to remember before stepping out into the real world…’

And then, Julie did something which neither of us were expecting. She leaned closer and gently pressed her lips against mine. I kissed her right back. It felt like the right and natural thing to do. There was nothing sexual or even romantic about that kiss. It was simply a kiss between two friends that knew and acknowledged the depth of our friendship and how much it meant to us. How much the two of us were going to miss each other.

It wasn’t till we heard all the women around us applauding when we were slightly embarrassed by what had just occurred. We began to sheepishly giggle as Jenny made her way towards us with her Papi in tow.
‘You freaks!’ She exclaimed.
‘Hey…do at Rome as the Romans do!’ I laughed.
‘I’ll grab our coats,’ her man offered as he took her coat ticket.
I waited till he walked away before I asked ‘So I guess you’re not coming home with us tonight?’
‘No…he said he’ll drive me home tomorrow morning. I’ll just meet up with you guys at Brunch or if I’m late I’ll just see you at work!’
‘Well be safe, love.’ I hugged her.

Julie and I drove home together loudly singing along to slow jams. In a weird way we were glad that Jenny had gone home with the guy. When we walked inside our apartment, we were both starving. Most nights, we would stop at the local Dennys for breakfast on the way home but when we were too tired or too broke we settled on our stash of Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts and Mac N Cheese on the couch before bed.
‘I’ll throw something together really quick!’ Julie made her way towards the kitchen.
I clicked on the TV and announced ‘Awesome, Real Sex is on HBO….perfect way to an end the night!’ The simple pleasures in life!

When I stepped out of my room after changing into an XL tie-dye T-shirt that a hippie guy had left in my room one night, I couldn’t help but notice the delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen.
‘Phish?’ Julie gave me a lopsided smile as she read the logo on my T-shirt.
‘I figured it was appropriate considering our night. By the way, what smells so good?’
To this, Julie revealed two plates of freshly backed pancakes and handed one to me. ‘Come on, lets watch old naked people on HBO!’
‘Oh my’ I was pleasantly surprised ‘I wasn’t expecting this feast.’
‘Why not!’ Julie winked ‘Didn’t you know I spoil those I bring home with me.’
‘Well then I could get used to this lover’

We sat on the couch and inhaled our pancakes while watching back to back episodes of Real Sex followed by Taxicab Confessions. And then somewhere along the way, we fell asleep on the same couch with our heads on each others shoulders. Yes, dear readers, as you had hoped, this column ends with me sleeping with another woman. But probably not in the way you had imagined. I woke up the next day to the 7th missed call on my cell phone. I figured it was Jenny, but it was actually a number I didn’t recognize. It didn’t matter because the time on my cell reminded me that I was late to work. I jumped up and immediately dashed to brush my teeth.
‘Who the hell keeps calling you?’ Julie asked sleepily as she stretched out on the couch ‘Is Jenny Ok?’
So, while brushing my teeth I decided to check my voicemail. It went something like this.

‘Hey…umm…I cant even pronounce your name but this is Britney from last night. I think you should know that you’re a BIG slut. You should be ashamed of yourself. I spent the entire night buying you drinks and then right after you kiss me you go off and start making out with some other chick on the dance floor. How could you be such a whore! We hadn’t even kissed for 5 minutes before I turn around and you’re kissing some other chick. And then you try to lie and tell me you’re straight! I want you to know I was really hurt. Don’t ever try to call me, you just lost your chance to be with the best thing that could have ever happened to you. And by the way, I want my cap back….’

‘Who was it?’ Julie asked with her eyes still closed and too drowsy to care.
‘Long story’ I laughed ‘I’ll explain at dinner.’
With that I picked up the ‘I Love Bush’ cap from the floor and placed it on my head.
‘Don’t tell me you’re wearing that to work?’ Julie asked.
‘Why not!’ I laughed and walked out the door.

Sure, I got plenty of puzzled looks from my friends and colleagues at the library but it was an inside joke, they would never understand. Even Jenny did a double take when she walked in 30 minutes late looking like the night before.
‘I don’t even wanna know.’ She rolled her eyes as she sat down next to me with tired eyes and a Starbucks cup.’
‘Oh yes you do…’ I laughed!
‘Well we do have a five hour shift before dinner…you go first.’
‘Sure’ I replied as I pulled out my cell-phone ‘But first, I want you to listen to this voicemail.’

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