Read A Year Straight Online

Authors: Elena Azzoni

A Year Straight

Table of Contents
For Inanna
And for every single woman attracted to men, may the force be with you.
The Adjustment
he ladies' locker room was abuzz with women racing to change, so they could place their mats up front near Him, The Yoga Teacher. The faint guttural chants of kirtan rock star Krishna Das played on repeat over the hum of hair dryers in an effort to calm our New York nerves. But there was no sign of Zen around there. There was, rather, a subtle current of competition. I snuck peeks at the other women as they pranced around in lacy thongs, sifting frantically through their lockers for yoga pants, lotion, and hair ties. With my long hair and lipstick, I fell under the gaydar and was free to gaze. It had been years since I'd been concerned with impressing a man, so as the other women primped and groomed, I rolled my eyes, relieved to have no interest whatsoever in competing in
particular pageant.
“Let's have a big round of applause for all of our contestants!”
The spotlight is blinding, and a bead of sweat makes its way down my temple in agonizing slow motion, dissolving into my red-sequined evening gown. Standing ovation from a sold-out audience, more than three hundred in attendance. The Luna Lounge is over max capacity. The fire department told us so. Following four hours of grueling competition and eight laborious costume changes, it's time to determine the winner. We've performed our various talents, including a tranny boi band, my eighties retro jazz dance, and someone giving birth to a doll. Likewise, we've endured the ever-dreaded swimsuit competition and the nerve-racking interview segment, in which at least one contestant routinely flops. Backstage is littered with wigs, glitter, and silicone accoutrements of varying colors, lengths, and girths. It looks like a tornado passed through a sex toy shop.
“And the winner is...”
Murray Hill places the sash over my shoulder and the tiara on my head. A fellow contestant hugs me, nearly knocking it off. I've won! I've won the crown! Journalists paw at me as my picture is snapped alongside the panel of celebrity judges. I smile and wave at the sea of screaming women. I am the new Miss Lez.
I'd resisted the pageant at first. After posing as a
babe in the premier issue of the lesbian calendar “I Heart Brooklyn Girls,” my friends encouraged me to go for the crown.
“You can represent the calendar!”
My shy side battled my inner Carmen Electra. Ever since I could kick-ball-change, I'd been dancing in recitals, performing in plays, and mocking myself in my own comedic routines. I was no stranger to the stage, but I was ready to retire, done with the sleepless nights leading up to shows, where I'd bolt upright in a panic, wondering,
How did I get myself into this?
But I eat up the spotlight like a plate of baked ziti. I consoled myself, assuming the pageant would entail one week of performance anxiety followed by one humiliating night under bright lights, and then it'd be done. But I won.
The following weeks were a flurry of phone calls and emails initiating me into my new celesbian status. There were magazine and news interviews, photo requests, a stint on TV, and invites to elite social gatherings. At the climax of my success, I found myself in L.A., seated across from big-time producers, a finalist for a role on a grueling hit reality show. It was determined that I am not cut out for reality TV, which is probably for the best, for I am a homicidal (self-diagnosed) hypoglycemic. And there is no food on that show.
My limelight gradually faded to a low dim, and my life went back to normal. I'd go to work, hatch up new escape plans from my cubicle (
I should go to cosmetology school!
), head out to a lesbian bar, and attempt to return home early enough to pretend I'd get up for yoga the next day.
ON ONE QUITE ordinary evening, I took my time weaving through the crooked streets of the West Village on my way to meet up with friends. The layout of that neighborhood is drastically different from the rest of Manhattan, having come to life long before the grid. I got lost as usual. The cobblestone streets all started looking the same, and I was sure I was going in circles. After rounding several more corners, the pink glow of The Cubbyhole was my lighthouse in the fog. The windows perspired with body heat and the promise of a late-night make-out. The familiar scent of stale beer and cigarettes wafted over me as I squeezed past the butch bouncer smoking by the door.
“Good evening. Can I see your ID?”
I love being carded.
An eclectic mess of Christmas tree lights, paper lanterns, and leis, the ceiling of The Cubbyhole feels like it's caving in. The walls are plastered with Dolly Parton posters, and the jukebox caters to fans of both Rihanna and k. d. lang. I heard my name called from across the bar, waved to my crew camped out in the corner, and mimed drinking from a glass. As I strained to make eye contact with the bartender, someone recognized me from the pageant.
“Miss Lez!” She threw her arm around me and held up her phone to snap a shot of us together. She smelled good, as women usually do, like perfume and fruity shampoo. And then she planted a kiss on me. Click. I knew the picture would likely
end up on the Internet somewhere, and I hoped my recent ex wouldn't come across it. It had been a few months since we'd split, and we were on amicable terms, so I didn't want her to think I'd simply found someone new. My claim of needing time for myself was true. Blue Moon in hand, I stealthily made my way over to my friends, dodging the already tipsy patrons. As the name implies, The Cubbyhole is cozy (or cramped, depending on my mood). Many a drink had been spilled on me there.
“So, which awe-inspiring, life-altering party is it gonna be tonight?” my friend TJ asked sarcastically. She'd just broken up with her psychology grad student girlfriend, claiming she felt like a patient. I'd argued that TJ could use a shrink. There were two lesbian parties scheduled for the same night. Taking into account recent breakups and new crushes, my friends weighed the options, casting their votes all at once:
“I refuse to go to Snapshot. Tami will be there flaunting her new twenty-two-year-old girlfriend.”
“What about that new one in Brooklyn?”
“No way! Becca and Lisa are promoting it, and they didn't invite me to Fire Island this year.”
“But Lola is bartending, and she has a crush me. You know what that means?”
“Free drinks!”
Even a city as big as New York gets really small when you're gay. Brooklyn won, as the less costly of the two boroughs, and everyone thought the British DJ was cute.
“Move it, dumbass.” TJ got up and stepped over me. The bar was crowded for a Tuesday, and she liked to use the bathroom before it got busy with people getting busy in it. I knew her every move, as we'd been friends for what seemed like forever. We'd met in college, where I'd fallen in love with her gruff voice, and then her. Dating was not our calling, as we fought like two male betta fish tossed into a tiny tank, but we'd remained friends through the years, all the while driving each other nuts. She, the Ernie to my Bert, was full of harebrained ideas, always hungover, never on time, and a loyal, steadfast friend.
I nursed my beer and hummed along to Joan Jett blaring on the jukebox, substituting the
's with
's. “I saw her dancin' there by the record machine.” TJ returned from the bathroom and downed the last of her drink.
“Ready for another night of high hopes and fruitless outcomes?” TJ asked, poking me in the ribs.
“You're on your own tonight,” I said, pulling out my MetroCard. “I'm heading home so I can get up early for yoga tomorrow.” I grabbed my bag and shot out of my chair to avoid the inevitable taunting.
“That's weak, Miss Lez. What kind of role model are you?”
“A lesbian one. I have to go feed my cat.”
I was cat-sitting my ex-ex-girlfriend's cat, Kiki. By ex-ex, I mean her to be the ex before my more recent one. With Amy, enough time had passed that we could be friends, and
therefore I could cat-sit. Kiki greeted me at my apartment door with a head-butt to my shin. I poured some organic, gluten-free, fair-trade, shade-grown, ovo-lacto-vegetarian cat food into her bowl and prepared a cheese plate for myself. I'm a big fan of food but quite lazy when it comes to cooking it. I maintain a sparse but specific stock of provisions: cheese, chocolate, brown rice, tea, ice cream, wine, and kale. On especially lazy days, I order pumpkin curry from To Be Thai.
I poured a glass of pinot noir and plopped myself down on my couch. Drinking wine alone never ceases to feel luxurious. Kiki, poised for the pounce, let out a squeak somewhere between a meow and a purr and jumped up to join me for reruns of
Sex and the City.
I fell asleep on the couch and dragged myself to bed at three.
My new alarm clock announced the abrupt arrival of morning. I'd requested it for Christmas from the L.L. Bean catalog as if I were ten again, though back then I'd have campaigned for the purple backpack with the signature reflective strip. I was determined to make early morning yoga a regular practice. The blaring alarm, reminiscent of the bell that announced the start and end of recess, was jarring enough to catapult the heaviest of sleepers out of bed.
Outside my building, a blast of humidity kick-started my step toward the air-conditioned subway. Ditmas Park, my Brooklyn neighborhood, just far enough from the city to still be affordable, is home to Jewish bakeries, Greek diners,
ninety-nine-cent stores, a hippie co-op, and a Tibetan café. I'd moved to the area when my previous neighborhood, Lesbian Utopia Park Slope, became too crowded. I could no longer walk down the street without dodging dog walkers and double-wide, three-wheeled strollers. I swiped my MetroCard along with the other early risers, mostly construction workers and hospital personnel. I savored my early morning ride. At 6:00 a.m., I even got a seat. Breezing through the easy-level Sudoku in the free daily
I caught a glimpse of the man's paper in front of me. Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson had been spotted shopping together in London again. I love a dose of juicy gossip—a small reward for getting up in time for yoga.
Once in the marble entryway of Eclipse Gym, I checked the clock and called the elevator to head up to the yoga studio. It wasn't the type of place I would normally seek out, being all brand-new and fancy, and a gym. I preferred the grungy, ivy-growing-up-the-walls type yoga studio, but since I worked nearby, I got a sweet corporate discount. Some of my coworkers had also fallen for the deal, and I would see them around now and then, though they mostly used the machines. Noah from sales ran ten miles per morning on the treadmill nearest the TV. He winked at me as I walked by. Like several other guys at work, he was determined to turn me.

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