I attended a liberal arts college, which in terms of sex meant there was a whole lot of everything going on. I was also only 18, intellectually advanced but emotionally reserved for all kinds of good reasons. Theater was a welcome outlet because I could be whomever I wanted, inhabit someone else’s script or write my own and change it up as any given situation demanded.
Chameleons don’t exist only in the wild.
There was a Halloween party. I dressed as Marcel Marceau, a deeply and intentionally ironic choice. The costumes around me were stunning. Each student, full of wit and imagination displayed their creative best; we were a house full of unicorns. There were the vats of cheap alcohol and spiked watermelon, pizza slabs and a smorgasbord of inhalables.
Several times over the evening, a certain Wizard of Oz Scarecrow smiled at me. I smiled back, probably fluttered my white-gloved hands as well as my eyelashes, and partied on. At some point, I decided that a breath of fresh air might be prudent, so I went in search of my coat.
In 1979, we all wore ratty, secondhand fur wraps or leather jackets, but I had chosen a tailcoat for the evening, knowing that I could find it easily in the mountain of discards piled in the bedroom. As I went into the bedroom, I saw that Scarecrow had made herself a chaise of them, and draped herself as artfully as a drunken cornfield critter could.
“What took you so long?” she tried to purr seductively, but choked on her own self-deprecating laughter.
I could do nothing but grin. It was all so blissfully absurd, and we both knew it.
“Close the damned door and get over here!” she chortled.
So I did.
I lay down beside her, in a rat’s nest of shabby chic, and I waited. From behind her mask of burlap and greasepaint shone the most extraordinarily clear and merry brown eyes, beaming right into someplace behind my belly button. Her gaze wasn’t romantic in the slightest, but intense and raw with purpose.
Instinct took over and I kissed her, already a goner. Never had I met a set of lips so soft and sweet and sexy and sultry and greedy — surface-of-the-sun hot. Well, hello world. My lusty animal bits instantly began to liquefy, but more than anything I remember the opening of my soul, like the hard shell of a conch suddenly becoming buttered leather, uncurling languidly along the crest of a great wave as it roared in from some place far out along an ocean floor. Something in my being stretched beyond itself, but instead of snapping, it became suppler, more accommodating and violently curious.
We fumbled drunkenly for what felt like hours; there was laughter and delicious teasing in half-shed costumes, but in the haze I remember thinking: “I am home.”
As is often the case, Scarecrow and I never spoke of it afterward. There may have been a few smirks and sideways glances exchanged in the hallways. For her, I suspect it was all lark and lasciviousness, exactly the kind of foray expected of a liberal arts program student. She was older and more daring in her clichés.
For me, it was the big “Aha” that explained why the men I had dated were sweet but just not enough. The missing piece of the puzzle had been found and fitted. The first mechanics of that encounter were great, sweaty galloping fun, but the meaning swelled to inform everything that I would become. I like men, but I love women and love being one.
Girl sex is everything.
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