Read The Same Woman Online

Authors: Thea Lim

Tags: #Feminism, #FIC048000

The Same Woman

BOOK: The Same Woman
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Advance praise for
The Same Woman

“Thea Lim absolutely nails it.
The Same Woman
is for every woman who's stayed up way too late seething and wanting to poke someone's eyes out, laying bare female jealousy and turning it inside out... and it's also a book fi lled with razor-precise beauty.”

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha,
author of
Consensual Genocide

The Same Woman
The Same Woman

Thea Lim

Text copyright © Thea Lim, 2007

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any method, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Lim, Thea, 1981-
         The same woman / Thea Lim.

ISBN 978-1-9267430-0-4

        I. Title.
PS8607.O49H64 2007      C813'.6      C2007-901137-3

Photograph by Kenn Kiser
Cover Design & Typesetting by Megan Fildes

Printed and bound in Canada
Invisible Publishing
Halifax & Montréal
www.invisiblepublishing.com

To all the women who love me — and let me love them.

Acknowledgements

I may have fooled you into thinking that Thea Lim is the only person who wrote this book, but actually over half of it was written by other people. In fact, the cover of this book should really say: By Thea Lim and...

Robbie MacGregor, who had immense (maybe sometimes inadvisable) faith in something he had never read — and also very strong feelings about punctuation.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, who is not only a smashing editor and a chronological wizard, but also taught me that I ain't got nothing to prove.

Megan Fildes, whose amazing design skills knocked my socks off!

Kristin Wheatcroft, who really wrote most of this book. The most patient reader ever, her imagination is an excellent source of the kinds of gory accidents that can befall characters.

Sabera Esufali, who eats typos for breakfast.

Fei Liang, Nancy Duncan, Jessica Harris and May El-Abdallah who so nicely found the time to read my manuscript, and gave me my first really rave reviews.

Ching-In Chen also found the time to read the manuscript, and gave such kind and thorough feedback, as well as multiple distractions.

Natasha Jaczek, who talked me through the Final Stuff.

Chris Neale, who I could always count on for good conversation when I'd had enough of writing.

Grace Quek, Meghan McClenaghan, Tiina Johns, Alison Northcott, Kyle MacMillan, Jenn Orpana, Sandra Croft, Carol Krause, Al Kelly, Kurt Wong — and especially MLE Longworth, with all my heart — who give me endless inspiration for how to write about real friendship.

My family: Maureen O'Hara and Vincent Lim, who have read everything I've ever written, and taught me to value love (and maybe grammar) above all else, and Elisha Lim, who gave me my first lessons on how there is enough love to go around for everybody.

And Tony Neale, who let me have the desk with the nicest view, the most comfortable chair, and the best love.

One

It had been her idea.

Afterward, when she thought of this — when she thought of her-self sitting at the bar on a carved-up bench in her new fall jacket, just hours before she left to go to school in another county, marinating in the smell of old beer, the words dripping from her mouth, cloying and insincere — she would put her first in her mouth and bite down hard enough to almost break the skin.

“Do you think that we should see other people while I'm away?”

In retrospect even her syntax disgusted her. She had not said confidently, “Let's see other people!” Instead she painted her words in passive tones, “do you....” The wild, reckless and sexually liberated fantasy woman and the submissive, sweet and boundlessly generous fantasy girl were rolled into a single question. But whose fantasies were these?

Later, she began to want those words back with an intensity that made her ill. She wanted her future self to leap through the window with a gag, like in a tacky science fiction comedy, and tie up her own
mouth seconds before that gruesome phrase unleashed itself on the air in front of her tongue, on Tariq, on history.

“Oh,” he had said, which was not the response she'd expected. He had stuck his finger in the hardening pool of wax that was dripping from the candle onto the table. A little circle in the shape of his finger had solidified. “You want to see other people?”

The entire delivery of Ruby's question had been a performance. She had been convinced by a lifetime of blurry but stinging messages about what women want, and what men want, that this was a necessary thing to do.

What did she want? The question had caught her off guard. She had thought about asking Tariq if he wanted to date other people for a long time. She had forgot to ask herself.

“Yes,” she had said, as things took a sickly turn and she realised she meant no. “Do you?”

“Hm,” Tariq had said, studying the wax cap on his finger carefully. She had known him for two years but that was not long enough to be able to translate his silences. “Not really.”

“Why not?”

“I don't know. I like you.”

“But I'll be away. What if you're lonely?”

“I'll be lonely for you. Not for any warm body.” He had looked at her, his waxy fingers to his lips, puzzled.

“If you want to, you can.”

He'd smiled and moved closer.

“Okay, but I won't want to.”

“Okay,” she'd said, but now a whirlpool of worry had opened up in her.

They'd turned mostly silent for the rest of their last night together, though the bar around them continued to blare insensitively, oblivious to the fact that it had just witnessed the beginnings of a small tragedy. Later, they navigated all the corners of each others' bodies. They knew this terrain by heart. But their graceful physical familiarity could not change the awkwardness that hung between them now. It was as if they didn't know each other at all.

Two

Four days after their reunion, Tariq and Ruby sat rib-to-rib and thighto-thigh in the cramped backseat of a stranger's car.

“You see the way the sun sits on the roof ?” Tariq said, as he tugged at the stubborn blue foil of a granola bar. They were parked at a highway rest-stop and the sun had reached that particular height in the sky where it rests just on top of the buildings, like a pyrotechnic hat.

“No,” Ruby couldn't see anything in the blindingness of the afternoon sun.

“You can't see anything because of the way the sun is sitting on the roof. The roof splits the sun into a million pieces, like an earthworm. When you cut the sun in two or three or a thousand, it multiplies. You can't see anything because, right now, there are a million suns.” Ruby put her arm around Tariq and cupped his shoulder with one hand. His sunburnt skin was hot against her hand, as if the rays had embedded themselves in his skin as they turned it bright red.

“You're weird,” she said.

He realised that he had become so comfortable with her that he could forget she was with him, even when she was pressed so tightly against him that their pores were intertwined. He was as aware of her as he was aware of his elbow. This meant that he told her boring stories about neighbours' dogs, and the logistics of posting a letter, and theories about nature that he had made up as a child and never told anyone.

It seemed as if entire populations were converging at this rest-stop. It sat at a hazy mid-point between two cities, and for the first real long weekend of the summer, all the inhabitants of each city had driven to the other city for a vacation. Now on their way back home, hundreds of people collided on this neutral patch, and fought over toilet stalls and stale, deep-fried pieces of dough dipped in fake chocolate.

The sweat that had pasted Ruby's t-shirt to her back was now pasting the car to her t-shirt. She was wearing jeans even though it was the hottest day of the year so far. She had recently convinced herself to stop shaving her legs, but had not yet convinced herself to expose her hairy legs to the world. She leaned over Tariq to open the door. Metal bits inside the door grated against each other and she opened it as far as it could go without hitting the car parked next to them — which was about five centimeters. In the navy-painted steel of the car next door they could see their blobby refl ections, the red of his t-shirt and the brown of his arms, her dark short curly hair haloing her head at outlandish angles.

“Ugh,” she said, and tried to flatten her curls.

“Don't,” he said, moving her hands away and fluffing her hair up. “Pretty.”

There was one bite of the rock-hard snack left. He gave it to her. She bit it in half and gave it back to him. And then she traced with a dirty finger on his knee: “I” “♥” “U” “4 EVER.”

“Bottomless Ruby.”

“What?” She lifted her t-shirt and checked the waist of her jeans to make sure her bottom was still there.

“Like bottomless coffee: free refills. You never run out.”

“Blegh. Sap.” She kissed the squishy pouch of skin on his face just below his cheekbone. And then she pressed her thumb down on his cheek, feeling softness give way to bone.

“It's nice, isn't it?” He said. “It's called a cheek. Most homo sapiens have them.”

“Who're you calling a homo?” She said. Her fingers gently hooked where his delicate chin bone ended and his skull left his flesh to its own designs. He had such lovely bones.

“Are you going to manhandle me like this all the way back to the city? What will our friendly driver think?”

“It's still just a bit of a, well, surprise.”

“I told you, most homo sapiens —”

“No, I just mean,” she felt herself start to redden and she didn't know why, “it's a surprise to touch your face again.” He swallowed and she could hear the nervous saliva moving in his throat.

“It's okay,” she said, brushing back his hair, which was curly as well but in the most calm and lustrous way. “You don't have to get weepy about it. I just mean that, in my experience, usually, a boy runs offwith another girl, leaves his original girl high and dry,” she tried to joke about it, “and doesn't come back to his original girl.” She squeezed his hand, those familiar finger shapes. “I didn't expect such a Hollywood ending.”

He pulled her across the few millimetres that remained between their bodies. He was suddenly so serious and she wished just a little that she had not brought it up.

“Oh Lordy,” he said. He used his comic vocabulary even when he was upset, afraid to close the distance that humour opened. “I don't have words to tell you how I'm sorry, and how much of a chump I am,that after all that... happened, you're the one who is comforting me.”

“Mmm-hmmm,” she said. And then she sat up straight. “Here comes our man.”

They watched their driver come out of the double doors of the rest-stop restaurant, shimmying between four university students in matching shorts and sandals.

He walked as if he was running — taking quick steps and moving his arms from side to side — but didn't move any faster than if he was strolling. He stuck his hand through the car window to open it from the inside and beamed at them. “Comfy?” he asked the two strangers in the back seat, pinned against the window by his bedding and his ukulele case.

“Don't worry about us, we're just happy to get a ride,” Ruby said.

“Then we're off!” he said, and the engine squealed ominously as they swung out onto the highway. Their driver wore a hemp necklace with shells in it, organic cotton shorts, and drove barefoot. Unlike most of the people who had given them rides, he fit neatly into the stereotype of a person who still picked up hitchhikers, even in the age of serial rapists and terrorists. Over the noise of the wind rushing in through a broken back seat window he yelled, “SORRY YOU HAVE TO SQUISH IN THE BACK! I JUST COULDN'T LEAVE WITHOUT MY GIRLS!” He thumped the two or three disintegrating cardboard boxes stacked on the seat beside him. Books were trying to force their way out of the soggy containers, using their blunt corners to rip wide holes.

BOOK: The Same Woman
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Tita by Marie Houzelle
Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey
The Pearl Heartstone by Leila Brown
Remembering Satan by Lawrence Wright
Taking Faith by Shelby Fallon
Escape for the Summer by Ruth Saberton
SEALs of Honor: Hawk by Dale Mayer
Relentless by Douglas, Cheryl
Wolves’ Bane by Angela Addams