We Forget Our Origins  

Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2003


             Once upon a time in Utah , Cheryl was at a religious university, and Dawn was at a religious university.  They were practical girls making their own way through the world.  They had responsible jobs.  They would go to church every Sunday, and pray every night.  They would read their scriptures and even underline semi-important passages.  They would read Jane Austin and underline semi-important double-entendres.  They got good grades.  They dated and sometimes even kissed the occasional man.  They went home for dinner once every week and listened to their mothers’ complaining.

            “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 Missouri and had a lot of confidence, and that, and her long, muscled legs made her clear, perfect skin seem to shine.

            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 Utah .  There was also the time Cheryl’s first college roommate came in one night and slipped under her sheets, but Cheryl doesn’t like to count that.  She wasn’t in love.  She hardly remembered these events at all until years later when her friend Rhonda asked her about her first female experiences.  And Dawn, well, she had finally let herself fall in love with a woman on her twenty-fifth birthday, but the woman dumped her coolly for someone older with money.  Though they had kissed, and though Dawn knew she was smitten, she was a good girl from a good family at a good school, and she didn’t let it go any further.

So Dawn and Cheryl were rather horny and full of regret.

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 dates.

            They fucked in each of their cars in church parking lots and at the drive-in watching Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin.

            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 alone.

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 concert.

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 Missouri know that smiling hides many things.

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 asleep.

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 were.

            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 the Caribbean where they groped on the beach, and to Paris where they kissed on the Champs Elyses.  They bought sexy convertibles, and built a stylish second home in the desert.  They bathed together every night, and gave each other pedicures, and they would occasionally act out their fantasy lives.  Sometimes Dawn would be the detective and Cheryl the femme fatale.  Sometimes Dawn would be the plumber and Cheryl the bored housewife.  Sometimes Cheryl would be the topiary boy and Dawn the dark mistress of the mansion.

            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 7AM sharp, and watching TV every night from 6PM until 10:35PM followed by a bath and back rub.


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 stopped eating. 

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 said.

“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.”

 “You’ve 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 knives.

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 alive.

            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