Sunday, May 12, 2024

Not Even Not Zen 353: Biomythography - Note 93: Strange Bedfellows, Part V

Strange Bedfellows, Part V

On a spring day in downtown Northampton, I wandered the sidewalks from shop to shop. I don't remember why. I may have stopped in at my work, which was a bar and restaurant combination on Bridge Street, the main drag. Even though I didn't have a shift there that day, I sometimes dropped by to say hello. There were at least three package stores, including Serio's Drugs in the downtown, but I don't remember bothering with them. I lingered at the book shops, as always. 

The weather was cool but, as I marched between the shops with my backpack on, I worked up a sweat. (It's likely that I bought a book and was carrying it, maybe several.) One of the women from work had recommended a local novelty shop two blocks up a hill on King Street. I'm pretty sure it was during my hike there from one of the bookstores that my thoughts about ny social life kicked in. 

I was seeing another lesbian. And the affair was probably going to be brief. It made me think. 

Two years before, back in college, I knew rationally that not everyone was bisexual. However, a lot of women (and probably the men) seemed to be fairly try-sexual, for sure. That's not what college is about, of course. It's mostly the classes. But college is where my last two years of girlfriends declared themselves to be bisexual. My relationships with them seemed like accidents, bits of random friendliness and luck, and they were some of the best lovers in my life.

Now I was starting to wonder if I had a pattern and if the root of it was something in me. Was I doing things, however unconsciously, to get into these somewhat-transitory relationships? Were the tessellations of my affections due to this area of Massachusetts? I had seen goth women, hippies, and jocks here, but all of them were interested in other women. Being lesbian or bisexual, either one, seemed awfully popular.

I spotted the novelty shop up the hill, fresh blue paint on the outer walls and sky-blue trim around the windows, probably puzzles and toys inside. Along one of the storefronts along my way as I passed, I spotted posters for upcoming concerts.

Being mostly single and mostly bored, I stopped for a moment to read about the bands and clubs. Next to one of the posters was a gay pride flyer. It was advertising a gay-themed bookstore coming soon. Books! And a store I hadn't visited! Admittedly, from the date on it, the place wouldn't open for more than a month. Maybe it wouldn't carry the trashy science fiction I liked best, either, but it would still be worth a look. I had been collecting "Dykes to Watch Out For" volumes and I was still missing one. What better place to continue the search than a gay-themed store?

That got me to thinking about lesbians again and why they were such a presence in my life. I glanced above the bookstore flyer. There was another photocopied sheet taped up with the others and it read, "There is no hell."

As an atheist, it made me smile. 

And then I realized I had gotten here because of religion and politics. Those weren't the only reasons but I had discovered in college how nice it was to be accepted. And the most likely people to accept me as an atheist, without disdain or even comment, were lesbians and gay men. 

No one here shouted 'commie' at me for not going to church. No one thought my taste in prose or poetry seemed odd. I could hang out with whomever I wanted, at least when I could persuade people to ask me over. Admittedly, my presence had been confusing for some of the gay men in the Northampton and Amherst social circles. A few women, too, had said they didn't consider me eligible because they thought I was gay. A few others had an opposite reaction, for which I was thankful. 

There was a wonderful sense of relaxation for me when hanging out with all these people who didn't want anything from me and, of course, sometimes didn't want me around at all, which is also a fine thing at times. And sometimes they did want something. And sometimes it was me, which could get touchy in the social scene but usually fine. 

The pattern in my life was due to my atheism, for sure, but not only that. My life couldn't have brought me here to this town without the acceptance of people who were also on the outside of conventional society, even more on the outside than me, really. We all benefited, in a way, from the various forms of ostracization that pushed us together. The pressures from the larger world brought us to this place and our acceptance of one another completed the pattern.

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