"What the hell was that all about," I asked Bobbi, after the gathering broke up.
"That was about as much fun as you can legally have on a Tuesday night in Missouri."
I thought maybe she was right.
"Listen," she said, "I gotta go. Will I see you at the meeting tomorrow?"
"I don't know." The first one was pretty dreadful. This had been a whole lot more fun, and quite therapeutic. I felt like I could stay up all night.
"Mox Nix. I'll catch you later."
Her leaving left me and Topher alone. Incredibly, I wasn't nervous in his company.
"Do you want another coffee," he asked. "I'm buying."
"No thanks," I told him. "If I have any more caffeine I'll have to walk to the Moon and back before I could possibly sleep. But I would take one of those juicy things, like you're drinking."
"Sure thing," he smiled and got up.
I looked around when he'd gone, still stunned by the antics I'd just seen in these very booths. I looked at the clock.
"Oh shit," I said and got up to go.
Topher was right there.
"I'm sorry, Topher, but it's eleven thirty. If I don't get going now, I'll miss the last bus."
"No ache, Cinderella, I can give you a ride. Stay a bit and talk. I like you."
"Thanks, I like you too."
He set down a new cup, this one a tall Japanese teacup with a faerie motif pressed into it. The glaze was a riot of psychedelic colors. It was full of some dark red liquid, and had ice and raspberries floating in it.
It was yummy.
"So," I asked him when we'd both settled back down, "can I ask you a deeply personal question?"
"From anyone else, I'd probably say 'no', but I doubt you'd be asking those kinds of questions."
"You mean the ones about plumbing?"
"Yes! It's the first thing they ask."
"I know, right? Why can't they see we're different?"
"I don't know. Danes, go figure."
"Danes? Tilly said I was from the Danelaw, what does that mean?"
"It's short for 'mundane'; the Danelaw is the straight world."
"You mean straight like what? Heterosexual?"
"Any kind of straight; hetero, square, white-bread, unhip; you know, boring."
"I suppose. Am I a Dane?"
"Definitely not. You're Clan Rabbit, under the protection of Diva Rabbit of that Ilk."
He waved his hand over my head.
"I create you Dani Rabbit, Apprentice to the Subluminiferous-Ether Bunny."
"You're good at that," I observed, hoping I wasn't staring google-eyed.
"Thanks, it takes a lot to get by in that crowd. But I play rounds much better when I'm happy, and I'm so happy."
"Because I know— not just think, but know—that I am not alone in the world. Do you have any idea how profound that is?"
"Yes, I think I do..."
"So," he stirred his drink with his straw and sucked on the straw, "what's your question?"
"How is it that you're a guy?"
"Oh," he blinked. "I wasn't expecting that."
"What were you expecting?"
"I don't know, but not that. I suppose I should answer it—and don't be offended, please—with 'how is it that you are a girl?'"
"But I'm not a girl."
"Nor am I a boy, but what else is there? Dani, we live in a world of opposites, paired dualities, if you will, and there is no room for fence sitters."
"There's got to be something else," I supplied hopefully.
I couldn't think of a single reason.
"So that's it? You are just your hormones, and life's a bitch until you die? You lose the genetic lottery and suddenly you're life is pointless? I can't believe that."
"It's not the nature of the world Dani, just the nature of the world we've made."
"What do you mean?"
"I may not be the smartest 'guy' in the world, but I can read. Nature doesn't come in just two flavors. That only happens in the Bible. In reality nature is much more complex, more diverse. You can see it everywhere if you look; nature's wondrous variety."
"So where is our place?"
"Sadly, I'm not sure there is one. We may have to make it, each our own-selves, because we'll always be alone."
"Does it have to be that way?"
"Ask me again in twenty years."
I drained my cup, leaving only ice and fruit; it was good, but left raspberry pits in my mouth. Most people hate them, but I enjoy the sensation of crushing them between my teeth.
When I was done, I continued my diatribe.
"This is sad; people will never change if they don't question the status quo. When you look at Tilly, you know something is different. Maybe you think it's bad, maybe you think it's good, but you have to think about it. That's how things change—exposure. We're invisible. When people look at us, they just see little kids."
"It won't always be like that, Dani. I'm not like that anymore. I grew up, and made myself strong. I had to work for it, but I got where I wanted to be; we all have that potential.
"As for the gender thing; I think most people believe the roles they're assigned. I did, until I was about your age."
"No, when I was eleven."
"I'm actually sixteen, you know?"
"Oh, I'd wondered about that; you don't look it. I forget how young I looked at your age. "
"So what happened when you were eleven?"
"My uncle molested me."
"What? That's awful. But how?"
"Oh, he found ways. I don't like to think about it."
"I can imagine. No child should ever have to face that. It's inhuman."
"I think you mean inhumane."
"No, I mean that people who do that are inhuman."
"More like sub-human."
"You'll get no argument from me."
"So how do we fix it?"
"By being more visible, I guess."
"How do we do that? I mean, no offense, but it you cross-dressed, you'd just look like a little girl wearing her big brother's clothes."
"I don't have a big brother."
"They don't know that, Dani; that's the point. They see what they want to see, and since they can't imagine anything outside their stalls, they can't see us at all."
"Next question," I asked. I didn't like where this conversation was heading, though I wanted to be having it; nobody else could have it. "What do we do about it? There aren't enough of us to make a decent movement. At best, we can expect to be swallowed by the gay community."
"Now there's an image," he laughed. "We're probably the only GBLT movement in the world with two rarebits."
"What does that mean, GBLT? Archdiva Hairspray called it the BLT Council."
"She's a bit dramatic, but that's about accurate."
"Accurate how? Which part?"
"About us being a Council. It used to not be like that. Not too long ago, the 'T' meant 'transgendered'. Then she showed up with her bag of trolls and presto-change-o, Drag Queen City. They dominate the group."
"But what does it mean? She said Bacon, Lesbian, and Tomato?"
"Hyperbole. We used to be part of GBLT Memphis."
"Never heard of them."
"A big gay group in Tennessee, as you might guess. Started back in the Fifties, as a gay only group, then came the bi-boys and ruined it all, they say. Of course 'they' are the gay party boys—the Good Old Boys of the movement."
"That's kind of harsh."
"Yeah, but it's true, more or less. When the gay movement first started, it was strictly a big city thing. Greenwich Village and Castro Street, and those old queens got to make the rules.
"Don't ask me how such a diverse group of fabu-lites ever became conservative, but they did, in their own way. When the bi-boys came in, it exposed them to 'fish cooties'. I'm not making that word up."
"What about the lesbians? Where were they during this time?"
"The Flannel Revolution happened a long time ago. Everything changed for women a hundred years ago. They were already used to doing everything on the sly. If men don't see it, it doesn't happen in their minds.
They were deeply into Boston Marriages and cross-dressing by 1885. Hell, they're more conservative than the gay men. They used to say a lesbian brings her dowry chest to a second date."
"That's pretty funny, in a Lavender and Old Lace sort of way. So the lesbians have been around, but all quiet like for a century?"
"Just so. Then it was Gay-Bi alliances for a while, until the some of the dykes started to show up, right after Stonewall. They saw gay men out and about, so to speak, and wanted in on the action. Or maybe they just wanted to bash some cop heads too. Not all lesbians are straight-laced, you know."
I didn't know, but I'd take his word it.
"So it was GBL for a while, you can just imagine the effect that acronym had on the reputation of a bunch of cocksuckers. In California, a church labeled them FUJ—Freaks Undermining Jesus or Peace-Addled Cockroaches. They held FUJ-PACR rallies and burned homosexuals in effigy. The California Legislature thought it was hilarious.
"So in the early Seventies they started looking for some other kink to add another letter. The transvestites and transsexuals were the next biggest group, so the new letter was 'T'. That's how it works: everything else takes a back seat to political expediency, and the smallest minorities have to ride in the back of the bus."
"That's not right."
"That's life, babe."
"Sorry, just a reflex. I've been around the BLT for too long, and I haven't had my flamboyancy vaccination."
"That's okay. They are a riot."
"That's for sure."
"Look, Topher, I'm having a really good time, but my parents are gonna shit if I don't get home soon."
"I suppose you're right," he said, looking at his watch. "I'm not gonna get met at the door with Daddy's shotgun, am I?"
"No," I assured him.
"It's my mother you have to worry about."
"Great. So what'll it be? The blood eagle, or bastinado?"
"Never mind. It's good to see that you don't know every single word in the English language. I just hope she don't hurt me. Parents can get such wrongheaded ideas."
"That' for sure. Hey Topher, can I ask you another question?"
"How old are you?"
"Oh my God, my Mom's gonna have a stroke. Good thing you have no testes, or she'd have them on a platter. She can be vicious; she works for a law firm, you know."
"Okay, you've scared me enough. Let's get you home."
He drove a motorbike. Not some flimsy little rice-burner but a solid, made-in-America bike—an Indian. He kick-started it, and I climbed on back, not sure if it was a good idea.
But it was fun, leaning into Tohper, arms around the waist and the wind rushing past my bare head at seventy miles an hour. We took the highway and his bike ate up the miles like they were furlongs; I kept my eyes closed the whole way.
By the time he got me home, I was shot through with vibrations and my knees were weak.
I'm not sure if that happened every time one rode on a motorcycle, but I did know one thing—I sure as hell wanted to do it again.