Hey folks, Peter's Cross Station is moving. For the continuing (if less frequent) adventures of the LilySea Clan, point your browsers to Peterscrossstation.wordpress.com . All the archives are there too. So if you came to explore our past, we're still an open book.
Why are people afraid of the Internet? As far as I can tell, the Internet is a place where, if you can read and if you can write, you can vet people pre-meeting and know how cool they are going to be in advance. Or at least get a good clue in the right direction (I, for example, am cooler in real life, which I'm sure my virtual-turned-literal friends can vouch for).
Anyway, all this is just to say that my latest Internet meet-up has been a stunning success. Some of you might remember Sster, who hasn't blogged in a while. Well, I'm here to report that she's fandabulous, just like you suspected she was. Her kid is cute, her husband is sweet and her kitchen is a den of delights.
All this could just be a ploy to gain our trust before the axe comes out, but I'm doubting it.
Recently, an acquaintance ( a straight, divorced woman many years our elder) was telling us about her best friend from college, a lesbian, who lives with her partner of 30-some years in St. Louis.
These women are both professionals at a healthcare institution and have worked together their whole careers.
Our friend was saying that for all these years, her friends have had the photographs of two men on their fireplace mantel, and have invented a detailed story about these "deceased husbands." Not safe as a publicly recognized couple, these women have spent decades living under a cover story of being widows too poor to maintain individual households. The pictures on the mantel have elaborate life (and death) stories about which those friends "in the know" joke frequently, adding to the legend.
It was supposed to be funny, and it was. It was supposed to be a reminder of how things have changed, and it was.
But it also made me think of exactly why I want to write what I'm writing these days. How many women throughout history in all kinds of locations have lived like the friends of our acquaintance and never been well enough known by anyone surviving to tell the true story? Even when traces are left--even when those traces are fairly glaring--academic work to uncover queer lives is fraught with challenges from those who would keep all of our ancestors in the closets they made for themselves in their lifetimes, never anticipating how much their descendants would want and maybe even need to know their real stories.
I'm not arguing for or against historical outings of real people. I've got my own little unprovable notions like most folks, some more plausible than others. And I appreciate people who do the work of painstakingly sorting evidence that leads us to greater knowledge about our predecessors in the realm of the queer. I can see both that we in the present can be willfully anachronistic when imagining the past and that we can be so careful and so contextual as to render anything that anyone said or did in the past meaningless.
But I'm getting off that train by your leave. I'm just going to make my ancestors up. And yet, I am certain my characters existed in some form--with false husbands and even with real ones and all kinds of other closets--whether we can ever prove it by historical standards or not. And I don't think making them up means entirely dismissing historical responsibility. What it means to me is taking what I know of the time and places in which they lived and creating them to fit within those perimeters but also letting my readers see them fully behind the disguises they might have needed to survive.
The idea is to insert possible people where real people have left great gaping chasms in the story of our past. The idea is to draw new pictures over the palimpsest of those that have been erased. But, you know, with NY Times bestseller and HBO miniseries potential.
I don't have much nonfiction to share with you just now. That is, plenty of nonfiction is happening to us these days, but it is not shareable at the moment. Meanwhile, some of you may recall that a few months ago I wrote a scene for the book that I loved, but had to set aside because it didn't really fit the book. Now that I'm revising, it is going to fit after all. Let me know what you think. Here it is:
almost too cool to be sitting outside, but the cafés seemed loath to give up
the summer and tables still cluttered the sidewalks. Eden sat at one of them now, arguing with three young men,
all students at the Beaux Arts, about whether Picasso was a genius or an
“He has no
respect,” Giles said.
for what? Outmoded rules that can never convey life in the new century?”
English, Larousse French. The
other, Decker, was an American, like Eden. He was twenty-years old and his blazing red hair and
freckles drew attention to him wherever he went. Ironically, Eden found him to be almost girlishly shy. He looked at her expectantly now as if
she might break the impasse.
dug into her breast pocket and offered him a cigarette. He shook his head. She lit it for herself instead.
“Monsieur Smith,” Larousse said, “a
modern woman such as yourself must surely agree that only a way like Picasso’s
can lead us to the end of the millennium.”
weighed her answer. “I like him,”
of course,” Giles interrupted her. “I heard a rumor yesterday that you were his
model for Garcon a la Pipe!” He roared with laughter at his own joke.
she was?” Larousse asked. “Perhaps
that is exactly the way to finally rid ourselves of the skulking remnants of
the ancien regime!”
trousers?” Giles said. “Isn’t that
going a bit far, even for you, Larousse?”
He turned to Eden. “With all due respect of course.”
didn’t feel respected. She hoped
she wasn’t blushing. Decker was,
and she gave him a little smile and put her hand in the air to signal the
waiter to refill his wineglass.
far? Not far enough I say,”
Larousse told Giles.
suppose you’ll be putting on skirts next?” Giles said, laughing again.
does, I’ll take him dancing,” Eden said, grinning at Larousse. “But I don’t agree that Picasso’s is
the only way. I think we’ll need
the best of the past too, to sustain us in the future.”
with Eden—Mademoiselle Smith,” Decker said, finally looking Giles in the eye.
alright,” Eden smiled. Decker was
from Chicago. His mother was dead
and he had a rich father whom, Decker claimed, quietly but persistently hated
his son. He had been more than
happy to send the boy to Paris to learn to paint while he courted his daughter’s
husband as a business partner.
wondered if Decker might in fact like to put on a skirt and be taken dancing—but
not by Eden.
she was thinking so, Giles snapped open his watch and announced, “I’ve got to
be going. I have to collect
Mademoiselle Ninon for dinner this evening. You can all dance with each other if you like. I’ll be dancing with a proper lady—and
a lovely one at that.” He rose and
left them, clipping his way down the street, walking stick tapping the paving
the English,” Larousse said, tossing the end of his cigarette into the dregs of
the drink Giles had left sitting on the table. “They think they own the world.”
so bad,” Eden said. “He’s just not
a very good artist.”
Decker grinned but Larousse was still scowling. Eden looked from one to the other. “I should go too,” she said. “I’m meeting Bette for dinner at the Continental.”