You have been tied to the same tree for half your life now. You bloom on the right side and curl into its shade on the left. You have never been uncomfortable. Most days you still put on make up, brush your hair, flutter your lashes in the direction of the tree. Last year, though, you dug up from piles of dirt a new love like buried treasure: you like women too. Your flower petals fell like ash or snow, the blooms of a wedding processional to the ground.
Vegas is basically a light trap in the desert. You learn this quickly. Other desert places don’t lie about being the desert. Arizona is honest and forthright, for example: there is nothing there but saguaros and college bars with giant barn fans. It says so directly in their tourism brochure; even their license plates are just sunsets and sand. Vegas makes a show of it instead: bright lights on 24/7 so you can’t see past to the landscape ahead — the dirt packed ground, the dust in the air, the unbearable, unrelenting heat. On your first visit, you stand in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. You smile with all your teeth — it’s only as real as the lights, but for a brief second all you feel is possibility.
When you were 14, your mother tried to come out to you. She turned to you as you were driving in the car — on the way home from school or a swim meet or the mall — and she said as if it were all the words the situation called for: “I really need you to like Lauren.”
Earlier that month a woman, a new family friend, as your mother had explained it, came to visit your house. She wore her hair cropped close to her face and liked baseball. She was from St. Louis. This was all the information you were given.
“Okay, fine, Mom” you said in response, nonchalantly. You were a teenager. You were imagining in your head your new boyfriend’s face, the punctuation of his chin. Your mother said nothing further.
Fifteen years later as her back goes out and she worries suddenly about aging, she says to you out of nowhere, “You better take care of me and your stepmom. Lauren only likes a certain kind of underwear.”
There are no missing details in this story.
Your greatest fear in life: to wind up like your mother. And yet, here you are, 34 and suddenly bisexual, a late in life queer just like your mother. You hate the new mossy floor, the red dropped camellias, but even so at every chance you get you roll your body all around in them in the glittery evening light. What’s the point in clinging to this straightness except it’s so comfortable? It’s the most comfortable sweater you’ve ever owned. What’s the difference between a lie and an omission, an act of preservation? You stick one foot down on the mossy earth, keep your left arm looped around the tree’s limb — is it okay to park between two spaces? You pull your vehicle into an empty parking spot only to find out afterwards that your wheels are halfway across the narrow white line.