You are already on the bus when I sit down. You’re reading, and I am trying to redis- cover the hemp braiding I was so good at when I was 12. You don’t pretend you’re not watching me, and I don’t mind. You’re middle-aged and most likely straight. You’re in uniform, on your way home from work. You are a safe chat, an easy conversation between the station and Scarborough.
I am on my way to Scarborough Pride, an event that will be attended only by service providers and their nomadic queer friends. I find out later I was scratched from the performance list because they wanted “local” performers. I guess the Scarborough part has faded from my features, along with the Guyanese part and the Italian part. No one ever knows where I’m from.
I ask what you’re reading but you don’t want to tell me. I think it’s a Bible, or a book about addiction so I don’t push it. I find your secrecy amusing rather than strange. I find your smile amusing too, a bit sideways. You’ve been up since dawn and I think you find me amusing most of all.
You are watching my hands so I mention I am trying to learn for the kids I’m going to see. You talk about your son and how you feel about him growing up in Scarborough. We talk about my growing up there, too, and I tell you I hated it. I’m not sure you fully understand why. You are black and I’m a hard to peg mixed-race. You’re a single mom. On the surface it seems Scarborough (or at least the Scarborough cops) would have been nicer to me.
I tell you I want to have a kid, too, and you raise your eyebrows the way mothers with six year olds do when I say that. I can read your mind – you think I’m too young.
“When you find someone,” you say, but I’m already married and I tell you so.
“Does he want kids?”
I am taken aback because I thought you knew I was queer. I am reminded once again that I’m not the walking billboard I feel like inside. I am reminded again that straight is still the default. My head is newly shorn but I’m wearing a halter top. I assumed that you were straight too which makes us both guilty, only me more so because I claim to know better.
“She wants kids,” I say. “I’m married to a woman.”
You raise your eyebrows in a different way this time.
“Now you see why I hated Scarborough,” I say, and you do see. You look me up and down in a whole new light. I can spot the question waiting in your throat.
“How does that work?” you ask, but I ignore your first try. I know it’s not what you mean to say. “You know I see it on TV, but I don’t really get it. It doesn’t seem real. Have you ever…?”
“Tried boys?” I finish. “Yeah. Didn’t like it.”
“No?” You don’t sound all that surprised although you work at it.
“I think I’m starting to figure that out,” you say like you’re joking, but it’s not something a man-loving woman would say.
I go further. “Once you try it you won’t go back.”
You find this hilarious, your whole body is laughing. But now I think you’re nervous. Your stopis coming fast and you need something from me, something you know for sure that I have.
“It’s easy for you to say.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know,” she says quietly. “You know people. You know where to go.”
Ah. “It’s Pride weekend,” I offer. “It’s the perfect time. Just go to Church and Wellesley. Walk around for a bit.”
You laugh and laugh. You think I’m crazy and you think I’m an angel. You look excited and scared and I am thrilled to have met you on a bus in Scarborough. You remind me of the woman I might have been had I never gotten out. You remind me of the women I realize exist in every corner of this megacity. Women who just need a window, a well-timed ticket into the wonderland. Women who need each other but don’t know how to say it, who desperately need a safe place to say it.
“You don’t need to borrow this then,” you say. You show me what you’re reading, the cache behind the plain blue cover: Finding Your G-Spot (For Him And You).
“Neither do you,” I say, as you get off with the biggest smile I’ve seen all day.
You leave the bus, this seat beside me and go back to your life – dishes, daycare, support payments, the morning shift. We are both a bit changed. I am reminded that the world is small and you are reminded that the world is bigger than Scarborough, and bigger than yesterday.