We Forget Our Origins
Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2003
Once upon a time in
Once upon a time in
“The world is being overrun with liberals,” their mothers would say.
“And the neighbors keep looking at me like I’m the enemy.
Of all things.”
They would smile filially at their mothers.
They would take leftovers home and put them in the fridge.
Then one day Dawn and Cheryl were in bed together.
They were just talking and holding stuffed animals.
It was innocent enough.
But Dawn had such pretty lips, and she kept moving them in such pretty
ways, and she knew her lips were pretty because she was born in
And Cheryl, though red headedly shy and rather beaten by her mother’s
disdain and two years preaching for a Utah God she could hardly fathom, well,
she could still often be headstrong. When
she wanted to kiss, she kissed, and at that moment, she wanted to kiss.
She rolled on top of Dawn.
Dawn looked at her, a little startled.
Cheryl kissed Dawn.
So Dawn kissed Cheryl. They
forgot to be shocked at themselves. They
forgot to be surprised that each of their lips were women’s lips.
They forgot to feel bad at the pleasurableness of their sinning.
And then Cheryl wanted more.
And Dawn also wanted more.
And so they did more. They
touched under their shirts, then took off their shirts. They touched under their
shorts, then took off their shorts, but the panties stayed on.
They touched here, they touched there, their cells filling with strange,
new life. They had never felt so
much excitement before, not when they first kissed the neighbor boy, Jim for
Dawn, Allen for Cheryl, not when they got money for being on the honor roll in
high school, and not even when they watched Lauren Hutton and her gap-toothed
sexiness in American Gigolo.
They had never known much female flesh at all except
accidentally, like when Cheryl’s high school crush purposefully kissed her
neck after the prom making Cheryl silent and red and full of longing.
They never did more because they were teenagers and it was
So Dawn and Cheryl were rather horny and full of
They were also rather inexperienced.
They had never read a book about technique, and so, they just invented
things, and their inventions were good. And
so, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
They couldn’t stop from pushing into each other while brushing teeth or
while visiting the bathroom at Burger King after eating fries.
And so, basically, we can say they were fucking every day, though Dawn
would never use such a word because she took pride in her vast vocabulary.
Cheryl, however, liked to rebel against her mother, and against all of
society, so she would have called what they did fucking out of a sense of spite.
Still, neither of them thought women could really fuck.
Something was missing, or so they thought because at this point they
really hadn’t been acquainted with the more radical versions of queer,
performative, feminist theory. Besides,
fucking is so un-ladylike. Fucking
is mean. It’s only men who like to
fuck, isn’t it? Fucking is about
power and that’s not what they were about.
But as long as they both had orgasms, the groping
details didn’t much matter.
They fucked in the shower.
They fucked in Cheryl’s bed, the stuffed animals watching them.
They fucked on their thrift store couch when the roommates were out on
They fucked in each of their cars in church parking lots and at the
drive-in watching Goldie Hawn in Private
Once they fucked in one of the bathrooms at the university even though
they had heard rumors that people would purposefully listen for such things and
call the police, and the police would come, and the offenders would be taken
away to a small, dark room where electrodes awaited their genitals.
“I don’t believe it,” said Dawn, “I want some
eye witness evidence,” but Cheryl did believe it because she knew from
experience that if this society had any idea she might be happy, they would do
anything to stop it, so Cheryl checked under each stall to make sure they were
They were still good girls making their own way
through the world. They would still
go to church every Sunday, and read their scriptures, but they no longer felt
much uplift from the verily sayeth’s and the celestial trumpetings.
They still went home for dinners, but they were thinking more about
fingers and tongues than their mothers’ complaints.
Their mothers noticed. They
saw their daughters smiling a little more. They
saw their daughters’ eyes looking a little out of focus.
But the mothers didn’t mention anything.
If their daughters weren’t telling them what was going on, it must be
something bad, and they simply didn’t want to know.
Sometimes Dawn and Cheryl dated men because Dawn
thought it would be good.
“I mean, we don’t want to limit ourselves, do
we?” she said. “I don’t think
we’re doing anything wrong, but we don’t want people to think things.
Besides, we might have fun.”
And so, two nerdy men in glasses asked them to an ELO
That’s a musical band from long ago.
They had their roommate take a picture, all of them
thin in tight, checked polyester, all of them with curly permanents, smiling
before dinner. Well, Cheryl didn’t
smile because her mother had always made her feel insecure about her beauty.
But she was smiling inside. Dawn
always smiled because she knew she was intelligent and tall and beautiful, and
besides, people from
Dawn and Cheryl smiled and held their dates’ hands.
They smiled and listened to the electric music.
Later when they came out of one of the bathroom
stalls together, a girl with short, blue hair offered them a little weed, and
though they all recognized each other from religion classes on campus, Cheryl
gladly took a few puffs. Dawn looked
around, then inhaled once, coughed a little, and inhaled again.
Their dates talked about church and science fiction.
Dawn and Cheryl talked about church and giggled a lot at people’s
concert-going outfits, the punkiness mixed with bellbottoms.
Afterwards, their dates took them out for milk shakes, and the giggling
continued, and their dates thought this was kind of cute and kind of feminine.
“These girls sure laugh a lot,” the tall one said
when Dawn and Cheryl were in the bathroom again.
“They have to go to the bathroom a lot too,” said
the short one.
“That’s how women are,” said the tall one.
At the end of their date, the two nerds stopped in
front of Dawn and Cheryl’s apartment hoping they might get a little kiss, even
if only on the cheek, but the girls chastely exited the car, waved, and quickly
ran inside. Their dates sighed and
tried to secretly admire Dawn and Cheryl for their restraint, but they were
still a little disappointed. Inside
the house, as soon as their bedroom door was shut and locked, as soon as the
lights were off, Dawn and Cheryl ripped off each other’s clothes, for by now
they were going for the full effect of their nakedness, and they fucked harder
and longer than they ever had, and their fucking was very loud though Dawn was
usually bothered by loudness, and their fucking was very sweaty, though Cheryl
wasn’t much into sweat.
“Dawn?” Cheryl said, her body slick and hot.
“Cheryl?” Dawn said, still breathing hard.
“I think I love you,” Cheryl said.
Dawn swallowed, then held Cheryl until she fell
And Cheryl felt protected for the first time in her
life. And Dawn felt nurturing for
the first time in her life. And they
dreamed long, iridescent dreams all night, dreams about being in each other’s
arms, which they were, and dreams about kissing, which they had been doing, and
dreams about tall feather beds and gauzy, white rooms with wind swept curtains,
and water pipes full of the strongest weed, and girls with punky, blue hair
massaging their feet, and at some point they were kissing other people, Dawn the
woman who had recently dumped her, and Cheryl one of her more psychotic
missionary companions, and at some point they were having sex with some
beautiful, long haired man they would meet in a few decades, and Cheryl dreamed
of kissing a fat, dark haired woman who she would occasionally wake up in bed
with years later, and Dawn dreamed of having children all around her, children
laughing and screaming and clinging to her legs, and somewhere in there they
both had a feeling of falling over a cliff much like Squaw Peak directly above
their apartment, and their skin got scraped, and they broke some bones, but they
didn’t remember this in the morning because as the sun began to rise, they
dreamed of each other again, whole and safe and naked, and this made them giggle
in their sleep, and their stuffed animals giggled with them.
When they woke up, they felt married, and so they
Time passed. They graduated.
They got steady jobs and worked hard at them.
They stopped going to church. Cheryl
started smoking and drinking beer. Dawn
started snacking and drinking white zinfandel.
They built a house together. They
continued to go home for weekly dinners, but they also went on exotic trips to
They didn’t care who the top was or who the bottom was.
They didn’t care that their fantasies came out of Dawn’s mystery
novels. They just felt happy.
As often happens with the settling down of time, the
years turned into decades, and as they passed through middle age together,
everyone admired their longevity. Cheryl
stopped smoking. Dawn stopped
snacking. They hiked and biked and
felt healthy. They looked good at
all the chic parties, and they laughed, and they drank, and they wore the right,
sexy clothes. They would sit in
their tasteful living room, Dawn reading her usual mystery novels, Cheryl
reading the latest radical versions of queer, performative, feminist theory, and
they would look at each other and smile.
But after a time, they started to feel more ennui
about the meaninglessness of the world.
This happens to all of us.
Well, Cheryl felt this ennui more intensely because
she had always been the emotional one, and she would talk about her feelings
with her friend Rhonda, and she would talk about her feelings with her
therapist, and she would talk about her feelings with her queer theory friends.
Of course Dawn felt something was missing too as the nights of going out
and drinking turned into the yawning repetition of years seeing the same,
superficial people who said the same superficial things, but instead of talking
about her feelings, Dawn would snack more, and she would go shopping almost
every day, her uncertainty single-handedly keeping capitalism afloat.
They started seeing their chic friends less and less.
They started to travel less and less.
Their bodies started to hurt more, and they began to get odd and
frightening diseases and have difficult surgeries, and all this, and the
accumulation of years of tasteful paintings and plaid furniture and photo albums
and matching lamps and sexy cars and desert property and travel trailers made
them feel tired. They would still
look at each other and smile because they were always there thick, thin, rain,
shine. They knew they could take
each others’ deteriorating bodies for granted.
They knew the other would be there forever drinking coffee and reading
the paper every morning at
sharp, and watching TV
every night from
followed by a bath and
Some people think this is a comforting word, and Dawn
and Cheryl used to agree.
But at some point their eyes began to drift.
Dawn had her infatuations with other women, especially if they wanted
children or had children, especially if their children wanted Dawn to buy them
lots of toys. Cheryl had her
infatuations with other women too, especially if they liked to talk about
emotions and sex and seemed a little wild like her old high school crush.
Dawn and Cheryl slept in separate beds more and more.
They started forgetting to have sex.
They stopped remembering why they enjoyed sex.
They stopped remembering that it was kissing and fucking and romance that
brought them together in the first place.
That’s how the world begins to fall apart sometimes.
Cheryl would hold her only remaining and now ragged
stuffed animal at night, and truly notice how unhappy she was.
Her friend Rhonda began to notice how unhappy Cheryl was and, because of
her own difficult neuroses, became that much more attracted to her.
Cheryl’s therapist began to notice how unhappy she was.
Cheryl stopped getting dressed in the morning.
She started smoking again. She
Her therapist recommended pills.
Dawn recommended a new office set.
“Whatever you want, it’s yours,” Dawn told Cheryl as they stood in
the middle of Furniture Warehouse.
As she brushed her fingers over the desks, as she felt the world caving
into her, Cheryl asked Dawn, “Do you still love me?”
“I’m just asking.”
“What kind of question is that?” Dawn looked around the showroom to
see if anyone was watching them. “Of
course I love you, Cheryl,” she whispered, her mouth smiling in the set way
all Missourians know how to do. She
looked at Cheryl. She noticed Cheryl
had more lines around her eyes.
“We used to be different,” Cheryl said.
“Maybe we should discuss this at home,” Dawn
“I’m losing energy,” Cheryl said.
“You know I love you,” Dawn said, her voice
moving a little too quickly for her or Cheryl’s comfort.
“I mean, we’re here, aren’t we?
I’m buying you this office set, aren’t I?
And I do all our bills. I
bought you that scooter. I call you
when you’re not at home to see where you are.
That’s love where I come from,” Dawn said.
“What about kissing?” Cheryl asked.
“What about romance?”
Dawn looked at Cheryl for a moment.
“What about your depression?”
Cheryl closed her eyes.
“I guess it’s all rather circular.”
Dawn sat down on one of the office chairs.
“I’m menopausal. I’m
almost fifty, you know.”
“I’m almost fifty too,” Cheryl said.
Dawn looked closely at the oak veneer on one of the
desks, then said, “I think I always wanted children.”
never told me that,” Cheryl said.
“People can change, you know,” Dawn said.
“But I’ve dreamed of children for a long time.”
They both looked at each other as if they had only
just met in a dark bar in a seedy part of town where people routinely throw
The air moved quietly around them.
And then a magic fairy appeared.
It could happen.
The magic fairy was perceptive and could sense, even
from far far away, the impending doom of love, and so she decided it was time to
intervene. She emerged from a puff
of glittery dust, and flexed her long iridescent nails at the tired women.
She had never appeared in a furniture store before, but decided she
probably needed to more often given the amount of relationships that end over
the choice of an armoire.
“Oh,” Cheryl said, blinking.
She wanted to feel excited, but the Prozac was cutting the potential high
of her mood.
The fairy was dressed in iridescent gauze, and the
women could see her beautiful naked body underneath.
Cheryl especially liked the curve of her buttocks.
But Dawn was not impressed.
“Unless you can show me some proof, I feel no need to believe in
you,” she said.
Cheryl nodded, but then stopped because between the two of them, she had
always been the most likely to believe in strange things, and she wanted to
believe in this, and she wanted to feel love again, and she wanted to feel
The fairy said, “Proof is so bourgeois,” then she threw some glittery
dust on them and disappeared.
Dawn and Cheryl both sat blinking and glittery on black office chairs.
“It’s probably some kind of promotional thing,”
Dawn said, and then she put some of the glitter in her mouth to see if it was
sugary. “It tastes like grapes.”
“It tastes like rocks or maybe amethysts,” Cheryl
said, chewing. She remembered Rhonda
telling her about some amethyst vision she had long ago, but all she could see
in front of her here was some party glitter on indoor outdoor carpeting.
Cheryl was glad she didn’t have to clean it up, but still, she wanted
Dawn to taste more of it. She seemed
to feel something bigger than the myopia of their lives moving through her
veins. She felt something light.
She felt a tingle and thought of the beautiful fairy’s buttocks.
“Maybe we just want different things,” Dawn said.
Cheryl looked at Dawn and the feeling of bigness and
magic began to leak from her cells, and there was nothing else to do but think
about what she wanted, and Dawn began to think about what she wanted, and they
sat in the furniture store thinking, and the sales people glanced toward them
once in a while, but they were tired of selling things to depressed women, so
they left them alone, and the sun moved through the sky until it set, and the
warehouse lights went out, and the leaves flickered in the spring breeze outside
as the stars got bright, and Cheryl and Dawn closed their eyes, and the crescent
moon rose, and the women got very tired and slipped to the floor and fell asleep
without touching, their bodies coated in purple dust, their toes slightly
twitching, their lives beginning to drift out of their hands and back to their
more helpless origins.
Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2003