Spending Pink Dollars

In the time between 4th of July 1983 and New Year’s Eve 1984, there was a string of events that were not played out by actual scenes, but were decided by the players. Katherine decided to not only print one article in the Times, but to go out with a bang: she paid off some of the staff at NYT to help her publish an entire Sunday edition dedicated to educating people about the ongoing AIDS crisis. The front page headline splashed, “NYT Editor Katherine Stockton Comes Out As Lesbian”. Sinclair Everett also came out publicly, and the infamous interview with him was included in this issue. (He consequently was divorced by his wife Mary, who was awarded custody of their two young children.) There were obituaries and memorials for Simon, Leon, Trevor, Kimberly, and Abner – though oddly, Katherine never was able to find a copy of Abner’s poem that she’d promised to publish. Before Kimberly died, she headed out to San Francisco along with Eli and Dawn for a project photographing people in poverty and those who were sick and dying from AIDS. Sadly, she died before the project was finished – she got sick while on the road and passed away shortly after flying back to New York. Katherine included many of those pictures in the paper as well, along with a long memorial dedicated to her friendship with Kimberly. Included in the memorial was a picture of Katherine holding Cassandra Kimberly, Charlotte’s infant daughter, whose middle name was in honor of her late “Auntie.” Katherine was of course fired from her post at the Times, but she had been expecting it and was prepared. She freelanced a few articles for Out magazine with Nick’s help, as well for an LGBT magazine called The Advocate. When she wasn’t freelancing, she was writing grant proposals for the new Saratoga Center, and was spending most weekends on-site helping out with whatever needed doing. She had far less less money, but far more passion for her work, and she felt more alive than she had in years.

Close Call

NOTE: This post contains spoilers related to the Lottery of Death.

As a player, I’m not entirely sure where in the timeline the Lottery of Death happens. I think that’s probably unclear on purpose; since it’s not the way things “really” happen (well, as far as we living people know, anyway).

People are in good spirits until the bell rings, signaling that the Lottery is about to begin. The room goes silent as ominous music fills the room. I sit close to Santiago, my left arm linked through her right. Nate already has a tear sliding down his face. I smile at him, slightly bemused. “Already?”

Santiago gives me a Look. “Well, yeah. This is scary,” she says. I immediately wipe the smile off my face and nod somberly. She’s right.

One of the two Agents of Death passes out small pieces of paper to write our names on: one for the least risky behavior over the past year, up to five for very risky. Everyone must throw their name in at least once. The second Agent collects the names in a hat from which they will pull the names of the unfortunate. I am unsure whether to put my name in two times or three, but in the end decide to go with my original instinct and put in three. Death announces that they need ten names. Ten? I think, looking around. steps There were roughly forty people. That’s a lot.

Death asks Pepper to pull the names. Pepper steps out of the kitchen and comes to stand at the front of the room. He reaches into the hat and begins reading off the names, not pausing for more than a second or two between each. “Sam. Tomasz. Max.” As each name is called, that person stands up and goes to the front of the room to wait.

“Simon. Leon. Ruben. Trevor.” The room is silent save for the music and Pepper’s solemn voice.

“Joani.” Gasps all around the room, and one high-pitched voice lets out a horrified wail of, “What!?” I am slightly shaken, myself. I knew Joani. Not well, but I knew her. She was a bit of a quack, but she was kind and she had a good heart.

“Dawn.” I hear a choked sob, and look over to see Charlotte’s shoulders shaking. I am sad for her, but feel surprisingly calm: lots of people were more risky than me and my friends. I become more and more relieved as names are called and none are people I am close with.

“…and Katherine.”

Santiago and I look at each other in shock. I hesitate, then realize they are waiting for me. I stand up to join the crowd of names that had been pulled, my eyes wide. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. Santiago lets out a primal scream of grief that sounds almost inhuman. I jump, and look over numbly. Her face is buried in her arms.

“Please follow us outside. The rest of you, wait here.”

I fall into line in a daze as we follow of the Agents of Death dressed in black. As we march outside single file, I am filled with regret. “I made stupid choices,” I thought. “I should not have been so careless.” One anguished thought rises above the others: “I’m not ready to die!”

They lead us outside to a field behind the cabins. “Wait here. Do not speak.” We are left with the Angel of Death. I am standing amongst nine other people, and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. Tears stream down my face. We wait for what feels like forever before we are told to advance down the field. I can hear the distant strains of the same sad music from inside wafting down the field.

I see coffins in the distance. Only five? I squint in confusion. We are stopped about ten feet from the coffins. “Those of you who see your names in the coffins, lay down in them. If you are covered with a shroud, then you have passed on. The others who see your names in a coffin have contracted the virus, but you may not know it yet. The rest of you have had a near-death experience sometime later this year, but you survive.” My stomach drops as I advance, skimming the names in search of my own.

It isn’t there.

It takes a moment for the news to sink in. I’m not dead? I back away from the coffins and see the rest of the crowd starting to approach. Santiago rushes at me and envelops me in a bear hug. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I find Charlotte and Kimberly and hug them, too. I look around at the crowd, which is a mixture of people embracing and sobbing. There are two bodies still in the coffins. I don’t remember who.

The music slowly dies down, and the Angel of Death faces us solemnly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon.” The former disco star. I hear more gasping sobs from the people around me. The Angel of Death looks around sadly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Simon.” The rock star? He was part of Urban Renaissance.

As the opening notes of Just A Little Lovin’ trickle from the speakers, there are no words. The vastly different cliques mingle, embracing both friends and strangers, united in their grief.

Empty Bed, Empty Heart

We are still enjoying the afterglow, lying wrapped in each other’s arms, when Abner walks in. He freezes mid-stride when he sees us. I grin widely and make a peace sign with my fingers, “‘Sup, Abner?” while Santiago bursts into laughter at the shocked look on his face.

He stammers, “I’m sorry… I can come back later, when you’ve finished… commencing.” He turns and is halfway to the door in the amount of time it takes me to open my mouth to speak.

“No, it’s okay,” I assure him, “we’re done.”

“But you’re lesbians. Can’t you… commence… several times?”

“Who says we haven’t?” Santiago challenges him, and then it’s my turn to dissolve into laughter. Abner sits on his cot, seemingly unsure what else to do.

“So, uhhh. You two, huh?” he says awkwardly.

“Yup!” I smile brightly. “So, what’s going on out there?”

We make small talk for a few minutes, Santiago and I snuggled up against each other under a blanket.

Just then, Kimberly bursts in. “What are you guys doing?! Charlotte is crying.”

What?” I exclaim. Both Santiago and I sit up and make a mad scramble for our clothing.

“What happened?” I demand, fastening my bra.

“She ran off,” Kimberly says evasively.

I sigh, slipping my feet into my shoes. Before we leave the cabin, Santiago grabs me and kisses me again. I relax against her, the entire world melting away.

“You guys! Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out!” We break apart guiltily and rush from the cabin to look for Charlotte.

We split up to look. First I check the main lodge, which is almost completely empty. I walk around just to make sure she isn’t hiding in a corner somewhere. Next, I check the bathrooms. “Kimberly?” I call out. It’s silent. No one there, either.

When I peek into the Darkroom I find Kimberly topless–well, “topless” at least in terms of clothing. She’s laying on the floor with Sam straddling her, pinching one nipple while slapping the other breast. I pause in shock. Her words from just a little while ago echo in my head: Your friend is crying! This is no time for making out! Well, this explains why Charlotte is upset. Kimberly catches my eye and grins at me. I shake my head in exasperation and turn around, walking silently back outside to continue my search for Charlotte.

I’m about to head toward the Pillow Room when I spot her across the path, walking with Dawn and… Max, I think his name was? Santiago spies her from across the field as well, and we arrive at the same time.

“Charlotte!” I call out.

She stops and looks at me. “Hey,” she says glumly.

“Are you okay?” I ask. “I heard you were… upset.” I choose my words carefully, glancing at Dawn and Max.

“I’m fine,” she says calmly. A bit too calmly.

“Are you sure?” I press.

“Yes. These two lovely people were about to show me a good time.”

I am taken aback: casual sex is not usually Charlotte’s style. And what the fuck  happened with Kimberly? I exchange a Look with Santiago. “Oh. Umm… okay. You’re sure you’re okay?” She nods. “Okay, well… have a good time, then.” I watch her skeptically as she disappears into her cabin the with two strangers.

I sigh softly. “I hope she’s okay.”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Santiago says. “She’s probably just blowing off some steam. Lord knows, she could use it.”

“Yeah. Well… I’m going to bed. Are you coming?”

“I’m going to stay up a little while longer,” Santiago says. Oh. My face falls. I know what that means.

“Okay… have fun,” I say, trying to sound cheerful.

“Thanks. See you later,” she says, heading back across the lawn.

I head back to the cabin, feeling strangely empty. The last thing I see before I fall asleep is Santiago’s empty bed.

Your Pen Doesn’t Work

I always enjoy the drag show. Nate is as sassy as ever, the kind of Queen you can’t help but love… or love to hate, for some! A few of the Club Diamond regulars perform (Lady Verona, Reginald), as well as a few new guest stars. When Santiago’s girlfriend Pen takes the stage, I can feel her tense up beside me.

Earlier in the day, Santiago had told Charlotte, Kimberly and I that Pen was planning something. “I don’t know what,” she says, “but something ‘to show the world that you belong to me’ or something. I don’t know– whatever. I’m sure it will be fine,” she says, waving her bejeweled wrist dismissively. But I know better – Santiago hates feeling anything less than independent and especially hates feeling “caged.”

Knowing this, I almost expect her to bolt as soon as Pen takes the mic. “Touch me,” she croons. “How can it be?” She glides effortlessly up and down the stage, as though she was born to be in the spotlight. “Hold me close to your heart…” Pen reaches into the audience, past the first row to the second where Santiago and I are perched. “Touch me…” She grabs Santiago’s hand, smiling. “And give all your love to me…” Santiago’s eyes are wide with shock as she gapes at Pen, transfixed. Pen drops her hand and finishes the song to much applause. Afterwards, she returns to her seat without so much as a glance in our direction.

I turn to face Santiago. She looks… uncomfortable? Certainly not happy. I lean over and whisper, “You okay?”

She nods unconvincingly. “Just…  feeling overwhelmed.” I don’t quite believe her, but I don’t push. Knowing Santiago, she’ll tell me when she’s good and ready, so I let it go.

After the drag show, Urban Renaissance takes the stage. “Move those fuckin’ chairs, and let’s dance!” they cry out. I sway with the music, enjoying the buzz from my beer. After a few moments, I can feel someone’s eyes on me. I turn and make eye contact with a butch-looking woman. I generally tend to go for femmes, but something about her intrigues me. I dance closer, closing the distance slightly. She does the same. We dance together for a few moments, wordless.

I step off the dance floor and grab my beer, studying her. We make eye contact again, and she comes over.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Dawn.”

“Katherine.” She offers no further information, and I don’t ask. Her arms encircle my waist. After a few moments of dancing close, she gestures over her shoulder with her chin. “Wanna get out of here?”

I smile devilishly and open my mouth to answer when I hear a shriek, and a hysterical voice yelling. Santiago. The music stops as I whirl around.

“…WITH YOUR FINGERS IN MY CUNT! YOU DON’T FUCKING OWN ME! FUCK!!” Santiago runs from the club in tears, leaving Pen standing by herself near the stage. Without a second thought, I leave Dawn alone on the dance floor and race outside after her.

“Santiago! Santiago, WAIT!” I catch up with her. “What the fuck just happened??”

Her voice cracks as she spits, “She fingered me on the dance floor. But it wasn’t for me. She just wanted to show people that she owns me, to show off how fucking perfect her life is. But no one fucking owns me. NO ONE!

Her shoulders are still quaking. For a moment I am lost. The strongest woman I know looks back at me, her face streaked with tears. It pains me to see. I wrap an arm around her and escort her back to the cabin we share with several others. Thankfully, it’s empty. We lay on a mattress on the floor and I hold her until her tears subside, stroking her hair and whispering that everything was going to be okay.

Suddenly, her lips are on mine. After a moment, she pulls back slightly. “Katherine, what are we… I mean…” I hesitate, then tangle my fingers in her hair and pull her face back to mine. She moans into my mouth. There is a small voice in the back of my brain warning me that we’d both promised not to do this again, that we are better off as friends, that this is going to be a disaster… but I ignore it: this feels so right. She kisses across my cheek to my ear, nibbling at my earlobe. I dig my nails into her back when she gently bites the top shell of my ear and breathes hot air against it. Her lips travel down my neck to my breasts, pausing there. I pull her shirt up and rake my nails down her back, which arches at the sensation.

I raise my hips to allow her to pull my skirt down and off, along with my panties. “Wait,” I pant. Sitting up, I pull my shirt off and unclasp my bra. Leaning forward, I pull her shirt up over her head. I caress her cheek, tracing her jawline. “You’re so beautiful,” I whisper, pulling her lips to mine again. She twines her fingers through my curls. When she pulls away, she pushes me back down gently and her lips continue their downward descent.

She is gentle – more gentle than she’s ever been with me. Our lovemaking feels both frantic and tender. She knows exactly how to touch me: my body is her canvas, her touch the paint brush. I shudder beneath her, calling out her name – not the name everyone calls her, but her real name, the one she tells almost no one. When I’ve caught my breath, she is staring at me in wonderment. My mind flashes briefly back to the tantra workshop from earlier in the night. How does it feel to really be seen?

I pull her down next to me, kissing her passionately. Then I raise myself up to kneel over her. I lick and suckle at her breasts, rolling her nipples in my fingers before lowering my mouth to her center. I am gentle also – almost too gentle, as she pushes a hand on my head and thrusts her hips up at the same time. I chuckle against her and lick her with greater fervor. I feel her convulse beneath me, and I continue. She convulses again… and again… and again…