Creative Nonfiction

Nonfiction, Issue #69

New Girlfriend

Legs and ass powerful like a Quarter Horse’s. That ready speed. Her eyes, too, quick on the uptake. Soulful, dark brown eyes. What I notice first. That and the sweep of hair that swings forward when she bends to unleash her dog. A color that blends with the September leaves, a dirty-blond similar to the shades of autumn rustling at our feet.

We’re both walking our dogs at “the creek,” a woodsy spot spanning few blocks behind fenced backyards where there might once really have been a narrow river, long since evaporated. Two vine-strewn slopes lead down to a trail of sand and pebbles. Sometimes there’s an inch or so of still water. Bear is off-leash, ready for the click of my tongue or my whistle, nosing into leafy spots, and I’m texting, so it’s the clink of her dog’s tags I hear first.

Bear trots over. The two dogs bow to each other and take off down the trail.

She smiles at me. “Not shy at all, are they?”

Maybe they aren’t, and she isn’t, but I am.

As the dogs double back, I finally say, “They sure do like to run free.”


She brings the cup of tea to the table, leans forward as she sets it down. A definitive sound, the cup’s base settling onto rustic oak. The backs of her fingernails slide along the curved ceramic and away from the handle. 

“Thank you,” I say. 

Her smile is the response. She bends to sit, catty-corner to me, and her face moves closer. Her lips, glossy, level with my lips. And then we’re both seated, only a table corner between us, and neither one speaks. It isn’t awkward, but it isn’t comfortable either. The tea is too hot to drink, we’ve just missed the chance to kiss, but neither of us needs to fill the space with talk of the dogs playing in her yard. The pause in motion, in conversation—it lasts too long, and I imagine my nervousness is too obvious.


We sit at her dining room table, that sturdy rectangle of stained oak. My fingers are looped through the handle of a mug of tea, my palms cupped to its warm ceramic belly. Steam rises like the sound of a flute.

Deana touches the circle scar near my left temple. “Did you have an eyebrow piercing?”

And then the inch-long line perpendicular to my jawline. “What’s this from?”

I exhale brief answers as her index finger traces each scar. 

This close attention, is this how she saw beyond the suburban exterior, my wedding ring, my long hair? Something—short fingernails maybe? More likely the pause in my entire being when she leaned down to unleash her dog who ran toward mine. With all abandon, they ran and wrestled, their bodies pistons of combustion engines, curling and unfurling in fast succession. Already we had that precise time and place in common, so potential became possible. As unlikely as it was inevitable. 

Our first kiss is at her table. A kiss smooth as satin and with the same ache as you hear in the voices of Chris Pureka, Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne.


She sets the glass of tea down. I have always loved when tea is served in a glass, and you can see the clouds of milk swirling down as the steam swirls up. I always hear Patti Smith’s whispery start to “Horses”—the boy was standing in the hallway drinking a glass of tea. I say these things.

When you first meet someone and feel connected somehow, you start to find you have much in common. Some of it is pure rhyme, like living in the same town. Some is slant rhyme, like her photography and my writing. Then internal rhymes, like the publication process. You begin to free associate, letting one story inspire another, taking turns as the conversation turns until you find you can say just about anything.

So, when she says to me that she’d like to photograph me in afternoon light, and asks how comfortable I am with my body, with nudity, I only feel hesitation because of certain restrictions surrounding me. Professional ones, mostly. I say so. How my immediate, singular response would be yes, but what I do for a living restricts certain freedoms.

Our discussion pauses. Gauzy light filters in through the window. She studies me for a while in that light. I find myself thinking about headless ancient statues, modernism, cubism, non-linear narrative, abstract art, my pen name. How any of these might pose a solution. Along the same lines, as if she’s there with me in my mind, she finally asks, “What if I just zeroed in on your knee, and then your clavicles, never your full body or face, but just,” and she strokes her finger along it as she says, “your forearm?”

“Okay,” I answer. 

One of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs is of a man’s armpit. Another is of a suited body, only chest to mid-thigh, with an uncircumcised penis hanging out of the fly, level with the hands. When I was sixteen, I spent my paycheck on a huge book of his photos. It weighs about ten pounds or more. I knew he’d photographed the cover of Patti Smith’s Horses album. Inside were pictures of everything from contour lines of nude bodies to flowers backlit with glowing light to men in makeup or leather and chains. Some of this was not unfamiliar. I’d taken a Life Drawing class where each week a model disrobed and lounged while we sketched. Other photos were nothing I’d ever seen before. Alone, paging through, I stared deeply and for a long time, especially at one with the point of a knife inside the tip of an erection. I wasn’t sure if I was turning shock into familiarity, or recognizing that my imagination had already explored the female equivalent of such things.  On the cover is a cyclopean eye. Mapplethorpe’s, photographer and subject. Visual equivalent to memoir. 

“Your lips.” Deana outlines them with her fingertips, and then kisses them.

“My knee,” I break away to suggest. Will she kiss my knees?


Two women, wives of men, working mothers, homeowners. Femme with a slight dyke edge that only those truly tuned in would notice. Both at the phase where you wonder how long sex appeal will last. Bisexuality dunked into the waters of repression more often than not. Creative careers neglected for more stable choices, but not abandoned. Because idealism is a sugar high. Hope is a smack upside the head. The world never quite welcomes us unless we conform. Or live on the fringes and elevate the outsider status as art. Neither is easy. But an underground stream flows just as steadily as one you can see.


From the kiss follows her bedroom. Her insistent, gentle, maddeningly patient exploration of the lines and shadows of my body. She takes her time about letting loose what’s pent up in me. And the sounds that escape me. I don’t know if I feel ashamed or triumphant. There’s no hiding how slick my thighs are. She promises I can reciprocate next time.

Then she photographs me in varied close ups she says she’ll title The Michelle Spokes Series—never full face or body. In the crescents of fingernails or eyelashes, or the Georgia O’Keefe calyxes, the arch of my foot, faintly freckled skin, and the crow’s foot stamped on my temple, the strings of white hair intermingled with the tree bark brown, she makes sure the anonymity of my pen name stays intact. Yet she acknowledges my existence. Our intimacy.

Her husband is traveling for business, her kid’s at a friend’s. Our time alone is borrowed, as it will always be.


Our borrowed time keeps appearing for us, serendipitous, and going well– just the way I want it to be.

The hammer smash? The way it all breaks into pieces?

Doesn’t happen.

Though there is her panic attack. Flipside of the confidence. A desperate text. Michelle, can you come here? Please? My mind’s racing and I can’t breathe. 

Okay, be there real soon, babe. 

The timing works because Avery’s in her bedroom absorbed in her sketchbook and Peter’s at the piano. They don’t see the urgency that draws me to a single point of focus. A kiss on my daughter’s head, another for my husband, on the nape of his neck as he bows over the keys, and I’m just a power walk to Deana’s front door, which she doesn’t answer and which isn’t locked. 

Time erases while I coax her out of the corner she’s wedged into. At first she’s a statue, still and pale, unseeing. I crouch next to her and work my arm around her shoulders. “Breathe,” I whisper, taking a deep breath myself, feeling how my ribs are empathetically tight. 

Her rigid muscle tone finally loosens and she leans into me.

The rescuer in me is too moved by her face glossed with tears, so drawn to being present in the immediacy of her need. Gratitude surges my heart because she lets me help.

She lets me help. Needs me. Cries in front of me. These are red flags. Cringeworthy ones, and yet I just watch myself go there, like in a lucid dream. One version of me is genuine, stroking her back, speaking calm words. The other me is keeping tally marks. Here is proof a woman I want wants me. This makes me become real, now, not just in memories or projected fantasies.  

Gradually, she stabilizes, settles back, rests her shoulders against my chest.

Not even knowing if it will truly register, I confess, “Deana, I get scared, too.”

Her back expands as she inhales. “What’s scaring you, Michelle?” she asks, the vibration of her voice right there where my heart is.

And sitting on the floor, sharing the cup of Tulsi tea I’d made her, with my legs hugging her body, and her arms draped across my knees, we talk it out.

I tell her how easy, but how cowardly it is to pass, yet how necessary it can seem.

About how hard it is, when new love juxtaposes a primary relationship, and I’m trying not to neglect the long term while I’m crushing hard.

How I’m too tentative.

She shares with me how she notices I’m always bringing up Avi, that my eyes dilate when I do. She worries she’s a placeholder while I’m waiting and wishing for Avi. She’s concerned she’s only a replacement for the decade of love between me and JJ, my best friend, who had been my girlfriend, for the majority of those years. What’s to say JJ won’t start it up again? 

I tell her I’m tired of unpredictability. I want something consistent. 

“Okay,” she says, exhaling like she’s finished a long run. 

The stillness of her house settles around us. Time and silence merging. 

Then, with my body book-ending hers and my chin on her shoulder, she whispers in my ear, “You two and the duct tape, and that story about your silly wooden spoon smack-down.” She reaches an arm back to palm my skull. “I’m turned on by your past.” she says.

“You want that?” I ask.

“But different,” she says. “Our own version.”

“We’re alone, right?” 

“We are.”

Her daughter is at a sleepover and husband’s still overseas.

“All right, then,” I say, making a fist in her hair and squeezing tight.

With forced bravery, I take full advantage. Duct tape her ankles to the legs of the table, have her lay her body back on the solid oak top and wrap more tape around one wrist and then the third leg of the table. One hand free, so she can touch herself for me, or the top of my head when I kiss and lick what I’ll whack, softly but squarely, with a wooden spoon.

That image, her powerful legs, bent at the knees, secured in place and open.


Her body, supine, on the rustic oak table, willing, and me duct taping her ankles together and then both wrists, handcuff-style in front. I stand with my legs on either side of hers, securing them, and press the back of a teaspoon against the hood of her clit, and watch her hips move. I give it just a couple of light smacks and then crawl up onto the table, kneeling over her, and use my hands. There is something so quenching about the arched back of a woman as she moans for you to do what you’re doing, and then the scent of her pussy on your hands after.


I restrain only her ankles because there is a playful, sadistic pleasure in standing between her knees, reveling in having the leverage to prevent her from trying to free herself, or even sit up. “I’m not going to bother with any spoon,” I say. 

I stroke and tongue her inner thighs. Her legs are statuesque and a blush rises from her hips to her face, like Galatea in Jean-Leon Gerome’s oil paintings, like I’m bringing her alive with those little deaths as I pull her hips toward me and go down on her, and she keeps coming, one constellation after the next: first rising into, “Wait. I need to catch my breath,” and subsiding, “I’m ready now.”

Galatea, from behind, imprinted herself in my mind when I first studied the painting in an undergraduate college course, Art History Through Philosophy. She has sturdy legs, a round blushing ass and a muscular back. From her white marble pedestal and ankles, the pinkening smile under her glutes, and her aligned hips, Galatea’s torso arcs toward the artist who reaches up in embrace, his whole body speaking worship. In what religion does the creator worship the created? 

Ovid, of ancient Rome, told the story before the painter: a sculpture is turned woman by Venus, or Aphrodite, if recounted by a poet across the Ionaian Sea, because her sculptor fell for his creation. While this myth has sailed the boat of allusion through the centuries, there was another, earlier, Grecian Galatea. Perhaps the namesake of the one to follow. 

Fairbanks, translating Philostatus, describes her riding a chariot of dolphins, “a kind of radiance” falling across her forehead, “her hair… so moist that it is proof against the wind… and her arms are gently rounded, and her breasts project, nor yet is beauty lacking in her thigh. Her foot… lightly touches the water as if it were the rudder… Her eyes… have the distant look that travels as far as the sea extends.”

My Deana is Galatea, the flushed statue, the sea nymph with those magnificent thighs. My eyes are open wide as a mythical sea, looking at her like she’s the horizon I seek. When I blink, love-drugged, it’s the slow shutter speed of an old camera and she becomes blurry, a trick of the light, of the pituitary gland. Endorphins and oxytocin. Inside my head, something falters.  

In the older story, the giant Cyclops watches the sea goddess, believing “because he is in love, that his glance is gentle, but it is wild and stealthy still, like that of wild beasts subdued under the force of necessity.”

Coarse. Myopic. That’s how I feel when I blank. I balk. Suddenly stupid, ignorant of myself. My mind crowds with criticisms from prior women, that I’m “too intense, “too rough,” that my gaze is “like being under a spotlight,” and “I stare too much.” Words just like the apples Galatea pelts at the shaggy giant in one version of the myth. I should retreat. Be gentler. I wish I could conjure intimacy, but I default and fuck. 

I rally. Use three fingers and move my hips like a guy, and she comes hard, but I feel lost. I tug the restraints off and crawl up on the table, nuzzle into her shoulder. Fall inert. 

She wraps her legs and her arms around my body and just holds me.

After a while, she says, “Look at me.”

I try. Everything flickers: Peter’s permissive hazel; JJ’s cat’s eyes; Avi’s moss-encircled nebula green; Deana’s, like river silt or tea steeping.

She kisses me and asks, “What’s up?”

I mumble something about making the same mistakes again. I haven’t repatterned myself right, haven’t finished paying penance.

“Michelle, for what?” she asks.

“Not getting this way of life right.” I shift for space. 

“You know as well as I do that without this, something is missing.”

 “I know, but Deana, I have that same reckless feeling I always get. I’ve tried to go about this round different, not desperate.”

“Look,” she says. “Trust that we can take space and still be connected.” Her voice is calm. The earlier panic is long gone. Her eyes are like they were that first day at the creek: soulful, balanced and strong. “It’s how people like us have to be. Okay?”

I nod. I actually do trust her. More than I can myself.

She presses her tongue into the hollow between my clavicles. The very spot that in one of her photographs looks like a shadowed valley of grainy sand.


I’ve uncharacteristically called in sick. So we can have alone time in the daytime. She’s done the same. We’re in my bed, tracing each other’s bodies with our hands. Languidly. Hours compress and expand into a mostly wordless narrative, all energy and sensuality. We’re beckoning Kundalini from coil to spiral. Memorizing by touch, eyes closed, summoning third-eye intuition. Exploring. What it feels like to caress with the center of the palm. To dwell. To hover fingertips over skin, gliding down and landing lightly. How it feels to receive. 

“This is like what Avi and I do,” I say before thinking twice. I’ve broken the quiet. And with questionable words. 

“Like you do?” Deana asks. 


“Still?” Deana asks. 

“Yeah,” I say. “So what? She doesn’t want me that way. She tried at the beginning, but backpedaled.” The snake dance up my spine falls slack. 

“But you still want it.”

 “It hurts, always having to hold back. But it helps we still have intimacy. She and I lay the ground for you and me, you know.”

There it is. Too much, too honest. But said all the same. 

The reminder chimes on my phone. Time to go get the kids from school.

I try a peace offering. “Want to take them out for ice cream?”

“That’s an idea,” Deana says, taking my hand. The buzz of warmth is absent but a little friction can create its own heat. 


We arrange for a day off work so we can spend it under the covers. There’s a little cold snap. Perfect to catch up on some rest and relaxation. We talk about our husbands. About how we talk with our husbands about each other. We get sentimental on the topic of motherhood. Mothering our Indigo children. We tell the stories of adopting our pups, who are sleeping at the foot of the bed with my cats. 

We talk about growing up bi in Generation X. Not knowing the words. The few words we did know were reserved for odd clothing choices or road rage. We wonder whether generational trauma applies. We both have relatives whose stories we need to gather, who ought to be photographed. We envision a project. If only we had endless time to combine the creativity that exists in the margins of our lives, taking turns with the days jobs and our families, and now each other.  

We read poems to each other, about chimeras and wild geese, about being “very tired and very merry,” and we listen to singers with seductively sad voices. We discuss marriage as paradox for our kind. We talk logistics. Conceptualizing how we might go about life as counterparts.

We sit meditation. I feel the energy knock on my sacrum, then begin to rock inside me, forward and back. Whenever this happens, I think that this must be why the Orthodox Jewish men daven. The energy rocks me back and forth, then starts to swirl, like a reverse funnel, a little tornado. If a drain were in an overturned world, the water would spin upwards. Maybe when the roots of trees drink from the earth, the water whirls its way up, through the tree’s chakras into blossom. My third eye starts to flutter open, to glow sapphire. 

Ajna chakra. Anodea Judith writes, in Eastern Body, Western Mind, about seeing through the third-eye. “Without vision, our actions become mere impulses, but with vision they become creative acts of will in the service of transformation.” Intuition and insight, even instinct, begin with looking inside. “In the sixth chakra,” Judith teaches, “we move into our archetypal identity.” She explains Jung’s theory like this: “archetypes are imbedded in a larger field… they carry a numinous energy… we see ourselves” and “we are gaining, with that recognition, an inherent set of instructions and energy.”

From this “symbolic realm” I open my third eye like a mouth and speak robin’s eggs, lapis lazuli, hyacinths, blue roan horses and the depths whales dive and the heights of airplanes. I send it all to Deana, summoning something at the same time. 

“I felt that,” she says, after the Insight Timer vibrates the air with the sound of an ombu singing bowl. “What you sent.” 


We call out from work for a day in bed together. Rain trickles down the windowpanes. The windchimes are jangling as the wind forms shapes with the air.

“I want to watch you make yourself come,” she says. 

“It isn’t exciting,” I tell her. “I just lie on my belly and press into my hands. I imagine things.”

She raises an eyebrow.

“No really, It’ll be boring and I won’t look sexy. Sometimes I just pause and think, to work out a scenario so it seems realistic enough or because the fantasy starts to morph into another version like in a dream.”

“Let me see anyway.”

So I do, trying not to round my shoulders so much as usual and vocalizing the way I only do when I’m alone. I get sleepy after. 

“I want to fall asleep in your arms,” I tell her. 

She accommodates. 

“Can you stroke the bridge of my nose?”

“Like this?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly how JJ would get me to fall asleep when I used to stay Fridays over her place.” 

Deana tenses. 

I don’t want saying that to be something I have to apologize for.


“She never wanted me as badly as I wanted her,” I say. 

We’re walking the dogs on a late-November evening, in the lingering last light before early dark. Wind pushes the clouds across the sky. Japanese maples in their deep red splendor adorn lawns. Regular maples with leaves the yellow of afternoon sun flank the streets. 


“Nope. No one ever has. And sometimes I feel like I’m a midwife of love instead of worthy in my own right. Like I loved JJ into letting love in and then a man appeared. And now that JJ has a baby and got married, yeah, sure, we kiss once in a while, but sex is off the table—no pun intended.”

She winks at me. But I see there is a little tension around her mouth.

“And Avi, I guess she was curious, but never serious, those three or four times years back that we… well, you know. I’m surprised that even since she’s gotten engaged, she’ll still, ah… ” I think twice and don’t describe the way we end up quiet, lying close, cherishing with our fingertips and palms most every place except for the definitive boundaries. 

Deana’s jaw tightens. I make a mental note of it.

“Basically, it always came down to me talking them through, fostering what they wanted most. A man ultimately just seems to take precedence every time. It’s still a pretty straight world.”

She shrugs. “I guess so.”

“Like, when you first told me you’re married and you have a kid, I basically assumed what most people do about me. I mean, I’m married to Peter and we have Avery. Most people think I’m straight, you know?”

Deana takes my hand. “Oh yeah?” The dogs bump shoulders. “I read you right away.”

I know she did. I interlace my fingers between hers. “I was so relieved to find out you’re married and have a kid. With us, you and me, I’m not holding the spot until your loneliness is over. I’m not showing you how it feels to be loved and then stepping aside when the so-called real love begins.”

“Well,” she says. “Somehow you still have love and friendships after sex.” The dogs freeze as a squirrel dashes up a tree. Deana takes the opportunity to look me square in the eyes. “Michelle, those fires are still throwing sparks, aren’t they?”

I don’t want to admit anything. “I like this,” I say. “What we have.”

Some neighborhood kids on bicycles swerve past.

“I tend to end up left in the dust,” she says.

“Well, I don’t see how anybody could give you up.”

“They did. In one case for a man, and another for a full-on lesbian relationship. Another one wanted me to get divorced for her.” She strokes her thumb across my palm. It feels like Avi’s touch.

I sigh. “There’s just no blueprint for living lives like ours. Except for maybe in California or Soho.”

“Someone always seems to get shortchanged,” she adds.

We both take in a deep breath. Autumn on the cusp of winter. I imagine my fireplace as an orange glow, and us, having negotiated another afternoon just for ourselves, being lazy, snuggling, making love to each other in the purest, wettest, woman-on-woman way– and then napping, my cheek resting on my hand and that musky scent on my fingers. Content.

“We’re trying though,” Deana says.

“Yes, we are,” I answer. But inside, I’m wondering, Is it sustainable? I wish her trust issues didn’t kick my own mistrust into gear. I wish I didn’t feel like I need her in order to define myself. But since I do, I wish my new girlfriend could photograph me completely, honestly, wholly, without any code to decipher. I want the eye of the camera to bear witness, the picture to tell our story, for us to be made real. I say, “I wonder how it’s going to go from here?”

So far, not only the dogs, but her kid and mine are getting along famously. We’ve gone to a few hiking spots. Her husband is out of the country on business again, after a quick turnaround, due to arrive home for the holidays. From what I’ve heard, I have the sense we’ll get along well. She’s only said a quick hello to Peter, but enough that I got something of a blessing when he told me she’s ‘sexy and sane.’ In bed, he whispers a scene with her into my ear. It transports me. I close my eyes instead of looking at him and that worries me, but this is all still new enough to be relatively easy.

“It’s completely up to you,” Deana says.


It is completely up to me.

And what do I do with that? 

I decide not to call her up for a while. I need to sort things out. It all feels too unreal. 


With or without contact, I just feel sort of lost, like I’m wandering in an ephemeral realm. I send a text to gauge where she’s at and she responds casually. We meet at the creek. The dogs gallop up to each other in greeting. She and I walk holding gloved hands on the high ground above the ravine. We see each other in periphery. Her husband is back, she explains, and we’ll have to double date at some point, but he’s got to recharge from all the traveling, jet lag and such. They need to go over finances. So do Peter and I, for that matter. There’s a stack of unopened mail on the accent table just inside the front door. 

She holds me in a bear hug made cushy by our down jackets. Time is about to tumble forward. I can feel it. 


Months pass by without me bringing her to bed or even to mind. My drive drops slightly, my focus shifts to more concrete goals like keeping up on the dishes and laundry, work deadlines. Winter makes my body hungrier, a good few pounds heavier, solitary, and tired enough to hibernate. 

When my thoughts wander toward her, envisioning her evades me. Even though I can see her eyes, and those strong legs, it’s like her photographs of me. A jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. I’ve lost sight. I can no longer picture her entirety exactly. When I get off, my mind flits around instead of staying focused on her. 

Her story, ours, was working, at first, as I tried out one version and the next. But lately, I’ve been thinking maybe she isn’t the answer.

At night, next to Peter in bed, my hand on the nape of his neck absorbing his sleepy heat, I’m suffused with the tenderness of love, and the depth of guilt because I’ll never be wholly his. Because when he’s my only lover, I feel lopsided. 

It’s one thing to know who I am, another to live it. Like spinning plates, there’s a mesmerizing momentum when everything coordinates just right, but also like spinning plates there’s a dizzying circularity. Balancing isn’t easy.  Unless you’ve been taught or figured it out, practiced and practiced, you can’t see how it works. 

With women, I’ve spun out too often. Desperate. Always reaching, the way a gambler receives a rainfall of spilling, spiraling coins, with no real sense of deserving. 

Deana’s fears of being a replacement are accurate, actually. My intent was to reprogram my neural pathways, to recover and heal, to displace replayed versions of what really happened with Avi or JJ. They, JJ and Avi, only briefly felt as fully as I did. Those times, my vibration sped up so much, I was like sound incarnate. I became expansive, a sphere vector, a record on a turntable, a light ray bouncing around in search of film or a digital sensor, a hamsa hand with the eye of forever open and centered in the palm of my hand. 

Only it was like the camera obscura. Predecessor to the current model. The “dark chamber” as Britannica defines it, “dating to antiquity,” consisting of a small shadowed room with light coming through a tiny aperture, projecting an “inverted image of the outside scene cast on the opposite wall.” Camera obscura has been “used for centuries to view eclipses of the sun.” 

When I was twelve years old, I kept a tape player on my bed and listed to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” repeatedly, rewinding and playing, rewinding and playing, crying in my dark bedroom to her one-hit wonder, listening to her voice sometimes plaintive and tender, sometimes scratchy with need, ultimately fading away, saying, “turn around bright eyes” as the piano fades, too. 

Here I am four times that age and still obscured, eclipsed, protecting my voice behind a pseudonym and looking the image of heterosexuality to anyone who doesn’t know me well enough to know. It’s an optical illusion, that some of my closest friends have been closer than friends, but you only see it if you look in the negative space or from a certain angle. 

These days it’s Chris Pureka’s “3a.m.” I play on repeat, via Spotify. They sing, in a voice pure with grieving and longing, “Well it’s just a waste of time, this old broken record song / It plays over in my head… on and on and on… Here I am again just waiting around… wishing I wasn’t missing you.” 

Ultimately, the women I loved chose the straight life. The desirous looks they once gave me diminished. As a friend who had once been more than that, I had to find a way to circumvent the beggar’s belief that some scraps of the past might be tossed my way. I decided to stop rewinding and begin visualizing. What if I had a woman more like me: in family structure, sexual orientation and libido? 

I never did have an imaginary friend as a kid, so maybe the whole idea is silly. All the same, passive hope persists. Maybe one day she and I will run into each other at the creek, for real. I like watching Bear run free anyway, so I’ve taken to leaving her off-leash for the walk to the ravine and home from it, too. Maybe, if I remain open, it could happen just like I imagine.

I even widen my radius, wandering to the train station, down the block of modest Tudor houses, up and down dead end streets, beyond the confines of this one square mile town, looking for her, inviting the possibility, the potential. No luck.

When it comes to the power of visualization to manifest as reality, time will tell.


Bear and I visit the creek almost every day. Some trees are still wintering, and others venture into this new spring season. The sunlight yellow of autumn leaves has reincarnated into flowering forsythia, April’s morning stretch. Most of the dog walkers I encounter there are men, and we’ll stroll as the dogs romp. Most of the time, Bear and I are on our own, noticing some squirrels, sparrows, robins, and the occasional mockingbird, blue jay or cardinal. The zig-zag of cotton-tailed rabbits. A hawk sometimes glides overhead, brown against blue. Suburban homes behind fences with barbed wire line the perimeter. At the far end, a graffitied bridge straddles the creek. Parkway traffic hurtles forward at full speed. That’s where we turn back.

Deana and I might kiss under that bridge, one day. One of us pinned between spray-painted concrete and a soft, strong, warm woman. Or we could stand free under the sky. If she would show up. As is, I’m starting to give up. This waiting, it isn’t very brave, and certainly isn’t braving initiative. It’s remembering there’s truth in fiction, but forgetting that the fictional isn’t real.

Right now, though, I am at least opening my eyes, tuning into intuition, listening for that voice. Deana, saying hello. She’s offering me the possibility that there will be a moment that I’m whole enough, confident enough, to be who I am. She’s leaning close to my shoulder and her lips are soft against my ear. “I am right here,” she reminds me, and her voice… is it lilting or husky? I can almost hear it. She exhales, and I feel the electric colors sparkle at the base of my spine. 

By Michelle Spokes

Michelle Spokes’ essay “New Girlfriend” placed as a finalist in the Witness 2023 Lit Awards contest judged by Melissa Febos. Her writing appears in venues including Gertrude, Penny, Oyez Review, and Storm Cellar. She resides in the suburbs of New York with her spouse and daughter and is working on a collection of memoir essays, Why We Love the Rain, that grapples with bisexuality and motherhood within the context of an open marriage. She’s @LMichelleSpokes on X.