Funny thing, sexual identity is. It can lurk anonymously at the back of your mind as you grow from child to adult, or it can make itself known right from the start. I don't think anyone really understands what causes that, whatever state it takes. Researchers will likely argue the point until the end of time … or until someone discovers some heretofore unexplored region of the brain that controls it. Is it genetic? Is it environment? Another argument to consider, huh? I'm willing to place my bet on a little of both.
If I were honest, looking back, I could see signs of it when I was a teen. Like lingering too long on a magazine ad, or an album cover. I never told anyone … not even my best friends. At that age, all a girl could do was hope that that she never alienated herself from her friend base. After all, there was no getting it back once they turned on you. So you hid anything and everything that you thought would make you different in their eyes … that would give them reason throw you out of the group. Perish the thought!
Remember that one outcast girl in your grade? Oh, come on! You have to. Think back! There's one in every class. She's the girl that ate lunch by herself all the time. She could be too plump or too thin, too smart or not smart enough, too loud or too quiet … you get the idea. There may not have been anything obviously wrong with her to begin with. Maybe she was the new girl one year and no one wanted to let her into their group. Remember how she would try to fit in but all the other girls were mean to her. You wanted to talk to her. You really did. But your friends all talked about her and you knew that if they found out you said anything nice to her you'd be toast! So you settled for sympathetic looks here and there, but avoided her like the plague if she looked like she wanted to talk to you.
She was The Lesson, and you learned it well. You had to keep anything hidden that would make others doubt you. So you kept it inside. And in time, you told yourself you liked going out with the guys your friends set you up with. They were nice enough, cute for guys anyway. And you liked to party with them. You even convinced yourself that it had been a phase you'd gone through before, and you're ready to have a serious, normal relationship to along with your normal life. So, now that you're out of college and working in the cool fashion industry, you don't mind your friends' attitudes so much anymore, because now they're more mature and looking to settle down and get married. Any of this sound familiar to you? No? Are you sure? Or are you in denial? Maybe you're not like me, but I guess you can still relate. Still want to hear my story? Okay, good. Let's start with after graduation. No point in dragging school out for you. Trust me, it wasn't that interesting. If I remember anything important, I'll let you know.
Now then … let's begin.
It wasn't a long time before I knew her name. Well, I wasn't positive at first she was a woman. Oh, she wasn't overly manly at all. She could pass for a cute, albeit kind of slender, boy. Late teens early twenties, I'd say. But no. She was a woman. Here I was on my first day answering phones at my brand new job. I can't tell you the name of the company, you understand? I like to protect the names and whereabouts of the innocent, so to speak. Yeah, I can laugh it up now, but it was hard for me back then.
She was hot. And by hot, I mean fucking hot! I thought she was a guy at the time, so I shot a look her way as discreetly as possible. She worked in the shipping department. Actually, she ran the shipping unit. That's a huge job, you know! This is a major fashion retailer, we're talking about. Anyway, on my first day there, she came up to my desk and laid a box down for a messenger service to pick up. I just remember looking up into the bluest eyes I'd ever seen.
"They should come for this before lunch," she said, winking at me.
Her voice wasn't too high-pitched to be male and it was kind of sultry even, so I thought nothing of it. I just nodded and gazed after her as she retreated to the back again. I did notice that she looked back once and gave me a smirk just before she disappeared behind the door. Whew, what a hottie! I fanned myself with my message pad for a few seconds before the phone rang and I had to get back to it. The messenger came at 11:45, so I went to lunch on time. I went on break with Denise, the girl training me, as she'd been the former receptionist who got a promotion (hence why I was hired). I figured I would nonchalantly ask her about the cute guy in shipping, but I'd add it in to questions about a few other people I'd met.
"Oh, that's Sara!" she laughed. "But everyone calls her Sal. She says she hates her own name."
"She?" I asked with a quirked brow.
"I know, I know," Denise grinned. "A waste of a hot bod, huh? All lean and toned. I thought she was a guy, too, when I started. But she's not. I think she's a dyke though."
And just like that I was stunned back to high school, keeping whatever questions I had inside and changing the subject quickly. I don't know why her opinion of me mattered. Maybe it was because she was the only one at the company I knew kind of well at the time. I found myself telling her about my on-again-off-again boyfriend Steve. We were currently on at the time, but he was starting his shit again, and with a career starting, I couldn't be bothered with him. But for Denise, I played it up like he was great. Yay, Steve! I mentally sang as I rolled my eyes. All the while I was wondering how Sal's lips would feel against mine. I'd never kissed a girl before.
After lunch, I went back to learning the ropes. Denise would only be training me for two days before she had to get trained on her new gig, so I needed to learn fast. Not that it was tough. Pretty cut-and-dried stuff, actually. You answer the phone when it rings, transfer the call or take a message. Nothing to it. Voice mail wasn't used there for some reason Denise didn't really know. For added flavor, you get to separate the mail and keep the waiting area tidy. Hey, everyone has to start somewhere.
When the day ended, I gathered my jacket and purse then strolled calmly out the door. It was early fall so the sun was only just starting to set. I stopped outside the door, letting it fall behind me as I took in the pretty colors – orange and pink with a touch of crimson creeping in. I always loved sunsets.
"Your hair looks pretty in the evening," a sexy voice said from behind me.
I turned around and locked eyes with Sal as she took a drag on the cigarette she was holding. I could feel myself blushing as I subconsciously put a hand up to my straight blonde hair.
"Thank you," I remember murmuring, causing her to smile at me.
My insides immediately turned to jelly. It was like I was in school again, talking to my crush for the first time. The situation wasn't that far off, I guess.
"What's your name?"
"Alex," I replied, still staring at her lean, strong-looking body. I raised my eyes up to hers abruptly and could see the silent laughter in them.
"Sal," she chuckled. "So, Alex. How was your first day?"
"It was busy," I smiled shyly back at her. "Denise tried to explain everything all at once."
"She's an airhead sometimes, but she's good people," Sal shrugged.
I thought back to the unkind tone Denise used when she mentioned she thought Sal was a dyke and I was skeptical. But who was I to judge after just one day?
"You got yourself a boyfriend?" Sal asked, suddenly serious.
I didn't know what to say. I'd spent lunch talking up Steve, but I didn't really find him boyfriend material anymore. But should I lie and say no? Technically, I did still have one. And she could easily find out. Denise didn't strike me as the quiet type.
"Not for long," I settled for saying letting my irritation with him show for the first time that day.
"Really?" Sal raised a dark brown eyebrow and I could swear I saw a hint of disappointment, but I wasn't sure if I did and if so what it was for. "Why's that?"
It was my turn to shrug now. "I'm not too interested in him anymore."
"Hmm," she replied as she stubbed out her cigarette and turned to go back into the building. "Maybe sometime if you feel like talking about it we could sit down." And with another smile she disappeared again.
Little did I know what that conversation would start.