Confessions From A Coffee Shop (4 page)

Lately, I was just too exhausted from busting my ass to get us out of trouble, and I couldn’t focus on having a sit-down with her about cutting back expenses. Yes, that’s an excuse. I’m full of them when it comes to two subjects: my novel and Kat’s spending.

I spied Kat and my mother sitting in the back of Pablo’s, under the Pure Louisiana Molasses sign featuring an alligator. The alligator confused me some. I got that the company was Alligator Brand, but molasses and an alligator? It just didn’t make sense to me. But not much in Pablo’s Café did. It was located in Harvard Square in Cambridge. The walls were covered with kitsch, they always played country music, and it stood within spitting distance from one of the finest and oldest educational institutions in the country. Kitsch, Tex-Mex, country music, and Harvard didn’t jive to me, but somehow it worked. The place was always packed with students, locals, and tourists.

One look at the two of them and I knew I was in for a long night. Their eyes were already glazed over and several empty margarita glasses waited for the server to clear the table. The place was hopping. My guess was no one could have cleared their glasses fast enough.

“Hey there.” Kat stood to let me slide into the booth. “I broke my seal an hour ago, so I need quick access to the bathroom,” she explained, snuggling up close to me. I think she sensed I was in for a trying night, so she was offering me support. I leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. Jasmine perfume filled my nostrils, and her familiar scent relaxed me.

Mom laughed. “She’s been running back and forth every ten minutes to pee.”

I plastered a fake smile on my face and settled in for the adventure.

“So, I was just telling Kat that I’ve started reading cowboy porn.” Mom swayed her head in an exaggerated manner.

My mom looked a lot smarter than she had earlier that morning. Her shoulder length hair was swept up into a barrette, and a silk scarf enhanced her olive skin. Only a crimson blouse hinted at her wild side. Even in public, Mom wasn’t bashful when talking about sex, but she only talked that way around those close to her. Many of Nell Tisdale’s fans would be shocked. When Mom gave interviews, she always came across as a prudish, middle-aged Bostonian woman. Of course, she had to uphold that image for her career’s sake. It’s not like Mom could wear a skimpy blouse and talk about BJs and still expect the literary world to embrace her. Male writers might be able to get away with that, but not female authors.

“Mother! Can we not discuss porn?”

“I knew you would react that way,” she sniggered.

“Seriously, Cori, loosen up.” Kat rubbed my arm. Her other hand, under the table, gave my thigh a supportive squeeze.

Taking the attention off me, Kat said, with an air of intellectual curiosity, “I didn’t know that there was such a thing as cowboy porn.”

Not that Kat would read cowboy porn‌—‌okay, she probably would. Kat was a voracious reader. Her favorite authors hailed from the Victorian period: Dickens, Collins, Thackeray, the Bronte sisters, Eliot, and Hardy. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t read anything else. Kat’s no prude. Not like me. Still, to my knowledge, she’d never read any erotica or watched any porn. This last revelation might shock many, since my girlfriend was a free spirit and a vixen in the bedroom.

I pondered the conundrum that was Kat, focusing on the tight shirt that barely contained her breasts, the luscious full lips, the playful eyes. Men always turned to look at my girlfriend. Even gay men admired her beauty. Most straight women hated her instantly. She was the type of woman men imagine they were fucking when sleeping with their wives or girlfriends. Not to be rude, but she was hotter than Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Portman…‌the list went on. No one compared to Kat.

I used to think I was biased, since Kat’s my girlfriend, but then we were at a New Year’s Eve party a couple of years ago when a woman approached me. She said she was as straight as straight as can be. She’d never slept with a woman and hadn’t even kissed a girl in college. She had three children and was happily married. And then she said she’d give her left arm to fuck Kat’s brains out.

I stared at her, my mouth agape. How does one respond to that? She told me I was the luckiest son of a bitch she ever met.

I felt like I should say something, so I asked if she was left-handed. If she was willing to give her left arm, I wanted to know if it would be a huge sacrifice. She looked even more appalled at my question than at the thought that I was Kat’s girlfriend. Looking me up and down, she muttered, “Unbelievable how you ended up with that goddess.” Then she downed the rest of her champagne and staggered off, never to be seen again.

After the woman disappeared, Kat wandered up to me and asked who she was. I told her about it, but didn’t mention I’d asked whether the woman was left-handed. Kat wasn’t impressed at all. She hated how people always wanted to fuck her. Yes, she loved having sex, but she hated that it was people’s first thought when they met her.

Kat asked, “Well, was she even left-handed?”

I laughed.

Much like the woman at the party, I often wondered how I ended up with such a stunning woman. My family was rich, but I was not. I would be rich when I turned fifty, but I haven’t told Kat that part. I haven’t told anyone. My grandfather set up my trust that way. He was a stern man who didn’t want me to become a trust fund baby. So it wasn’t my money that drew Kat to me. Maybe it was my cool factor.

Please! Even my own mother was cooler than me. She read cowboy porn, for Christ’s sake.

Well, here’s the secret to how I captured Kat’s heart. I’ve narrowed it down to three things. First and foremost: I fell in love with Kat’s brain. On our first date we had an in-depth conversation about who was a better writer: Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins‌—‌Kat’s favorite author. She said I was the first person to put her intellect above all of her other ample qualities.

Second: on our second date, I paraphrased a line from an Ani DiFranco song that went something like, “Art is my purpose in life, yet I don’t understand it completely.” I can’t remember for sure. Kat was an artist. She lived and breathed art. At the time, I didn’t know that, since she was shy talking about it. I’ve spent a lot of time around artists of all types‌—‌both living and in books. One of my college ex-girlfriends was a musician, too‌—‌that’s probably how I ended up knowing the Ani quote. For the life of me, I still can’t remember the song title.

Third: this may seem like a small thing, and I didn’t have much to do with it, but Kat loved my family. Oh, we were as dysfunctional as any family in the world, but we all loved each other and spent a lot of time together. A lot of time. Kat was never close to her parents. She lived with them until she was eighteen, but they weren’t close. Family dinners were silent affairs. Every week, my family got together for dinner, but we more than likely see each other several times a week as well. And as soon as I introduced Kat, they accepted her. Kat’s parents never even accepted her like mine do. I don’t mean about her being gay; I mean they don’t accept her as a person, an individual, let alone as a free spirit, an artist, a sexual being, and an intellectual. They never appreciated what Kat had to offer. Instead, they wanted to stifle her.

My family encouraged oddness. They thought I was odd because I was the normal one, like Marilyn from
The Munsters
. Kat got a kick out of that‌—‌that I was the oddball because I wasn’t a freak.

“I didn’t know about cowboy porn either, until Barbara gave me some.” Mom hiccupped dramatically.

Just great, not only is my mom a porn fanatic, but so is my aunt. I wanted to scream. An Edvard Munch scream.

“Why would Barbara give you porn?” I whispered the last word across the table.

“Cowboy porn,” Mom corrected. “I mentioned to her that I hadn’t had sex in so long‌—‌”

I put my hands over my ears. “I don’t want to hear it.”

Mom chortled. “Hear what? We aren’t having any. I can’t even remember the last time your father‌—‌”

“I’m not listening, Mother.”

Kat yanked on my arm and threw me a look that warned me not to antagonize my mother. No good would come from it.

Right then the waitress arrived with our food‌—‌and I felt ridiculous.

“We ordered before you got here,” Mom explained, beaming at her ability to order for me. “I got your favorite: cheese enchiladas with extra Spanish rice.”

Kat piped up, “Actually, it’s not their normal rice‌—‌no pig fat,” whispering the last bit in my ear.

My mother didn’t quite get the whole vegetarian bit. Rice to her qualified as vegetarian, so she couldn’t understand how cooking it in animal fat made it inedible. To her, it just made it tasty, and since I wasn’t actually eating meat, what was the harm? The pig was already dead.

“You know, maybe I should get some lesbian porn,” Kat said.

I choked on my margarita.

To be honest, I was torn about the idea. Obviously, I would benefit if Kat read lesbian erotica, but I didn’t want to encourage my mother either.

“You okay, Cori. Did you swallow wrong?” asked my loving girlfriend, tugging on one of her dangling earrings. Her supportive expression informed me she was just going along with my mom and that I shouldn’t worry about her actually becoming crazy like my mother. Hopefully.

My mother blinked absently and said, “Oh dear, I hope it’s not for the same reason.” Then she gave me an accusatory look.

“Oh no.” Kat waved her other hand. “Trust me, your daughter and I have no issues in the bedroom. Nope, no lesbian bed death.”

Mid-bite, I stopped to stare at Kat. Did she really just blurt all that out in front of my mother? I know Kat’s more comfortable talking about sex, but seriously. The woman across the table gave
birth
to me. And I’m still traumatized by being that close to her vagina.

“Lesbian bed death, what’s that?” queried mom as she carved into her beef enchilada.

“Some lesbians, after being together for a while, just stop having sex altogether,” explained Kat.

“Maybe Cori’s father is actually a lesbian!”

They both had a great laugh at Mom’s little joke.

I glanced around, completely mortified, to see if anyone could hear their conversation.

“You know, I wouldn’t mind reading that cowboy erotica book.” Kat plunged her fork into her chicken enchilada.

It’s true she prefers Victorian authors, but she’s a reader first and foremost. She’ll read anything. Once, I found her in the kitchen reading all of our cereal boxes.

“Sure thing! I’ll bring it to dinner tomorrow night.” Mom sipped her margarita and then added, “Maybe I’ll read some lesbian porn. I’m sure I would learn a few things.” She giggled.

How many cocktails had Mom had before I arrived?

Mom wasn’t the giggling type, so her giggle sounded more malicious than happy, almost as though she was plotting. What she was plotting, I didn’t know‌—‌and I feared finding out.

Also, it wouldn’t have surprised me if my mother had already read lesbian porn. Mom never cared that I was a lesbian. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on many subjects, but my lesbianism never ruffled her feathers. In fact, I think she was proud to have a dyke daughter. If any of her friends ever hinted it was too bad I was a lesbian, Mom would put them in their place and more than likely never speak to them again. No one said anything negative about her daughter, which was a job reserved for her.

“You know, Nell, we should start a book club and read erotica. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?”

Kat had clearly imbibed too many margs, as well.

I shot her daggers, but she shrugged them off with an evil but loving smile.

“Oh, don’t mind her, Kat. She’s no fun. I know Barbara will join us.” Mom rubbed her hands together. “This will be so much fun.” She looked across the table at me. “Who needs your father? Let him boink that other woman all he wants.”

“No, no, no,” I muttered under my breath.

They ignored me completely.

“Listen!” I snapped my fingers in both of their faces. “No one is starting a book club of any type.”

“What’s wrong with you, Cori? You’re an English teacher.” Kat tsked, playfully.

“It’s not that.” Mom leaned toward my girlfriend conspiratorially. “Cori can’t talk about sex. I think ever since she came out of the bathroom‌—‌I mean‌—‌closet.”

I couldn’t tell whether my mother was trying to rile me or if she really was that wasted. I suspected the latter. Out of the bathroom? She was too hip to gay culture to commit that kind of mistake.

“Out of the bathroom!” Kat spewed margarita across the table with her words. “That’s a riot.” She dabbed her mouth with her napkin, careful not to smudge her lipstick.

Mom flashed a cunning smile, having got the desired reaction out of Kat. She always wanted to be the hippest one in any group. She lifted her glass to catch the waitress’s attention, and Kat raised her arm to order another as well

Sure. Why not? I motioned for another, too.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

After eating peacefully for several minutes, Mom launched into me again. “Anyway, you can’t tell me what to do, Cori. Kat and I are starting a porno group, and you can’t stop us.”

My fork clattered onto my plate as the waitress approached, placed the drinks down, and hurried away.

Had Mom seen the waitress coming and timed her comment perfectly for maximum embarrassment?

“Thanks, Mother. You know I went to school near here. Someone might recognize me.”

“So did I, Cori,” she reminded me. “And your father, your grandfather…‌and a few others I can’t remember right now.” She wrinkled her brow, confused. For once, it wasn’t for show. Mom was drunk.

There was no point arguing with her. The best course of action was to ignore her. If I got huffy, Mom would just push my buttons even more.

Kat came to my rescue, steering the conversation to safer waters for the rest of the evening.

Mom was too inebriated to drive home, so after dinner we put her in a cab while Kat and I made our way to the 86 bus stop to head back to Brighton, or as Kat liked to say B-Right-On. At this time of night, a single bus rumbled by every hour. We had forty minutes to wait.

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