In Your Dreams

Annie balanced two bags of groceries on her thigh, gripping the brown-paper edges with her right hand, fumbling her key into the lock with three free left-handed fingers. As the door swung open, she suddenly found her arms empty as Kali appeared in the doorway, lifting the bags out of her grasp.
Annie shut the front door and followed her companera into the kitchen. "You're home early!" She wrapped her arms about Kali's waist from behind, resting her head on the woman's shoulder blade in greeting.
Kali kissed her and started putting the groceries away. "Hey, sweets." Annie reached into the grocery bag and started digging through the refrigerator to make room for another gallon of orange juice.
Kali handed her a container of three-bean salad, noticing the juice. "Aw, Annie, no! Don't you ever get sick of that stuff?"
"We have circle tonight, remember? It's our turn to bring the drinks."
Kali blinked and nodded. "I totally forgot, you're right." She laughed. "Can't you just stop by work and grab a couple bottles of vodka?"
"Yeah, Jenna'd love that," Annie drawled. "Well, she says she's not in the bar business for the money...."
"Right! You could test that! See if she's speaking her truth as a womyn, or buckling under the imperialist forces of the dominant patriarchal system paying her rent and shackling her--"
Annie threw a soapy sponge at her, laughing. "Save it for work, Kal."
Kali dodged the sponge, letting it hit the wall and fall to the floor. "You wanna make dinner, or should I?"
"I'll make it. I just got a good recipe from Jane for cheese and potato soup that I think I can make with tofu cheese."
"For us disenfranchised lactose-intolerants," Kali nodded. "I'll go see if there's anything important in the news."

The tall, carob-colored woman stretched out on one of the many bright sofas in their living room. She flipped the television on, surfing until she found CNN. "Hey, Andromeda!" she yelled.
Annie came to the kitchen doorway. "Hmm?"
Kali pointed to the television screen. "It looks like Sharon Bottoms is giving up. She's going for just visiting rights now, I think they said. No court decision yet, though."
To her surprise, Annie gave her a tight-lipped glare and returned to the kitchen.
Kali frowned, wondering what that was all about, and settled back to catch the end of the story.
Annie walked through into the bedroom, and returned, sitting down next to Kali and combing her hair out in front of the television set.
Kali leaned away to avoid the handfuls of thin, shoulder-length blonde hair being blown towards her. "So," she ventured experimentally, "the pressures of the court system were probably just too much for her. It's too bad she couldn't stick it out, though. This could have been made into a watershed case in lesbian civil rights."
"Will you hush up?" Annie snapped, pulling the comb through her hair with a flourish. "I am trying to style my hair."
Kali looked at her blankly.
Annie sighed, twisting her hair into a bun. One hand bent behind her head, she turned to face her wife. "I know your views on parenting and the dangers of our having a child in depth, and I would appreciate it if you would stop bringing it up," she stated, and turned away to search for a hair pick.
Kali's eyebrows shot up. "You would appreciate it if I stopped bringing it up? You're usually the one who brings it up, hon."
Annie shot the pick through her bun. "Oh, really? So I suppose reading the entire case history of the Bottoms trial in bed doesn't count as bringing it up? Or pointing out every article you find on failed gay adoption cases?"
Kali took a deep breath, letting a moment of silence into the conversation. "I don't think we should argue about this, kitten. Neither of us wants to have a kid unless it's going to be safe from some crazed relative or politician trying to snatch it away." She saw assent in Annie's face, and continued, "Besides, if we want to afford college, being a dual-income family is crucial, and how do you expect to have time to raise a kid like this?"
Annie, sitting back into the sofa, stood up sharply. "What do you mean by that?"
"By what?"
"Just what exactly did you mean when you said, 'how do you expect to have time to raise a kid'? Do you not expect to have anything to do with this experience?"
Kali backtracked. "No, I didn't mean that, I just meant that with all the cases I have, you'd probably get stuck with the kid-" bad wording, she winced to herself- "most of the time, but you go off to the bar at night and the kid would need you around then!"
Sure can't tell she's a lawyer, some part of Annie's mind observed. "So where are you planning to be at night? And why is your job more important than mine?"
"Oh, c'mon, Drams, it's not like it's a real job!"
She could almost hear the snap as Andromeda hit her limit. "Well, I quit my job with the Bureau partly for you, so you can just at least partly shut up, okay?" She whirled around and returned to the kitchen, the swinging door banging into the wall in her wake.

Annie reached up into the cupboard above the stove and slammed a saucepan down on its burner, shaking with tension. Why couldn't she just be part of some nice, mainstream couple, never argue about kids because her husband would probably want them to prove his sexual prowess.... Why couldn't her family want a grandchild from her? Maybe it would have been better if she hadn't begun trying to reconcile their differences, seven years after being literally thrown and kicked out of the house... then they would never know of any child she bore.
She filled a pot with water, setting it on the hot stove top. Glancing at her wedding ring, she experienced a moment of pure terror. Waking nightmares flashed before her... images of herself alone, childless, divorced from Kali and their mutual friends, struggling to find herself, abandoned - again. Dizzy from the sharp fear, she leaned on the kitchen table to clear her head. Annie opened her mouth to inhale deeply and found her breath racing, struggling in shallow gasps that sped up when she focused on them. She dug her fingers into the worn wood, her heartbeat keeping up with her lungs as if both were determined to ride her to death. A great fear - of asphyxiating, of Kali leaving her, of dying, of the panic attack which held her - became her whole universe, sending her to a world where nothing existed except this fear. She might have stood in thrall for one minute or five or ten before the kitchen reappeared around her, more fuzzy and removed than before. The pot on the stove was boiling, filling up and spilling over and over and the kitchen tilted around her her mind spinning around and the pot was round and the world was round and her mind spun around and around....
Kali tried to read the paper, skimming for an olive-branch headline she could take in to share with Annie. There was nothing very cheering in it; she put it down, resolving to go in and make peace herself, then picked it up, realizing she needed help in apologizing, then put it down again, swearing that she was "man enough" to face the issue herself and not let their differences fester between them. She pushed open the swinging kitchen door and nearly slammed into it when she saw the chaotic scene in front of her, a pot of water frothing madly away on the stove and her companera slumped on the floor.
Kali quickly grabbed the pot and moved it to a cool burner, turning the heat off, and knelt to slap Annie gently, feeling her body automatically take over the familiar rhythm. In the nine years they'd known each other, this was far from the first time that she'd had to revive her beloved. When Annie came out to her parents in college, long before coming out to herself, by getting drunk and kissing Kali in the middle of a huge Southern family reunion, the resulting gay-bashing had cost her a nervous breakdown and many panic attacks. They'd gradually subsided with the healing passage of time, but, Kali noted as Annie sat up, something in her seemed to be fracturing again.
The tall dark woman stood to pour a glass of water for her ash-white wife, then returned to her side, pushing the glass into her hands, comforting, soothing, waiting for her to focus. Annie pushed her away and walked unsteadily out of the room, out the front door, got in their VW bug and drove away.

Andromeda called her high priestess to beg off circle for the night and went to work, cooking fiercely in the kitchen all night, silently feeding and dismissing anyone who came in to socialize. She told Jenna she would lock up and remained until well past midnight, slipping into the house and into bed without waking Kali.
Annie lay in bed, her eyes tracing the dimly lit edges of the desk and chair next to her, trying to still her mind so she could get back to sleep. She wrung the edges of the sheet between her fingers, picking at the hem's loose threads. Finally, the silence became too much for her, and she slid quietly out of bed, tiptoeing barefoot across the cold floorboards to the study.
Without even thinking, Annie automatically flipped the computer on and sat down, waiting for it to boot up. She pulled her knees up onto the computer chair, chewing methodically along the edges of each fingernail, and decided to open a mail file and pour out her thoughts.

Subj: unedited, read at your own risk
Dear Max,
I don't know why, since I know my email isn't exactly protected with you using your free time to hack my account and manipulate me, though my life could use some manipulation right now because it doesn't seem to be going too well in its present state, and you don't even HAVE any kids or a biological clock or anything, but I'm writing to you anyway. I mean, since you're the one who hacks my email anyway, it won't be read by prying eyes at least, except --

"Never mind, I'm starting over," she thought, reaching for the delete key.

Dear Max,
Welcome to my nightmare. It's three in the morning and I'm wide awake, too lonely to sleep and too stressed to wake Kali up and tell her what's wrong - particularly because she's what's wrong and it doesn't seem right to wake her up and argue.

"I have completely lost the point. Every time I try to just say it, I lose the point. I don't know what I'm afraid of... there's nobody around to see me cry. "Maybe that's exactly what I'm afraid of. If I started crying, and nobody came... if Kali didn't hear me sitting here in the dead of the study at 3:12 am, crying, and wake up to come out here and comfort me, would it mean she didn't love me? I know I'd probably resent her. I think I already do. It's not HER fault she doesn't want to have kids-- "There, I said it. I am not going to cry, I'm going to write this damn letter. I am not gonna cry, I'm going to write this damn letter. I am not gonna cry...."

I want to have a kid, Max. All my life it's been drummed into my head that kids are the most important thing in life... this despite the fact that my parents somehow drove two of us three kids out of the house without another word of contact for years.

"Oh, that's not the real reason."

I don't know who else to talk to, Max. Very few of our friends have kids, and most of them I just don't know well enough. At least I know you, and maybe I can work some things out for myself just by writing 'em out. Kali doesn't want to have kids till our marriage is really legal, and the way they're going now it's more likely to be absolutely ILlegalized.... No, I don't believe that. I try not to. But it's making it very hard to follow the news. Every new article about it is another voice damning me to infertility. When the Defense of Marriage Act went through the House unscathed, it felt like they ripped my uterus out. Or my heart. It's not like a "normal" relationship, where we might just spontaneously conceive.

"Although it would be the news story of the century if we did! 'Lesbian Couple Achieves Immaculate Conception! "I'll be damned!" says Pope!' "But stick to the point, sugar...."

It would be easier to argue if I didn't agree with her. Any of our relatives could try to get us declared unfit parents and get custody of little Delaney. Or if one of us died.... That's the real reason I quit the Bureau, you know. I wanted to get us out of harm's way. But I don't think that's her sole reason for not wanting to be a "breeder." And you know Kali: she never discusses her feelings. It's very hard right now just to live here... in this society, on this planet, in this house sometimes. I just want it all to stop, but there's nowhere to escape to... But that's just me being morbid at four in the morning. I think I'm just going to go crash... talk to you later. Thanks for listening :-)

She stared at the screen for a while, trying to gather her thoughts. Leaning her forehead on her fists, she closed her eyes briefly to draw together enough energy to send her mail, and fell asleep.

On their nightstand, a small but insistent clock began screaming out that it was six-thirty. Kali rolled over in bed, fumbling to kill the alarmist, and felt the cold valley where her companera had been. The space left by Annie's zaftig body pulled her awake and led her stumbling sleep-blind out to the kitchen to fill that void.

Annie looked up. She was alone, floating alone on a gray stormy ocean in a little weathered rowboat. Lightning tore across the mounting stone clouds above her, making them briefly distinguishable from the crashing waves throwing her boat from side to side. She sensed her whole identity wrapped up in that boat, the only thing that had held her afloat during the worst spells of her life. If she could get to land, she might be safe... but the waves began crashing faster, knocking against the boat as they spun counter-clockwise into a huge funnel, dragging her down into a huge storm drain.... Then they rushed out the drain with a whoosh and everything disappeared. She was in a tiny bare room, the walls an acid, jaundiced off-white. All that remained from the sea was a little rotting dampness about the wooden slats of the walls. A tall, vague man with a subdued tie came in and handed her a crayon and some drawing paper before blending into the walls and disappearing. She understood that she had to draw her way out of the room, but she had no resources left - they had all been drained away by the storm. Even her oars were lost. She curled up in a corner of the room and began sucking on one of the crayons, gnawing lightly at its outer paper shell. Then even the room around her disappeared slowly and she was left with nothing, existing only in void, the crayon still clenched in her fist. It was black, the color of death... or change. She experimentally slid it inside herself, trying to conceive through a purely creative act, but something told her that nothing could come from her until the void was filled. She withdrew the crayon, and began scribbling frantically around herself, trying to fill infinite void with bits of wax scrapings, but succeeded only in filling one smooth space in front of her with black. She looked into the space, and it reflected her image back at herself: she was the void.
Slowly feeling returned, her numb hands clenched on a crayon, her head against the hard edge of the keyboard, the warmth of Kali's hands bringing her back to herself. She smiled up at her paramour, rising.
"Hey, lovebutton," she greeted Kali teasingly. Kali's answering smile lit up the room with relief.