[Excerpt from my novel in progress, Guys Like Us]
The Truck Stop was one of many gay bars in town but there was only one that catered only to lesbians.
The Velvet Kitty was the latest incarnation of a space that had begun to host lady loving ladies in the 60s. Â It featured a classic wooden bar that dominated one side of the medium sized space. Â A scattering of variously sized tables rambled through the center. Â On the far side, opposite the bar and to the front of the pool table, was a smallish dance floor that filled up fast on Saturday nights. Â The hardwood floors showed the wear marks of decades of boots, high heels and loafers.
The â€˜kittyâ€™ celebrated in the barâ€™s name was a ceramic feline statue covered in velvet. Â Kitty perched on the corner of the door nearest the door, greeting patrons as they entered. Â As people left for the night, it was customary to â€œpet the kittyâ€ for good luck. Â Kittyâ€™s velveteen fur bore silent witness to how many hands had asked for her blessings over the years.
And yes, as you might be thinking, regulars often referred to the ritual by a more vernacular description, which suited the mood of the areas only lesbian bar. As the only such watering hole for miles around, it was a gathering point to all ages, styles and political beliefs. Â Most nights this wasnâ€™t a problem, the lesbian separatists had a corner to themselves and the diesel dykes clustered around the pool table, leaving the bar for the serious drinkers and the center for groups meeting there to socialize and drink and forget the rest of the world for a while. Â Here and there would be someone sitting alone, or maybe someone leaning against the wall amidst the event posters and memorabilia.
I was a leaner. Â I didnâ€™t feel comfortable sitting alone and taking up a whole table, unless it was a weekday and the bar was sparsely filled. Â On those nights, I might be sitting at a table in the back, facing the door, holding a book I wasnâ€™t reading. Â I guess I was trying for the â€œyeah, I meant to be alone tonightâ€ image, rather than the less desirable â€œdamn, I really wish I wasnâ€™t alone tonight, againâ€. Â On more crowded nights, Iâ€™d lean on the wall between the pool table and the dance floor, where I could be near the butches and able to watch the dancing. I felt a definite affinity with the butches and harder dykes, with their wallet chains, cuffed Levis and rolled up shirts. Â I loved to listen to them curse and brag, loved their muscular arms and short haircuts, loved the way they wore masculinity in a way that didnâ€™t so much defy straight society as cut right past it, leaving it sputtering in their wake. Â I loved the cologne, the handsome defiance. Â And I really loved the women who loved those butches. Â I watched the butches to pick up tips on how to be butch and I watched the femmes because they made it hard to breathe. Â Theyâ€™d swirl past me on their way to a favored bench seat behind the table and Iâ€™d do my best to discretely inhale their perfume. Their hair was just so, their outfits chosen specifically to highlight their proudest assets and get the attention of those butches. Every detail of was a delight to me and Iâ€™d often have a small smile on my face as my eyes followed this blond or that brunette and imagined that it was me they chose to sit next to, or me they chose to invite to dance. At first I was subtle, but as I got more comfortable, I didnâ€™t hide my interest. Â Once in a while, a woman would look up and see me looking. Â Iâ€™d get a very direct look, perhaps a lifted eyebrow or a tongue briefly wetting a pair of colored lips. Â Iâ€™d blush furiously and look away quickly. Â I knew I wanted to say hello, invite one of them to dance, or have a conversation, I just had no clue how to go from leaning against the wall to anything more.
As it turns out, I got lucky. After several weeks of hanging out on various nights a week, hoping to strike up a conversation with anyone really but being way too much a wallflower to get past a half-strangled â€˜hiâ€™, someone had mercy on me. Her name was Marci and she was beautiful. Iâ€™d seen her before, many nights in fact, playing pool and flirting with the opposition in a way that caused them to scratch their shots and drop their cues. Â Her favorite tactic was to lean over the far end of the table just as her opponent leaned down for a long shot. Â More often than not, the other player would have a much harder time focusing on their shot. Â Sheâ€™d laugh and toss her hair and stalk around the table, sizing up her opportunity. She seemed to know all the butches, calling them â€˜handsomeâ€™ and â€˜sweetheartâ€™ while fingering the fuzz at the base of their buzz cuts stroking their muscular arms. She didnâ€™t always win, but she certainly seemed to enjoy herself and from all appearances, the enjoyment was mutual. Â She could get the most hardened butch to blush and stammer. Â She was a force to be reckoned with.
Which was exactly why I was so surprised when she walked right up to me, as I was innocently holding down the event posters and house for rent notices one Friday night. Â She walked right up and stopped a couple of feet in front of me, gave me the up and down and cocked her head to one side.
â€œAnd who are you, handsome?â€ Â It was as if sheâ€™d just now seen me, even though Iâ€™d been hovering nearby for weeks.
â€œI, uh, ummm.. Buddy.â€
â€œWell, I-uhmm-Buddy, do you play pool?â€
I shrugged, â€œI guess.â€
She gave me the once over, again and closed the gap between us, toying with the hairs that had escaped my ball cap, â€œYou are adorable. Â What do you have under that hat?â€
Without waiting for me to answer, she took it off, gave me an appraising look and ran her fingers through it. Â I was too stunned by all this sudden contact and attention to say a word, instead I stood there wide eyed and intoxicated by her perfume.
â€œYou ever think about getting a new cut? Â I do hairâ€ Along with the offer was the not so subtle suggestion that I take her up on it.
â€œUm, like what? Â What do you think I should do with it?â€ I was suddenly aware that the butches gathered around the pool table were watching our interaction. Â I blushed even harder than I already was.
â€œWell, Buddy, you have a very handsome face and since I never see you without a ball cap on, itâ€™s clear you donâ€™t mind showing off your cheekbones. I think you should cut it short, or buzz it.â€
The thought of a buzz cut was terrifying, I didnâ€™t think I could hold up my end of that haircut. I might have demured but I was extremely intimidated by Marciâ€™s directness. Â I finally managed to squeak out a â€œShorter, maybeâ€ and she chuckled. Â A soft, sexy laugh that made me blush again. Â She reached out and placed her hand in the center of my chest, making that warmth spread downward across my whole body, â€œYou really are a cutie.â€
â€œCome over and meet some peopleâ€ She turned and walked away, with me trailing behind her like a puppy.
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