Chapter 6 – Well, nobody’s perfect.

Tina,

I’ve never told anyone this, but when I was younger, I wanted to be an artist. It was my dream. My mother was a fantastic painter, especially with watercolor, and I aspired to be just like her. She would fill the house with the melancholy sounds of Chopin and sit down at her easel to masterfully depict the simple beauty of the ordinary and mundane. When I was old enough, it became our routine together. We’d sit side-by-side and I’d strive to replicate her delicate and precise strokes.

She only ever encouraged me, telling me to just let go of the technicality of it and feel it out, but I just never could lose the will to control. As I grew older, it became obvious that I lacked the talent to achieve this goal. I got angry during one of our sessions, and she told me I was being too critical of myself. Something in me knew she was right, and I realized that this could be my talent. I could be the critical observer, and I could excel at it. I never painted with her again and she died shortly thereafter.

Of course I missed her; I missed our time together, creating for the sheer joy of it, but mostly I missed what little release painting afforded me. By the time I got to college, I had become so overwhelmed with pent-up emotions that I tried to find another way to release them. So, I started to journal. It was perfect. Words never affected me the way art did. I didn’t need anything about it to be precise or skillful. I could spill my heart and mind onto the paper and release my thoughts where there was no one to criticize, not even me. I didn’t do it often, but it helped for a while. Unfortunately, I stopped shortly after I opened the gallery. As you know first-hand, my time was extremely limited, but more than that, my emotions started to take a backseat, until I really didn’t feel much of anything anymore. When you left, I started again.

In this box you will find the paintings my mother and I did together, as well as three journals. They are my most intimately guarded possessions, my past. I want you to have them, read them. I want you to know my deepest desires, fears, and thoughts. I want you to see my successes as well as my failures. I want you to see into the very soul of me, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. I want this because I choose not to hold anything back from you. I choose to make myself vulnerable to you. I want to give you my past because it has helped to shape my future, and I cannot imagine a future that does not in some way revolve around you.

I have left you alone with these things so that you can react honestly. I don’t want to hover, and I know I will. This is very difficult for me, but I trust you implicitly; I love you implicitly. You know how to reach me when you’re done. Take as much time as you need to process what you find here. I don’t expect anything from you. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. Just like last night, I want to destroy any barriers between us, not just in lovemaking, but in every aspect of our relationship. I told you before that I’m so sorry that you only got the worst of me. This is a small step toward giving you my best, one of many more to come. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

All My Love,

Bette


 

August 1996

It seems ridiculous to me to sit and do this. It’s honestly just a waste of time, but maybe if I can put some of this out into the unknowing world, I’ll stop being so confused. There’s really nothing to be confused about, but somehow I manage to make it that way.

My life is critical observation, so if I’m going to do this, I think I need to look in a mirror and observe critically. Really the only words that come to mind are…I’m gay. I’m a lesbian, and it’s all because of an infantile school girl crush on my Art History professor, Danica Palmer. The confusion comes from my inability to decide if I should hate her for it, thank her for it, or throw her down on her desk and take her for it.

I’m in the top two percent of my class and I have no idea how, because in my mind, for at least two lecture hours a day, I’ve done exactly that, in every variation possible. I’m not in love with her, but my body is screaming at me when I see her.

I’ve decided to accept that I’m gay, and it actually feels liberating to say it. I’m a lesbian. I’m…a lesbian. What does it really change? The only difference is I might actually start to enjoy sex.

I’m twenty one years old and I have been fantasizing about Danica while I’m fucking my boyfriend. You’d think that would have been a decent indication. But no, it took Coleman’s own struggle to do that.

We were looking at a Maplethorp photo earlier. It was beautiful. You could almost forget that it was a man’s body, but not Coleman. He actually got aroused. That still didn’t clue me in. I didn’t think anything of it until we started having sex and I noticed he was still looking towards the photo book, and I pointed it out to him.

He pulled away to sulk and I took pity on him. After all, I do it to, with Professor Danica Palmer. So yes, I’m a lesbian. I’m a lesbian. I’m…a lesbian. And I look forward to testing the theory.

 


 

December 1997

It helped once before so here I am again. It’s been a while, but I’m struggling. I’ve successfully tested the theory that I’m a lesbian and I’ve been out for over a year now. I’ve never been shy and women are drawn to me. I don’t know why, but it seems that the more disinterested I am, the more they want me. But now I’m in new territory. I think I’m in love.

Kelly Freemont, she’s my best friend and dorm mate. She’s beautiful, talented, smart, funny, and straight. She knows I’m not, and I haven’t been very secretive in my desire to be more than friends. Honestly though, she toys with me. She leads me on and I allow it. I’m a masochist, I think. Why else would I allow it? I never let anyone control the situation if I’m involved, but with Kelly, well, it hurts. I’d never admit that to anyone else, but it does. So much so that I’m withdrawing further and further and my emotions are becoming less and less important.

It hurts to know that she doesn’t want me only because I’m a female. And it hurts that she blatantly uses that against me. But I’m still me, and I’m anything if not determined. I’ll find a way. We have two weeks off for Christmas, but when she gets back, she’ll see a whole new Bette Porter. 

 


 

March 1998

Nothing works. I’ve ignored her and successfully pursued utterly disposable women, but she doesn’t care. Why would she? I’m a girl and she’s just not interested. At least that’s what she says. Never mind the fact that I could love her and treat her right. Or that I know how to make her laugh. I know she’s attracted to me, I can tell. I see it enough, with both men and women. But she’s still with Deke, and it’s no secret why. He’s loaded. Is that what it takes? Can you buy love? Is this what all the great artists and poets go on and on about; unrequited and depressingly hopeless pursuits that get you nowhere but destroyed? If so, I won’t waste my life with it. I need to find a way to turn the emotions off. I don’t want to feel anymore. It’s pointless.


April 1998

I tried to kiss her tonight and she not only turned me down, she laughed in my face. We have one month left, but I don’t care about anything or anyone. This is all such a joke. Mom’s gone, Daddy refuses to acknowledge me for who I really am, and Kit’s never sober enough to really talk to. Will the people I care about always leave me one way or another? I’m never letting anyone else in. No one is worth it.


May 1998

If this is what my life will be because I’m different, then no, I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want anything anymore. Maybe it’s time to just end it. I think I’m ready to…

 


 

February 2005

It’s been so long since I’ve done this but tonight I am so filled with wonder that I have to say something to someone. It might as well be an ever faithful listener. For years I’ve lived a successful life. I have money, I have respect, I have an endless supply of willing women to meet my carnal needs, and I have my gallery. How could it possibly get any better?

Love is a pathetic and hopeless notion, and for years I have successfully convinced myself that this is true, that it’s not important. So how is that one small, beautiful, warm, elegant, and enchanting woman can swoop in, and within a week, I’m questioning all the truths I have lived by with complete and satisfactory conviction?

Well I am. I am questioning everything, and I’m at the precipice of opening myself to someone. I won’t make the same mistakes as before, there will be boundaries, but I am crazy enough to try. Or maybe I’m just plain crazy, crazy, hopelessly, and inexplicably drawn to Tina Kennard.

I kissed her this afternoon. But more importantly, she kissed me back. Straight girls, they should really look into the definition because it seems none of them truly are. Most of my liaisons have been straight women who want to be lesbians. But I have to admit, to no one else but you and myself, that I’m terrified.

Tina’s different, gloriously so. Something in me is drawn to her and I’m afraid that I will make the same mistakes. I don’t want to give into the pull of her, but it’s like a crushing tidal wave. The only way to survive it is to swim into it and I don’t know if I can do it. I may drown this time. I’ve never felt something this strong. For the first time in my life, I have hope.

I’m smiling. I do it often in my line of work, but this, this is genuine, and it’s entirely her fault. I’m going to see what comes of it. I don’t have the strength to walk away. But I will fortify my walls. If she is the one, if that’s even a real notion, maybe someday she’ll scale them.


 

May 2011

She’s gone. She told me she knew. She figured it out, somehow. And she just…left. She’s gone. She’s really gone. Everyone leaves. I knew this, so I didn’t rely on her. I pushed her away. I didn’t even see her. And now she’s gone. She’s really gone. Tina’s gone… I can’t believe it. I just can’t. I won’t…


 

August 2011

I should be quarantined. Everyone hates me, but they don’t realize that I understand, that I agree. I’m a monster. I destroy everything. I can’t, I won’t allow them to be near me. I have to protect them. I can’t escape myself, but they can, and they should, and they will. No Shane, I don’t want company. No Alice, I don’t want to come to the Planet. No Kit, I don’t want you here. They see that I’m a disease that eats away anything good until there’s nothing left. They saw what I did, what I’m capable of. They just need to realize it. I don’t expect them to try to help me. I’m beyond reproach. They do this out of obligation, but they just don’t have to. They need to stay away, run away as fast as they can and never look back. Just leave me alone and be happy. Forget I exist, just like Tina did. I know I wish I could…

 


 

September 2011

What the fuck was I thinking? How could I do that? I fucked that stupid cunt and it did nothing, nothing but ruin everything. God, it wasn’t even good! It was cold, empty, and worthless…just like my life! And Tina, she just leaves. She doesn’t say a fucking word. How could she leave like that?! How?! How could she do that, share with me like that, after everything, EVERYTHING, how could she have me touch her and then just leave in the middle of the night?! Not one fucking word; not even a goodbye! After seven years, not even a goodbye…


 

October 2011

Daddy’s here. It’s strange that the house doesn’t seem so empty. Is it wrong to enjoy the fact that he needs me? Is it wrong to be happy he’s here and can’t just walk away? It should be, when the only reason it’s true is that he’s dying. He’s in the corner of the living room, in a bed, with hose and wires stuck on him and in him. He’s delirious. He keeps asking for Tina. He’s never called her anything but Ms. Kennard. For a moment, it thrilled me. Is that wrong? Can it be okay to feel that way? It was short-lived though.

No matter how long I am a lesbian, no matter how demented the cancer eating away at his body makes him, he never recognized her as anything but a passing acquaintance. He pointed to a picture of mom and called her Tina and I realized what was actually happening. This whole time was calling out to mom, Maxine, and his words and cries echoed my own desires.

I want Tina. I need Tina. I’d give anything, anything at all to just see her. To be held by her. God, if you’re there, please, I’ll give anything. Please send her home and please, please don’t take Daddy. Please…God…please…I’ll do anything…


 

January 2011

I don’t know why I do this anymore, but something in me is compelled to stay alive. Call it survival instinct, or maybe even a touch of narcissism, but my mind won’t let me fade away. I fucked up. I fucked up on so many levels that I can’t even look in a mirror. All I can do is lie here, lost and lonely and scared, and pour my heart out to any star in the sky overhead that will listen.

I tell them how I let you in, for seven years, and then I destroyed you. I tell them you were everything I could ever want in life but I kept you at arms-length because I was too scared. Somewhere up there they hear me, but they never say anything back. They know all too well what I mean. Just like us, they burn brightly beautiful only to explode and fade away.

Tina…I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. If I could go back and fix this from the very start I would. I should have just seen you. If I could have only just…seen you… God, T, I miss you. I’m so sorry…I’m so, so sorry…

 


 

April 2011

I saw Tina today, for the first time in a year. Instead of being just hard, it was life altering. I destroyed her and what’s worse is that I was too wrapped up in myself yet again, to even know. This whole time I should have been making sure she was okay and taken care of; instead I sunk into work, sex, and money to fill her void. What I did to her…I don’t even have words.

She’s still so beautiful, the most visually affecting woman I’ll ever know, and I do. I know it down to my bones. But her light, the warmth that she so easily radiates is snuffed out and what’s left is cold. I did this to her. Is there no end to my shame in this life? And even worse than that, seeing it helped me. I destroyed her and it helped me! I came back here and I let it out, I let it go, and it’s only possible because I devastated an innocent woman, the love of my life no less. Love is a cruel joke. I know that for sure now. How else can you explain it, what I did in comparison to how I felt? Or is it just me? Is my love the cruel joke?

I have to do something and I’m going to start small, but Shane is helping me. A new Bette Porter is born today. I will pour everything I am into those I love. I will focus on them, on making their world better, at any and all expense to myself; I will not focus on me any longer. T, I’ll help you, it’s the least I owe you, but mostly I want to. If I can find my way out of this empty room, so can you. I’ll find you. I’ll come for you. I won’t leave you here. I promise. For the first time, you can count on me.


Continued in Chapter 7 – Ah Houston, we have a problem.

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