Earworm: Part 26 — Boxers at the Bell

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 25 — Belonging

Emily and Starling sat on Emily’s living room couch. On the television, Phil Hartman did his Bill Clinton imitation, but this week, SNL brought no laughter. There was a feeling between Emily and Starling as if they were magnets with like poles facing—a nondescript, repelling feeling of… tension, embarrassment, what? She could feel Starling staring at her, but she didn’t dare look at the girl. It was Starling’s staring at her like this that caused the whole mess to happen in the first place, and Emily couldn’t let it happen again, because that would mean… what exactly?

The week prior started out innocent enough. Glenn was out with his friends, and Emily had invited Starling over to share a bottle of wine and watch television. By the time Saturday Night Live came on, they were almost through with the wine, and their laughter came easier—partly due to the wine, partly due to a feeling of connection between the two girls. On the television screen, Christopher Walken, dressed in a smoking jacket, pronounced champagne as “champagny.” On the couch, Emily and Starling laughed uncontrollably. Starling doubled over, hiccupping laughter, and she flopped her head onto Emily’s lap, both girls squinting through tears. But then Starling’s laughter stopped, and the girl gazed up into Emily’s eyes. Emily’s laughter faded and she regarded the girl lying in her lap. There was an odd silence, the only sound being the television audience roaring. Then, holding back more giggles, Emily said, “What?”

It happened so slowly, Starling reaching up, taking the back of Emily’s head, and slowly, so slowly, the girl guided the young mother toward her face, toward her lips. Seconds were years, years were seconds, there was no time, only the jumbled universe of confusion whirring in Emily’s spinning mind. And then their lips locked. Emily saw freely for a moment, only a moment, but it was as clearly as she ever saw, like wiping steam from a bathroom mirror to see her reflection. She saw, as if out of body, she and this girl locked in a kiss, and her heart fluttered away.

Emily broke the kiss and leapt from the couch, leaving Starling sprawled across it. A wry smile spread across Starling’s lips. Emily still felt the touch of those lips on her own. It was there that Emily noticed how beautiful the girl was. She looked like a different person. The world was a different world—brighter, more vibrant. But somehow, that vibrancy felt wrong.

Starling sat up and laughed, “You should see your face.”

“It’s not funny.” Emily placed her hand on her forehead. “I can’t believe you just did that to me. That was so… wrong.”

“Felt right to me.”

“Don’t say that,” Emily said. She began to pace. “What were you doing?”

“Just what you wanted.”

“What I wanted?”

“You wanted a kiss, so I kissed you.”

“I didn’t want to kiss.”

Or did she?

Starling laughed again, “Trust me, you did.”

“Look, I’m married. I’m a mother. Not to mention, I’m not gay.”

“If you say so.” Starling stood from the couch. “I guess I should go.” She straightened her clothes and ran her fingers through her wild hair. She walked to the front door and stopped. “You know, being a mother or a wife has nothing to do with it,” she said, and then she left.

But her words stayed. Her kiss stayed. And that look—that perfect, shared moment as she gazed into Emily’s eyes—that stayed as well. And the following days, Emily found herself glancing toward the house next door. And she somehow found herself on the same couch with Starling the following Saturday night, Phil Hartman talking in Clinton’s soft, Arkansas twang. And almost like a junky needing a fix, Emily did want that kiss again. But Emily didn’t dare kiss Starling. She didn’t even look at the girl until Starling said, “It’s okay to want to kiss me.”

Emily turned and looked into the girl’s speckled, hazel eyes, the universe again spinning in confusion, and then she and Starling rolled about the couch, stopping only when the sound of Glenn’s truck pulling into the driveway parted them like boxers at the bell.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 27 — Son of a Shrink 

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