After reading the short story, she was very emotional. She thought of past affairs, lovers lost—and the hot tears fell.
Later, making love with her lover, she cried more—during and after.
It had been two weeks since they had made love and two days since they had bathed. The smells were sweat, sweet armpit, salt and musky hair—also fresh, earthy, like a pumpkin torn open.
Fall was, she concluded, sad. Early on, it seemed exuberant—the trees glimmering in so many shades of gold and orange. She’d halt her bike or walk just to stare at the difference between a vermilion and a scarlet leaf stuck to the sidewalk.
But finally it was just sad. A few yellow leaves clinging to thin branches and the never-ending rain creating a slush-mush of rotten brown leaves that clogged the gutters.
The day she read the short story, two lesbians—an acquaintance and her girlfriend—came to pick up a bed her lover had advertised on The Queer Exchange, an online buy and sell. Earlier that afternoon, she and her lover had bought a bed at a shop on Granville Street for a lot of money, the most money she’d ever spent on an object, although it was the cheapest bed in the shop.
Shopping for the bed had been enjoyable. Resting their heads on green cotton pillows, caressing oak and maple frames. Looking at all the floor models, examining the patterned fabrics of duvets they wouldn’t buy and admiring stainless steel lamps curved over leather couches they couldn’t afford.
After they had decided the floor model was comfortable enough and that it was okay to spend that much money, they were rung up by a chatty, queer-seeming clerk with slicked-back black hair and a button-up shirt. They started talking about excess, how North Americans have too much stuff, and about the book by the Japanese writer that was all the rage, getting everyone cleaning out their closets and feeling minimalist and righteous. The author recommended laying all of your clothes out on your bed and then picking items up one by one, holding each shirt,
sweater, or pair of pants to gauge how you felt about it. She recommended emptying your handbag each day when you came home from work and thanking it before you hung it up on a hook that belonged only to it. The book made many assumptions. One was that every woman had at least one handbag. Another was that people would throw out their old belongings rather than give them to a thrift shop.
The clerk had read this book and had gone through all of his stuff, even getting rid of board games. Her lover had read it and had given half of her dresses to Goodwill—not Salvation Army because they were homophobes.
The clerk told them that the hardest thing to get rid of was his favourite T-shirt— an old one from high school with an indistinguishable logo, now a net of holes. In the end, he couldn’t do it. “I cut it up into rags,” he said. For some reason the image of this extremely well-groomed man cutting up an old stained T-shirt for rags was strangely comforting—it made the fact that they had just spent so much money on a bed more bearable, somehow.
They went home and made love on the old bed before the younger lesbians came to pick it up. It was November, rainy, grey and grainy light in the light blue room, and her lover’s blue eyes were bright and tender, alive in the dim.
The bed was new to them, these young lesbians, although old to her lover who was giving it away. One of the young lesbians had already lived with several lovers. This was a marvel to her. She thought that this hopefulness, this ongoing ability to begin again, must be the province of the young, although it was difficult to think of herself as ever having been this way, even when she was young.
As the young lesbians lifted the mattress up to the roof rack, they were laughing. The mattress almost slid into the muck of leaves and mud but they caught it just in time and hoisted it up. One tossed a coil of rope to the other and they began to tie it on.
She watched from the window. Her lover was already in the kitchen making more coffee and singing snatches of an old blues tune.
The book of stories by the influential lesbian—dead now for decades—was there on the coffee table, waiting for her to pick it back up. The gloss of the cover obscured the image of the writer’s face but in her mind’s eye she could see her large glasses and slight smile, which she chose to imagine as wise.