She wanted one more drink before going home. Knowing I was already drunk, and the sort of things she was capable of when drunk, I knew this was a terrible idea. But I was twenty then, and terrible ideas always seemed like the ones that made the most sense, so I tightened my hand around her waist, grinned, and said that sounded like a brilliant plan. Besides, that girl…what can I tell you? I wanted to eat her long red hair. I wanted to eat the soap she used. I was a mess. She lived on my block, and I’d spent a year watching her from afar—her pale dancer’s body in those clothes that concealed nothing, that vacant smirk on her face, her presence at once inviting and impossible —and now that I was finally with her it felt even more unreal. “Let’s get one more,” she said, but she could have said, “Hey, before we go home why don’t I stick razors under your fingernails,” and I would’ve said yes, sure, please, anything.
I’m exaggerating, of course. But not much.
She added, “Let’s go to Henrietta Hudson’s.”
By which she meant the lesbian bar around the corner from my apartment, a kind of nadir (so that magazines said) of West Village lesbianism. This was new. This changed everything. That Stephanie was into girls was something I should have already known. “I’m into girls, too,” she’d told me once while drinking red wine from the bottle on my rooftop. “Just in case that freaks you out.” But the thing about such statements is that, to a straight man, they mean nothing. The male ego, so narrow and fragile, doesn’t respond well to matters that have nothing to do with us directly, especially when such matters involve sexual acts we’re not physically equipped for. And so when a girl tells you she’s into girls it’s vaguely tantalizing, sure, but it remains murky, abstract, a college girl’s endearing attempt at edginess. But when the girl suggests that you head to a lesbian bar for a nightcap… something shudders, your palms feel funny, and you find yourself revising.
I should probably point out here, before I go any further, that Stephanie was crazy. I mean this in the purest, most straightforward sense of the word. As in she talked to herself. As in when she went to bars she stole the wine glasses, and once outside she’d throw them against a wall, any wall, or toss them up into the sky and watch them shatter on the pavement, laughing manically as she ran away. She was almost always angry at me, or angry at something else, but I was the thing in front of her, next to her, under her, so often it seemed like me, became me. Her entire back was a tattoo that made no sense. Something involving wings, a lightning bolt, a harp. At night we would drink and she’d say something along the lines of, “Let’s break into the Leroy Street pool and go swimming,” and we’d do it. I was new to New York then, and this was a time when everyone I was getting to know was self-aware to the point of self-paralysis, no exchange or conversation complete until it referenced, winkingly, the fact that it was an Exchange or Conversation. Stephanie, though, was something else entirely. Stephanie was unhinged, uninhibited. Stephanie was all instinct. Also, Stephanie was an alcoholic with an impressive coke habit, which is probably all I had to say in the first place.
My point is that when this unhinged and uninhibited woman suggested Henrietta’s I had no reason not to take the next few obvious steps in my head. The threesome, for starters. Me in the middle, dizzy and sated, some strange woman’s smooth calves clamped around my neck. The part where I am forced to sit in a chair in a corner and watch as Stephanie and a bisexual who looks remarkably like Christy Turlington show me just how worthless I am—before concluding that, actually, I’m not worthless at all, but needed, and needed badly, at which point I am untied from the chair and invited to join them. “Let’s go to Henrietta Hudson’s,” she said, but of course what she meant was: let this be your many-hours-long indoctrination into the world of dating a bisexual woman, for real, no more coy rooftop discussions. I’d stayed up late as a boy watching Red Shoe Diaries on Showtime and a million Wild Orchid spin-offs on Cinemax. I had seen the infomercials for Girls Gone Wild. If there was one thing I knew about, it was how lesbians behaved in the presence of men. I knew that, really, their interest in girls was really all about their interest in us.
As we walked inside Stephanie peeled my hand from her waist, which didn’t quite fit into my idea of how things should feel.
“I’ll be right back,” she said.
But she was already gone. Disappeared, vanished, pulled away. At first I remained giddy and optimistic, and assumed she was simply searching for the most dainty, anti-butch, non-lesbian-seeming lesbian to bring home with us. But when two minutes turned to twenty, and twenty turned to forty, I started to have doubts. I stood still, stared at my feet. I wasn’t uncomfortable so much as unnoticed and, therefore, being a man, bored. The women all seemed to look through me, as if I were someone’s little cousin, visiting for the weekend from a land they had no interest in hearing about. I tried to flirt harmlessly with a woman who assumed I was gay, and merely laughed when I tried to explain this wasn’t the case, that I was here with my girlfriend, who I was having trouble finding. I ordered a beer and went to the pool table. I put four quarters down, figuring these girls had no chance against a man, and found myself out forty bucks soon after. When I finally located Stephanie, an hour later, someone else’s finger was in her mouth.
“Hey there,” I said.
“Oh, hey,” Stephanie said absently.
“I see what you mean,” said the woman, cryptically, as she looked at me.
It was not jealousy I felt, not in the least. It was exclusion. Invisibility. Irrelevance. What did she mean? What had Stephanie said? What the hell was this? To make matters worse, when we got home that night Stephanie passed out in the elevator and, annoyed, I carried her into my apartment and put her to bed on the coffee table. I figured in the morning she’d forget the whole thing, and, should she need a female fix in the future, she would not bring me along, which is all I really wanted.
I was wrong. In the weeks following that night there was a shift in what I’m reluctant to call “our relationship,” given that what I’m describing here barely lasted two months. Anyway, apparently that evening was something of a test, and I’d been okayed, initiated into Phase Two of something I had no interest in. Suddenly I found myself regularly feeling invisible — at Henrietta’s, at Ruby Fruit’s, at Meow Mix. I barbequed at lesbian barbeques. I cheered at a lesbian bike race. Instead of holing up with Stephanie on Sunday mornings, I became a regular at lesbian softball games, the guy who’d pick up an extra six-pack, which wasn’t quite as sexy.
As it turned out, Stephanie was into men, and into women, but not into men and women. There were no threesomes. There were no orgies, and had the offer come, I would have declined it. Stephanie, so little and lithe, always found the least conventionally feminine women the most irresistible. This was not how it was supposed to be.
Maybe there is some reality to the idea that dating a bisexual person means living a kind of raw, sexually amorphous existence—or, at the very least, getting to sit on the corner of the bed from time to time while your girlfriend kisses a girl who you secretly want to be kissing. Maybe you’ve been there, maybe your friend has told you stories. Call me, tell me I have it all wrong. Or maybe it’s that Stephanie was heroically passive-aggressive, and started treating me like a lesbian because she wanted to end things without having to end them (though, given that her brand of craziness came with a propensity for a blunt sort of anger I haven’t seen since, I doubt this).
All I know is that Stephanie and I eventually broke up, during a polite conversation that involved the throwing of a wine glass against a section of wall only a few feet from my face. We no longer talked when we ran into each other on the block. I found myself suddenly interested, at least for a bit, in the least bisexual women imaginable: a Midwestern law student, a Republican from Alabama.
Eventually I moved. Last I saw Stephanie, she told me she was moving in with someone, a man, in Tribeca. She had quit drinking, or was trying to quit, thinking about it, something like that. I smiled and said, “Good for you,” and I meant it. I wish them luck. I wish him luck.
This article originally appeared in Nerve’s True Stories.