I knew it. Or at least, I believed it could definitely be a possibility.
One day, as I was walking down the street, I randomly entered this little bookstore. It was colorful and charming, and it didn’t just have an awesome book selection but also paintings, photographs and pottery from local independent artists. There weren’t many places quite like that where I used to live back then. I felt tempted to buy so many things, but it was the end of the month, I had almost no money and had already impulsively bought a bunch of books on Amazon the week before.
I was holding a copy of Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ and telling myself I’d buy it some other time when the owner came and asked me if I needed anything. I couldn’t answer right away. I looked at her as if I wasn’t sure she was real or not.
Looking back, I think what I was actually trying to guess was whether that sudden feeling that came upon me was real or not.
In a way I had always believed it was possible for me to feel attracted to a woman, but it hadn’t actually happened before. Not until that moment.
She was probably a couple of years older than me, maybe in her late twenties. She had short blond hair, baby bangs, kind light-blue eyes – and an aura I couldn’t describe with words.
I babbled some not very eloquent answer about already having bought too many books recently (“Dammit! Did that sound like I was trying to look smart? It did, didn’t it? I’m such an idiot”) and avoided looking at her in the eyes (after all I still couldn’t understand the fact that I was actually trying to flirt with a girl, if you could call that pathetic act “flirting”).
– That’s an excellent book, though – she insisted
– Oh yeah?
– Yes! I mean, it’s kinda sad to be honest, but also pretty fascinating
– I’ve read some of her poems, and I have always wanted to read this book
– Well, you definitely should
I looked at the book, pretending to be pondering, while I was actually just trying to process what was happening inside of me.
– I’ll take it
I had just bought a book to impress a girl. Me, the girl who used to organize religious retreats (I was an unusual, goofy, unorthodox organizer – but still). I had just bought a book to impress a girl. Me, the daughter, niece and granddaughter of people who loved me and were very proud of my accomplishments but would never look at me the same way if I told them what was going through my mind at that very same moment.
I never stepped into that bookstore again. I couldn’t face feeling what I felt there and not being able to do something about it. And I couldn’t do anything about it in that small city where I lived, where everyone knew (and judged) each other.
It wasn’t until I moved to a bigger city that I decided to act on my feelings. I downloaded an app and started swiping through girls. I approached it kind of like a game at first: I was just checking out the options. Everything felt really hypothetical.
I talked to some girls, but still couldn’t bring myself to actually ask anyone out. That would have made it real. That would definitely mean that I was…Well, what was I?
Because I liked guys. And I liked having sex with guys. Yes, I had had my heart broken by men in different occasions and was indeed quite tired of feeling deceived and disappointed by them. But I was still definitely attracted to guys on every level.
However, it was different with girls. The mix of physical attraction and that special emotional connection you can only get with another woman made the whole idea of being bisexual, well, a natural thing- at least for me. So that’s what I was? A non-practicing bisexual? Who knew.
Then Fiona came along. We matched on Tinder and started talking right away. She was a tattooed, pierced, brown-haired, green-eyed Israeli girl with glorious eyebrows and a kind smile that made that irresistibly badass look also adorably friendly.
I soon learned she was in town visiting her grandparents and wouldn’t be back in Israel for a month. I also learned that she was one year older than me, had been a soldier (military service is compulsory for both men and women in Israel for at least two years) and was now studying medicine while working as a lifeguard.
So she was hot and had an interesting story. And she wasn’t a local – somehow, the fact that she was a foreigner was more appealing to me. Again, it made it less real, just an adventure.
Fiona asked me if I wanted to go get brunch that Saturday. I was going away for the weekend, but told her I was free Thursday night.
“Here’s the thing” – she wrote – “My grandparent’s neighborhood is kind of sketchy and I don’t feel safe coming home alone late at night”. I stared at the screen for a few seconds, trying to figure out what to do. “And you probably don’t want a stranger to stay over at your place”, she quickly added. Of course I knew where she was going with that.
“Well, that would be awkward, right? I bet you wouldn’t want to stay at a stranger’s apartment either”, I wrote back.
“I wouldn’t mind, actually. You don’t look like a sociopath.”
“I guess you don’t look like a sociopath either.”
“So…Is that a yes?”
I was passing by the park while I read that last text and actually had to sit on a bench and ponder (this time for real) for what it felt like ages. If this was a boy I would have said no right away – I mean, it wouldn’t have felt safe. But this was a girl, and I had been talking to her for the last two days. Plus, I had (of course) stalked her Facebook profile and it seemed completely normal – it looked like I had nothing to be afraid of.
And yet I was. I was doing this for real, and not only that: I was letting the girl stay over at my place before I had even met her.
I took a deep breath. My heart was beating really fast. Even if I told this to my best friend – I thought right then – the most progressive, open-minded one, she would be shocked and would fall off her chair in a second. This seemed so unlike me, and at the same time, felt so like me.
I decided to go with my gut.
“Well, I see it this way – it’ll just be kind of like CouchSurfing, right?”
“Haha yeah, I guess it’s kind of like that”
“Ok, see you tomorrow at my place then”.
She was just like in her pictures, maybe a little bit shorter than I had imagined. While at the elevator we joked about the awkwardness of the whole situation. However, she was so outgoing and spontaneous that conversation just flowed from the first moment.
We talked for about an hour before deciding to go to the grocery store, buy wine and make pasta. On the way there we kept on talking about everything including friends, traveling and work.
That’s when she said it.
“I actually have to tell you something. Ehem,… I do work as a lifeguard, but I do that only two times a week. My real job is…Well, I’m a stripper at a club in Tel Aviv.”
A stripper? I mean, accepting the fact that I might be bisexual was one thing, but being on a date with a stripper?! That was too much to handle for me right now. I kept thinking who would I share this experience with if I wanted to afterwards, and even though a couple of friends came to my mind, I wasn’t sure I would be able to actually confess all this to any of them. Not to mention my family: they and their very “normal” life seemed like another dimension to me in that moment.
I didn’t want Fiona to feel uncomfortable though, and we had already planned our whole evening, so I pretended to be totally okay with it while I put aside all expectations of actually hitting it off with her. After all, we were clearly just way too different.
We cooked, ate, drank wine, laughed and engaged in deep conversations about our families, our struggles and our goals. All of a sudden I had totally forgot I had “decided we weren’t going to hit it off”. She had this very strong personality and this other very sweet, very sensitive side that made her quite captivating and unpredictable.
We moved from the balcony to the couch and sat next to each other. She moved a little closer, and I could sense the glass of wine slightly slipping from my suddenly sweaty hand. I held it stronger. Fiona leaned in and kissed me. I felt a rush of blood to the head and then kind of dizzy. We looked at each other’s eyes and laughed. I leaned in and kissed her. She put her wine glass on the coffee table, took mine away from me and did the same. Then we started making out. I was floating on air.
I woke up the next day late and quite hungover. I raised the blinds. The day was gray and rainy. I sat next to Fiona while she was still asleep and softly stroked her hair, then said in a quiet voice: “Hey, it’s time. I gotta go to work”.
She opened her eyes and smiled at me. It was such a weird, sweet, intimate moment. “Hey”, she said, then slowly sat up, gently grabbed me by the back of my neck and kissed me. “How are you, gorgeous?”.
“I’m fine”, I answered. “Although right now I’d really like it if I could stay here”. I nodded to the window and the cold, rainy day waiting for us. She kissed me again and we started making out. God, why did it feel so nice? So good and so surreal at the same time.
“I’m already late for work”, I murmured. “I should get ready”.
Fifteen minutes later we were outside, putting up with both the cold and our hangover.
– You said you work nearby, right?
– Yes, just twelve blocks away
– I’ll walk you
– Are you sure? It’s not really a nice day to be walking around
– Yes, I’m sure. I don’t mind the rain
– Okay then
It was a sweet gesture but it made me a little uncomfortable. What if anyone from work saw us? I was probably being paranoid though, to other people’s eyes she could have been just a friend.
Just in case, I took an alternative street to avoid running into people I knew. I had a hard time already trying to make myself heard as a woman in a very sexist work environment – if anyone found out about this I would just become a laughable label.
Right around the corner from the building I worked in I stopped, grabbed her by the jacket and kissed her. She looked at me, wide-eyed.
“It’s just that we’re around the corner from where I work and I won’t be able to do that when we get to the door”, I explained. I hadn’t told her I was not really ‘out’ yet.
“Oh”, Fiona said. “Well, in that case…” She added, with a knowing look, and then pulled me closer and gave me a long, deep kiss.
I was still afraid some co-worker would see us, but there was also a kind of adrenaline in all of it that I sort of enjoyed. When we got to the building she gave me a lingering goodbye hug and we parted ways.
I didn’t know it yet, but I was going to see her again and she would come help me while my apartment was flooding due to a broken pipe (long story, maybe for some other time folks).
I sat on my desk that day a different person. Not because I had finally started figuring out my sexuality (it is, after all, an ongoing process), but also because I had never felt more human.
It is a difficult feeling to explain because I couldn’t quite get my head around it myself, but it was something that transcended gender or sexuality – there was something about bringing down my own prejudices and briefly connecting physically and emotionally with someone I perceived so different from me that really made me feel that none of us humans are very different after all.
It made me feel more alive, more accepting, more loving. And for that I will always look back at this crazy thing I would have never predicted I would do as one of the most beautiful, eye-opening experiences of my life. And hopefully one of many.