Coming Out pt. 2
In which she gets her first girlfriend…sort of
I will never forget the first time I kissed a girl. It was the perfect first kiss — like something out of a Hollywood coming-of-age movie. And it was the rightest thing. But before we go there, we’re going to go to the undeveloped ‘East side’ of downtown Calgary, before high rises went up and hipster cafes opened. Before the bike path was redesigned, the gardens went in and the streets were cobbled. Back to 2000, when most people still had dial-up, no one I knew had a mobile phone, and the Multi still stood.
The Multi was a large cinderblock building painted nicotine stain yellow. It was actually named The Multicultural Centre, but we rebellious youth who went there for punk shows shortened the name. It was situated near the river, on the dodgy edge of downtown, near well-known seedy establishments like the Cecil and St. Louis Hotels.
By ‘dodgy’ I really mean this part of the city embodied how we fail to care for our most vulnerable. It was here that most of the homeless population collected. It smelled of urine and spilled alcohol. Sex workers were dropped off by pimps and picked up by Johns just across the street from the Multi.
I don’t know what purpose or function the Multi had during the day, but on weekends throughout the summer and into the autumn, the building was taken over by punks and metalheads, goths and freaks. We gathered on the pavement outside, toonies or five dollar bills in hand to pay our cover. Inside was a long hallway, the loos on the left, the door into the main hall on the right. It wasn’t a large space, but it had a stage and it worked well for local bands to perform and local kids to mosh and thrash and hang out.
If the weather was good we’d spill out an emergency exit in one corner, into a fenced off area called the Smoke Pit. It wasn’t really just for smoking, of course. It was the social space in which we gathered when we wanted to actually carry on a conversation. Inside was all noise. It was in the Smoke Pit where friendships were made and solidified.
The Multi was a haven for the Freak Clique. Here our circle expanded, growing to include kids from other schools in parts of the city where we had never been. We didn’t meet all of them at the Multi, but this was where we saw them regularly. Our group now included Andrea (who was dating Damon), Birdie, Rachel & Luna, and Chloe.
To my mind Chloe was impossibly cool. While the rest of us said we gave no fucks, it was basically a front. Chloe really couldn’t have cared less about what anyone thought. It wasn’t that she skipped school or did drugs or drank — I was never impressed by that kind of stuff — but that she didn’t care what anyone thought of her doing those things.
She didn’t worry about stuff the way I did.
I was a good kid. Painfully so. I probably drove my friends nuts because I cared so much about…everything. I worried about grades and being liked, disappointing my dad and incurring my mum’s wrath. And they worried too — about being seen as cool, about being liked, about their parents and whatever was going on at school. We were all so painfully awkward, but to me, Chloe wasn’t.
She seemed so comfortable in her own skin and I wished I could feel that comfortable too.
To be honest, we weren’t close. When it came to the extended Freak Clique, I was closer to Rachel than anyone else. We’d met Rachel, and her best friend Luna, at a Kittie Concert — the first real concert I ever attended, in fact. Rachel was super goth. She dressed in black and painted her face with thick black lines under the eyes and lipstick the colour of dried blood. She wore spiked dog collars and black leather combat boots. Despite her appearance, Rachel was the sweetest person. She was bubbly and kind and loving and I always liked when she was there in the Smoke Pit. The two of us would hang out for the duration of a show, rarely going inside to listen to the music. She and I almost always had snacks with us, and we made sure the rest of the group stayed hydrated and didn’t drink too much.
As a group we thought we were pretty rebellious and ‘out there’—defying social norms and all that jazz. Only Thomas and Andrea identified as straight. The rest of us were bisexual, except for Luna, who boldly called herself a lesbian.
But it was Chloe who had the extra edge because she’d actually dated a woman. For the rest of us, it was just talk, and I weirdly thought that until I dated a woman, maybe I wasn’t really as bisexual as I thought. Seriously — I don’t know how I worked that one out, but I genuinely believed I had to ‘prove’ my other than straight identity somehow. I even took it so far as to fret about the fact that here I was, in a circle of friends with mostly bisexual girls (and even a lesbian!) and I wasn’t attracted to any of them.
Although, that wasn’t strictly true. Like I said, Chloe was really, really cool. Something about her having properly dated another girl made her seem like an authority. She didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk. But then, we weren’t really close.
Until Valentine’s day.
There was a show at the Multi on Valentine’s day, but because it was so cold hardly anyone came. It was boring and dull, and after a while Damon, Andrea, Chloe and I decided to go elsewhere. Our options were limited as we were all underage. Downtown Calgary is pretty much dead after 6:00 pm, as all the malls shut after the nine to five crowd is gone, and it was too cold to be outside for long. This left us with going to Damon’s house (as it was the closest) or riding the C-train.
Damon and Andrea were a bit drunk and Chloe was stoned, so the prospect of going to someone’s house, even if their parents were considered kind of cool, wasn’t high on anyone’s list. The C-train it was.
This may sound like the dullest, weirdest thing, and honestly, it was. Except, it also sort of wasn’t. The thing about riding the C-train when you have no where to go is that you get to really enjoy the ride. We might meet an interesting person and we would almost always get into intense conversations about politics and social action. Very teenage ones, of course. We were pretty convinced of our superiority.
So we got on the train, claiming a set of four seats — two benches facing each other. Andrea and Damon on one side, me and Chloe on the other. At first the four of us were all talking, but after a few stops Andrea and Damon got all snuggly and starting making out.
This was the first time I’d ever hung out with Chloe without a huge group of people with us. Any exchanges we’d had before had been brief and I honestly didn’t know her well at all.
She started asking me questions, about my writing, my artwork, school. She thought it was cool that I didn’t drink or do drugs. “Like, you don’t care about what other people think. You don’t wanna get drunk or high, so you don’t.”
I was astounded that she thought of me the same way I thought of her. And gawd did she smell nice. Because she smoked I figured she would just stink of cigarettes, but Chloe had this soft laundry scent and her eyes were so intense. I had never noticed how they were sort of silvery grey blue and changed colour.
We were deep in conversation when Andrea leaned forward and declared that she had to pee. “We should get off at the next stop. There’s a bathroom there.”
“It’s usually locked this late at night,” I said.
“Whatever. We’ll piss outside the door if we have to,” Chloe smirked.
So we got off at the next stop, stepping out into the cold night air. It was totally dark and the platform was lit with the intense white light of overhead lamps. We ran along the platform to the stairs, hollering and generally being obnoxious in the way of teenagers all over the world.
The bathroom was indeed locked, and Andrea and Chloe took turns squatting in the doorway while Damon left the station for the bike path, where he could pee in a bush. I stood guard, not needing to pee but also unwilling to pee in such a public space. I eyeballed the security camera just around the corner from the bathroom door.
Damon joined us again, just as another train pulled into the station. With a woop he took off down the stairs back to the platform, Andrea, Chloe and I on his tail. He caught Andrea’s hand at the bottom of the stairs and the two of them slipped through the train doors just as they were closing. Chloe and I stopped in front of the now closed doors, panting to catch our breath.
Andrea shouted through the glass for us to wait there. “We’ll catch the next train back,” Damon yelled, and they both waved to us as the train pulled away.
I turned to Chloe, a smile on my face, cold, but not displeased to be alone with her at last. She smiled back, crooked and cute. “Now what?”
I scuffed the platform with my shoe, a slightly too big pair of skate shoes my aunt had given to me. “Dunno. I guess we just wait.”
“Well, obviously that. But I was thinking, I’d really like to kiss you.”
And then her fingers found mine and she was standing right in front of me. Her eyes were bright and her face so close. My heart was pounding but it was in anticipation, not fear or worry or nerves. I leaned in and her lips touched mine — soft and warm and like nothing I’d ever experienced before. There was no clanking of teeth, no sweaty palms or awkward fumbling. I tingled from head to toe and as I pulled away I saw big fat flakes of snow drifting down around us.
See. Hollywood stuff.
And then the train pulled up again and Andrea and Damon were yelling at us to get on. Chloe took my hand and pulled me after her. We took a seat, two benches facing each other, once again. And I asked Chloe if we could kiss again and she responded by leaning in, meeting my mouth with hers, gently sucking in my bottom lip and letting it go.
Damon grinned and Andrea raised an eyebrow and said it was about time. That the two of us had been making moony eyes at each other since we’d got on the train and she totally wasn’t surprised.
I blushed, threading my fingers with Chloe’s, and riding a feeling I couldn’t express. I felt so comfortable in my own skin, in a way I never had before. And damn, was this girl holding my hand ever amazing. I didn’t even think, I just turned to her and asked, “Will you be my girlfriend?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Sure.”
And then she kissed me again.