Tag Archives: bisexual

Greyhound Story #3 (Whatcha Reading?)

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I thought I wanted to move to Austin, TX. I’d never been there, but it sounded like a cool place. I decided before actually moving there, I should visit so I could make an informed decision.

A friend of a friend had a room in a co-op house in Austin. Since he was more or less living with his girlfriend, he said I could stay in his room while I visited the town.

I took the Greyhound to Austin. I don’t remember anything about the trip. I don’t remember arriving at the bus station to depart the land of my birth or how I got from the station in Austin to the co-op. I must have taken a city bus, because I’m not the type to take a taxi, or maybe the friend of the friend and his girlfriend picked me up in her SUV.

I remember the room I stayed in.  It had cinderblock walls and was very dark. It was tiny and made me think of a jail cell or a room in a mental hospital, although at that time in my life I’d never been in either. The friend of a friend had left it messy, and I didn’t find it very welcoming.

I don’t remember much about what I did in Austin. I know I walked The Strip, the stretch of Guadalupe Street passing next to the University of Texas campus. The co-op where I stayed was close to the University, so I could walk to The Strip easily. One night the friend of a friend and his girlfriend had me over to her apartment for spaghetti. I didn’t go out to listen to live music. I didn’t go out drinking in bars. I didn’t join the residents of the co-op viewing Star Wars after I was invited in the kitchen.

Sapphistry : The Book of Lesbian Sexuality
I did go to Half Price Books near the community health food store. I enjoyed myself there. I enjoyed walking among the thousands of inexpensive books on the closely spaced shelves. I found one to buy for myself as a souvenir of my trip Sapphistry: The Book of Lesbian Sexuality by Pat Califia.

I’d recently discovered Pat Califia when my housemate introduced to the book Public Sex, a collection of essays about sexuality in late 20th century America. From there, I discovered Califia’s collections of BDSM themed short stories, Macho Sluts and No Mercy and her dystopian novel Doc and Fluff.  I enjoyed Califia’s writing style, and the sex scenes were hot, although I realized eventually that I wasn’t into BDSM in real life.

Public Sex by Pat Califia (1-May-2001) Paperback

I’d never seen Sapphistry, so when I ran across it for a few bucks at Half Price Books, I scooped it up.

Compared to Califia’s other works, Sapphistry was more of a how-to book for lesbians. There were no BDSM stories, no hot sex scenes. I was a little disappointed with the content, but as a budding bisexual with precious little experience with women, I thought perhaps I could gain some knowledge from the book.

Other than Half Price Books, I didn’t like much about Austin. I barely gave it a chance, I realize now, but in less than a week, I decided I hated the place and didn’t want to live there.

I got back on the Greyhound and headed home.

I’m not a gregarious, outgoing person. I mostly keep to myself when I can, especially in public, especially on the ‘Hound, so when the loudly talking man boarded, I hunkered down in my seat. I thought if I stayed low, kept my nose in my copy of Sapphistry, and didn’t make eye contact, he’d ignore me.

Wrong!

He chose to sit in the seat behind me. He leaned over into my space and demanded, Whatcha reading?

A book, I replied coldly, thinking I could give him a social cue that I didn’t want to talk.

He didn’t have a clue about my cue.

I know it’s a book! he exclaimed impatiently.  What’s the topic?

There are moments in our lives when we must make split second decisions between telling lies and telling truths. I was living such a moment. If I told the man I was reading a book about lesbianism, would he think I was a full-fledged lesbian and therefore off limits or would I open myself up to homophobic abuse? There was no way to know what telling the truth might bring.

I’ve never been a very good liar. Instead of trying to make up something about the book in my lap, I just blurted out one word: Lesbians!

The man sputtered and stammered and sank into his seat.

I thought he might come at me later with some negativity, so I prepared myself by putting on my headphones and listening to Tool for the next couple of hours. The angry hate music prepared me for battle, but the man must have considered me off limits because he didn’t try to talk to me again.

The Question

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Today my new boss asked me the question. She asked it hesitantly. I could tell she did not want to offend me, but she did want to know.

Why do you live in your van?

I gave her the most basic answer first, the one that is most honest, but that tends to make people uncomfortable and stops conversation.

I was homeless, so living in a van was a step up.

Should I not say that to people, even though it’s true, because they don’t know how to respond? Should I not tell my new boss that I used to be homeless? Should I be ashamed that I was homeless? Should I be ashamed to live in a van?

I went on to tell her the other reasons I live in my van, the ones most van dwellers and rubber tramps give. I like to travel. I don’t like paying rent. The van is enough for me. I don’t need a big RV because I am by myself. I told her, I don’t have any kids. I don’t have a man. Or a woman. (Did I come out as bisexual to my new boss? Is that more or less risky than admitting I used to be homeless?)

She seemed to understand that van living might be an ok way to live for a person who likes to travel. I told her I sometimes wish I had more space, but I’d probably just fill more space with junk I don’t really need. She seemed to understand that part too.

Then the conversation turned (as it so often does) to being a woman traveling alone and safety and being brave.

I told her I pay attention to what’s going on, I stay alert. I told her I don’t drink or party or use illegal drugs (good information to work into a conversation with a new boss) so I can be aware of what’s happening around me. I told her if sketchy people start doing sketchy things, I put the key in the ignition and drive away.

I told her, I’ve had shit (should I have not said “shit” to my new boss?) happen to me in my own home (and by own home, I actually meant other vans, cheap motel rooms, and under bridges) with someone I loved. Bad things can happen anywhere.

The other woman in the conversation piped in with Yeah, something bad could happen to you walking out of Vonn’s (the local supermarket).

When I was in college in New Orleans, I worked in the French Quarter. I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t always get a ride, so often I’d take a bus home at midnight. There was no other way home. (A $10 cab ride? Give me a break!) I needed to work to support myself, so I stood at a bus stop in the French Quarter in the dark, and I walked from where the bus dropped me off to my house in the dark. One day I realized if I could be out at night because of work, I could be out at night to have fun.

What I’m saying is if my own loved one caused me harm, why should I be scared of strangers? Are stranger scarier than what I’ve already been through? I’m sure some of them are, but I try not to be an easy mark for people with bad things on their minds. Besides, someone could just as easily break into an apartment in a city and “get me,” as break into my van in the woods. (The one better chance I might have in a city is that maybe people would hear me scream and maybe those people would try to help.)

I don’t think what I do is so much braver than what millions of women do every day all over the world. Is traveling alone braver than walking miles to haul water and firewood, cooking and cleaning and having too many babies? Is traveling alone braver than living through war, seeing your loved ones die, having your home destroyed by bombs? Is traveling alone braver than taking a beating so your kids or your siblings won’t get hit? Is traveling alone braver than carrying on after being raped by soldiers or sold into a life of sex slavery? Is traveling alone braver than living in a city among poverty and violence, worrying that you or someone you love is going to be killed by a cop or a gang member with a gun?

When I look at it that way, my life seems good, and I seem really safe.

If I’ve done anything brave, it’s not living alone in a van, traveling, working as a camp host in a forest. If I’ve ever done anything brave, it was finally walking away from a bad situation (even if by walking away, I really mean sneaking off in the night) when I thought I had no friends or family to help me, when I was convinced I was a bad person and the universe was going to deal with me accordingly.

I’m just like so many other women in the world, doing what I do to survive, to help others, to find a little beauty in my life.