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What is reality? What is fiction?
Isn’t all writing ultimately autobiographical? At least, shouldn’t good writing seem that way?
In the end, does it matter as long as it’s a good story?
My wife and I made love this morning, and afterward she brought me a cup of coffee in bed. (Have I ever mentioned that she is wonderful?)
While we snuggled together, we talked about our young loves and the hopes and dreams of our youth.
After she got up, I picked up my computer and my fingers tore this story out of my heart.
The idea of “finding one’s place” is one of my favorite themes (as you can tell from my other stories), and this is about one young woman’s search.
I hope it doesn’t seem long-winded, but young Kate had a lot to sort through. Be kind to her-she did her best.
Over the years, I have learned to ignore most of the bullshit that comes from being gay, but it still bugs me when people ask, “When did you become a lesbian?” I usually reply, “about the same age you ‘became’ straight,” which leads either to awkward silences or interesting conversations.
The important question for me was, “When did you stop trying to pretend that you weren’t a lesbian?” That moment came in 1990 in Vienna, Austria when I was 23 and living away from a lot of influences that kept me closeted. My Christmas present that year turned out to be a remarkable woman who compelled me to stop lying about who I really was.
One might say, though, that I came by my dishonesty honestly.
I was raised in a conservative, southern, Christian family, and was taught to be a good, morally-conscious, Christian girl by a loving-but-very-controlling mother. My father died when I was young, so mother took on the role of raising me and making a career for herself (and this in the 1970s when it was much more difficult). She did this successfully enough that she became noted in our small town and a leading figure in our church.
I had two aunts who I adored who also helped raise me. Aunt Kathy, my mother’s sister, was my “real” aunt (our family has great fondness for variations of the name Katherine). She lived with “Aunt” Gail (who was no relation), and they were inseparable. I loved being around them and they delighted in my visits—I even got to spend the night a few times. But mom never really wanted me to have too much to do with them.
The “aunties” were welcomed at all of our family functions, but were treated somewhat coolly—nothing overtly unwelcoming, but there was clearly a distance between them and other family members.
In retrospect of course, I know that Aunt Kathy was gay. The concept of “two aunties” was our “Christian” family dodge that kept her and her partner marginalized without actually disowning her. Kathy and Gail, however, were unfailingly accepting of everyone and everything, and always seemed to be at peace. Their small house was immaculately maintained and they had excellent careers. They were, in fact, an embodiment of the “Christian family values” that were so highly prized by the rest of the family. I admired them and wanted to be just like them. Who could have known?
I went to an all-girls Christian school, and was one of the jocks. I had always been a tomboy and understood neither the fascination with clothes and makeup nor the feverish conversations about boys. I did try to play up, though, because of the venomous whispers about a few girls who were suspected of being “lezzie.”
The worst insult imaginable was to called “Lizzy Lezzie.” I never thought being “lezzie” was such a horrible thing, but I certainly didn’t want to be “mistakenly” identified that way—it was the fast track to becoming a total outcast. I only knew that I loved sports more than romance.
I went away to college. Getting to a more cosmopolitan place was good for me, and I began to become more open and relaxed about many things. I soon realized that I was not a person who cared to live with all of the “thou shat nots” of my childhood faith; though I held on firmly to my Christianity, I began to focus it on spiritual matters rather than on church-going and rule-following.
I had always been comfortable being “one of the guys,” and I loved to hang out and watch sports and drink beer with my male jock friends. Eventually, with the help of some beer, I began having bumbling “petting sessions” with a few of them. I think I held up my end decently, but between lingering Baptist anxiety, their clumsiness, and my overall lack of interest it wasn’t very thrilling for me and I remained a virgin.
As my senior year wound down, though, I had a couple of nice encounters with men and finally bid my virginity adieu. From then on, I started to think more and more about “being with” someone. The prospect of having a mate who was a good friend seemed like a worthwhile thing, and I was confident that, although I was not very highly sexed, I could handle the physical part of marriage well enough to keep a man happy.
But şişli eskort before I worried about a family, I had some career ambitions that I wanted to fulfill.
I had a professor who took a real interest in me (it took several years to realize how “interested” she really was…but I digress), and she put me onto the opportunity to do an internship in Vienna before starting law school.
She also helped me find a place to live with some friends of hers, Jan and Janneke, a Dutch couple who lived in a great part of the city. They had an extra room in their house and needed some extra money to take care of their newborn baby.
I didn’t have any money, but I got a small grant, and Aunt Kathy and Aunt Gail gave me a “graduation present” by funding the rest of what I needed. So, after thanking them profusely, I packed myself off to Vienna for a year to see the world and to seek adventure.
I arrived in the early fall and spent a couple of weeks getting settled in my new digs and getting used to living in a foreign country. Jan traveled a lot with his work and Janneke stayed at home with their newborn son, Julius. She had a year of paid leave from her job, and they were taking full advantage of it. A student lodger was therefore good company for her as well as some extra money.
They were incredibly understanding and helpful to me. Even after four years at a prestigious university, I was still a hick from small-town America in many ways. I never would have adjusted as well or as quickly to my new lifestyle if it weren’t for them, and I am still very grateful for their help.
They constantly asked me, “What do you like?” as though life were just that simple. It took me a long time to realize that they were right: life really is just as simple as “what do you like?” But finding that simplicity requires honesty. And honesty requires courage.
Finding courage is what is difficult.
I loved Vienna, and spent hours walking around sightseeing and trying out my German. I also enjoyed helping Janneke with chores around the house, and we settled into a comfortable routine.
After a couple of weeks, I began my duties at the Vienna International Center—a fascinating gig in the UN Office for Drugs and Crime. I loved going to work there and was energized by the work and by the interesting people I worked with.
One day not long after I started, I went into the research library needing a book on international law. I found one that seemed perfect, but it was in German. I could speak the language decently and could sort-of-read a newspaper, but a legal textbook was quite a challenge. It was, however, the best I could find so I grabbed it and headed back to my desk.
On the way, I decided to turn my life upside down.
She sat at a table in the library, petite and effervescent. With her flat chest, trim hips, and short, dark hair parted on the side like a boy, Sabine could easily have been mistaken for a young man. But she was obviously a woman. Maybe 10 years older than me, and so—captivating. As soon as I saw her, I knew that I had to get to know her. I have never before or since been so struck by someone. She was mesmerizing.
She wore a blue V-neck sweater over her button down shirt and had neatly pressed jeans and clogs. She was absent-mindedly chewing on the earpiece of her glasses as she pondered something she was reading, then she wrinkled her nose (in a most adorable way!), scowled and started scribbling on the pad next to her.
She saw me standing in front of her and looked up. She took one look at my American clothing and awkwardness, and a smile crossed her face.
“Hallo,” she said in German-accented English. She chewed her glasses as she regarded me.
“Hi,” I replied nervously. “Um. I’m Kate. I’m a new intern here, and I—er—well, was looking for a book…” my voice trailed off uncertainly.
I stood there, stupidly, holding a book I couldn’t really read—and looking at a person that I couldn’t really read, either. Of course I should have just continued on to my desk—but I couldn’t. Something about her rooted me to the spot.
Sabine chuckled and leaned back in her chair, putting her hands behind her head like a man. “It seems to me that you have found a book,” she said softly, gesturing toward the tome in my hand.
“I—er. Well, I did find a book” I managed to say. “But—I can’t really read it, so it won’t do me much good,” I said, feeling like an idiot.
Sabine laughed out loud. Then she stood up, walked over to me, took the book and scanned the cover. She chuckled and looked into my eyes. It seemed like she could see straight into my soul. Her manner and her gaze were severe and intense, but her voice was gentle and kind.
“Kate,” she said gently, “My name is Sabine, and I can read German of course. I would be happy to help you if you like.” For some reason, I felt very happy being near her.
“I would like that very much,” escort bayan şişli I said, smiling. Sabine took my hand and led me to her table.
“I think will like this very much too,” she said with a little smile. “Now. What do you need to know?”
We worked together for the rest of the afternoon. I was afraid that she was neglecting her work, but she pooh-poohed that and we huddled together over the book, working on my project. She was smart—quite brilliant actually—and insightful, and more importantly we hit it off immediately. Before we realized it, it was late in the afternoon.
“Mein Gott,” Sabine exclaimed, looking at her watch, “I am going to be late for an appointment. I’m sorry, Kate, but I must leave.”
We stood up. “That’s ok, Sabine, thank you so much for all of your help. I really appreciate it,” I told her sincerely.
“Null problemo,” she replied, using a popular phrase of the time. “I’m sorry to run, but I will help you more tomorrow if you need it. Bye!” She hurried away before I could say anything else.
I sat down, feeling a little dejected. I had really enjoyed working with her. She was so smart and interesting to talk with. And she was—I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but something about her kept intriguing me.
I packed up and walked home, enjoying the sights of a Viennese evening. As I headed up the Kärnerstrasse, I passed the elegant shops and the crowds of elegant people. A group of women were looking at a poster of a male model adorned with a high-fashion suit.
“Oh my God, he is so handsome!” one of the women exclaimed. I looked at the poster and noticed that the color of his tie was the same color as the sweater Sabine had worn. I stopped in my tracks. That was it.
Sabine fascinated me because she was so—I hesitated—handsome. Incredibly good-looking. She was beautiful! I remembered that I could hardly take my eyes off of her. I headed back home, wondering at why I would be so captivated by the appearance of a female co-worker.
The next day, I hurried in to work. As I headed up the stairs to the office where I worked, I wondered what Sabine might be wearing today. I abruptly realized that I had no idea where in the building she worked or how to contact her. I immediately resolved to find her, even if it took all day. I felt a pang of guilt, then rationalized that I was actually saving time, since it was much more efficient to work with her.
I greeted my office mates and settled in at my tiny desk. I began looking for a directory to see if I could find a clue to the whereabouts of the mysterious Sabine. A few minutes later, the office phone rang, and one of the guys answered.
After a short conversation he turned and announced, “Anruf für die Kate.” I took the phone.
“Hallo,” came a familiar voice, “do you still want help today?” My heart leaped. It was she!
“That would be fantastic,” I said quickly. “When can we meet?”
“Now. Come to 3542A, third floor, second corridor past the stairs,” Sabine instructed.
“Ok. Um. How did you find me?” I had to ask. I was far from a major personality in this organization—just some college-kid intern who did menial labor in a small office.
“I have my sources,” Sabine said with a chuckle. “Besides, Kate is not a common name here. If you had been ‘Anna’ or ‘Maria’ it could have been difficult.”
Sabine had a private office, which meant that she was some kind of a big-wig. I found it without any trouble and announced myself to her secretary. After she checked with the “Frau Direktor,” I was waved into the inner sanctum and found Sabine seated at her desk.
“Oh wow, this is quite an office. I didn’t know you were so—important,” I exclaimed.
“I like my job,” Sabine said, welcoming me.
“I never would have—I mean, yesterday. You spent so much time helping me,” I began to realize that I had monopolized the time of someone who probably never even spoke to interns.
“Yes. Well, one nice thing is that sometimes I have the freedom to choose who I work with here,” Sabine said simply. “But I only have a little time today, Kate, so we should start on your project right away.”
We settled in at her desk. It was a nice big workspace, but somehow we wound up sitting closely together. As we looked up references and worked through things, the report began to take shape. Eventually we hit a stopping point and it was time for Sabine to get back to her work for the day.
“Thank you again. You are so brilliant—you saved me a lot of time and effort,” I told her sincerely. She smiled. “Plus, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you,” I added.
“I have enjoyed you, too,” Sabine replied. “Perhaps we will run into each other again. Have a wonderful day.” It dawned on me that I would no longer have a reason to see her. I returned to my office and worked the rest of the day, feeling sadder than I had in a long time.
The next couple of days passed uneventfully, except that I could şişli escort bayan not stop thinking about Sabine. I finally decided that I just had to see her. If she thought I was a nuisance, so be it, but I had to try.
It seemed wildly inappropriate for a lowly intern to just walk into the office of the chief of a division. At a loss as to how to proceed, I gathered up the draft of my report and headed up to the third floor, trusting to luck that things would work out.
When I got to Sabine’s office, her secretary was not at her desk. Taking advantage of the momentary gap in the defenses, I walked back to the inner office. The door was open and two older men were seated at her desk talking animatedly. I waited in the hall and listened.
It seemed they were asking Sabine’s advice about planning some big international initiatives. They were quite deferential, and obviously valued her opinion highly. Soon, they thanked her profusely and left. They were startled to see me, but must have assumed that I was some secretary bringing documents to Sabine.
I peeked around the corner. Sabine was leaned back in her chair with her eyes closed, rubbing her temples. She sighed audibly.
“Peek a boo,” I said softly. She started, almost becoming airborne from her chair. She looked at me wide-eyed.
“Scheisse. Sie haben mich erschrekt,” she scolded. “How did you—well, never mind.” Then a warm smile lit up her face. “Come in Kate,” she invited. I scooted in.
“I—um—I was wondering if you could—I mean if we could…” I wasn’t sure what I really wanted, so I just stood there dumbly. Sabine looked at the report in my hand.
“Oh. You need more help?” she asked. She seemed a little crestfallen.
“Only if you have a few minutes,” I said hesitatingly. “I mean…” I stopped. She was looking at me completely openly. Trusting a hunch, I decided to be honest.
“I really just wanted to talk with you for a few minutes. I don’t really need any more help.” I confessed, waving the stack of papers helplessly. “The report was just an excuse to get to see you. I didn’t know what else to do.”
She smiled broadly. “Please sit then,” she said. “I would very much like to talk with you too.” We chatted about nothing in particular, but it was a delight just to hear her voice and to be with her. I told her about the poster that made me think of her.
“What? A man?” she asked, incredulously. “A man made you think of me?”
“No. Er—I mean yes, but he was very good looking and, well, he made me think that you were very good looking too.” Realizing how that must have sounded, I tried again. “I mean that I thought that you—um, he was…” I stopped as Sabine began to chuckle. “You must think I’m really dumb,” I said softly. She shook her head.
“No, Kate, I think you are very nervous. You are a very smart woman, and very talented too.” I blushed. She leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “And I think you are very good looking too. But not like a man at all.” I could feel my face turn a more brilliant shade of crimson.
“Thank you,” I said. “For the kind words and for putting up with me being foolish.” Sabine chuckled and nodded. I felt that I should not take any more of her time, so I stood to leave. “I’d like to see you again sometime,” I said, surprising myself with my brazenness.
“I think we will probably see each other again,” she said smiling. I walked to the door and paused, looking at her. She was breathtakingly beautiful.
“And I think you are—absolutely the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” I said. It was her turn to blush. I waved goodbye and headed back to my office.
Walking to work the next morning, I realized with horror that it was Friday. With the weekend approaching, I might not see Sabine for several days. I thought that I’d better figure out a time to see her that day. Monday seemed much too distant.
As the morning wore on, a bunch of little chores kept me chained to my desk. I nervously watched the clock tick the day away. That afternoon, I was filing some papers and trying to figure out how to get up to Sabine’s office when I became aware that the other people in the office were staring at the door. I turned to see Sabine standing there.
“Hallo,” she greeted me. “I need you for some special work.” She looked at my four office mates and requested that I be allowed to accompany her for a few minutes.
“Ja, naturlich, Frau Doktor Chefin,” our office leader replied.
“Dankeschön vielmals,” she replied. “Would you come with me, please, Kate?”
“What special work do you need me for?” I asked as we walked to her office. She just shook her head. When we arrived, she ushered me in and closed the door.
“I do not need you for work,” she told me bluntly. “I would like to see you outside of the office. It is too complicated to try to talk here, I think. Perhaps you might like to get a cup of coffee after work?” My heart leaped. I agreed immediately.
She took me to her favorite coffee house. It was like a Disney movie fantasy. Everything was so elegant and sophisticated! I realized that even though Sabine dressed somewhat casually, she always looked very elegant and sophisticated and carried herself with great dignity.
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