Calibrate, Guest Post by Jen Cross

This is how it was between them: leaded with need, full throttle, every night.

It didn’t matter who they were outside of the apartment. It didn’t matter how the world saw them. It didn’t matter: the misconstruals, the misreadings, the misunderstandings, the harassment, the rage. It didn’t matter that it often seemed as though no one could see them but one another.

They saw one another, and that was what really mattered.

Daphne placed the call, every afternoon at three, right when her boss stepped out for his afternoon constitutional – which actually amounted to making a rounds of the department and harassing the rest of the secretaries for awhile, giving Daphne a break.

At ten to three, Gage knew to step away from whatever machine she’d been underneath, wipe as much grease from her hands as she could, and stand nearish the phone. Every one of her coworkers at the shop knew what she was waiting for, and they didn’t quite understand why she pretended not to be waiting for her girlfriend’s call. The guys raised eyebrows at one another, but no one talked any shit. Gage had been at the shop longer than anyone, was the first woman the boss had ever hired back almost twenty years before; she had slowly but surely trained the boys how to deal when she was around: “No sexist bullshit,” she’d explain to a new hire, clapping him or her on the shoulder while showing them around the place. “I don’t wanna hear about any gash or pussy or tail or ass you got last night, got it? None of the other guys do, either. You talk about your women with respect, or don’t talk about ’em at all, got it?”

It didn’t matter to Gage that plenty of the guys wanted to hear about the pussy and the gash. She was all right with them resenting her for that. Fuck them. If she had to walk through the walls of hostility just to get to work every day, they could fucking well hold their tongues to avoid the shop getting sued for creating a hostile work environment.

Exactly at three, the oil-stained phone rang. Gage wiped damp palms on her coveralls and picked up the line.

“Stoney’s Auto.”

“Gage?” Daphne’s voice sounded like warm honey that’d been poured over shards of broken glass in the back alley behind some biker bar.

“Yeah.”

“You there?”

“Always, baby.”

“You got something for me when we get home?”

It never failed. Gage had to swallow hard just to be able to answer. All these years, and still she went immediately rigid at the sound of a woman—her woman—asking for what she wanted. Gage dropped her voice a shade, deepening it the way she knew Daphne liked, and trying to keep a little something private from the guys trying not to look like they’re listening in. “You want something when we get home?”

“Yeah.” A little whimper at the end.

“You gonna tell me about it.”

“Yeah.” A little sharper whimper.

“How’m I gonna calibrate?”

“Bring it all.”

Gage’s heart ached. She knew from this that Daphne had had a particularly hard day; maybe the boss had tried to feel her up again during the staff meeting, or maybe he’d offered up his only-very-thinly-veiled reminder that if she’d only go home with him, he would happily promote her up to management.

“I got it ready.”

“Ok.”

They hung up. One of the guys across the floor, Samuel, Gage’s oldest buddy at the shop, made eye contact with Gage as she hung up. Gage nodded a little slowly. Samuel gave a small smile and a shrug. Gage shrugged back. “Yeah,” she said. Then she went home, mind spinning with what was to come.

Daphne got home before Gage nearly every evening. Most nights she tore off her office drag—button-down shirt and pencil skirt, “nude” nylon stockings, low black pumps—off as soon as she walked into the bedroom she’d shared with Gage since their four-month anniversary. She’d let her long auburn hair down from its tight bun and wrap herself in one of the many peignoirs she’d collected over the years. Most nights she’d have a bath drawn and dinner started by the time Gage walked in the back door.

“Go clean up,” she’d say to her love, eyeing with hunger Gage’s thick shoulders and broad, filthy hands. “Dinner will be ready soon.” She’d let the satin robe fall, accidentally, from one smooth shoulder as Gage walked past her, which she’d trained Gage never to leave unsuckled, and so, most nights, she had to boil a pot of water to reheat the tub by the time Gage made it from the kitchen into to the bathroom. Most nights, Daphne was the one who’d sit down to their shared dinner oilstained.

It didn’t matter how anyone else saw them, what anyone else read into the roles each played. What mattered was how each of them ached, specifically, for what and who and how the other was.

On this night, Daphne did not take off her clothes. She did not start dinner. She didn’t even remove her red plaid trench coat. She didn’t get past the kitchen. She fell into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, the ones with the metal frame backs and the plastic covered seats that came with the ’50s-era linoleum kitchen set they’d found at an estate sale not long after moving in together. She didn’t cry, not again. Everything in her was numb.

Gage found Daphne this way when she arrived home a half-hour later. The evening sun had already given way to shadow, so Daphne was just a silhouette when Gage walked in their back door. There were no lights, none of the music Daphne always had going, no aromas of arroz con pollo or fried plantain or feijoada. Just the stinging scent of lemon cleanser and Daphne’s sorrow.

Gage didn’t speak. After kicking off her work boots, she knelt in front of Daphne. Gently, she removed Daphne’s coat, then let down her hair. She listened to Daphne’s body, the shallow intake of breath. She listened to what needed to happen first.

Gage took both of Daphne’s hands in her own then stood, pulling Daphne to standing with her. She slung a dirty arm around Daphne’s somehow still pristine white work shirt, and led her into the bedroom. Slowly, slowly, Gage began to unbutton Daphne’s shirt.

“No.” Daphne still had not met Gage’s eyes. “Leave them on.”

Gage hardened. It was going to be like this, then. She took a box from next to the bed, and as she went into the bathroom, she said over her shoulder, “Take your nylons off. Leave them on the floor.”

When Gage returned to the bedroom, Daphne had done as she’d been asked. She was still sitting on the edge of the bed, far away. Gage collected her woman up in her arms, eased them both back onto the bed, then lifted herself up, reached down, and inched Daphne’s skirt up over those thick hips. She unbuttoned her fly, took out her cock, lubed it up and slipped into Daphne’s cunt.

It was then that Daphne started to cry. She fitted herself to Gage’s body—legs wrapped hard around thighs, arms clenched to Gage’s well-muscled back, fingernails digging in hard. She wept in big, fat sobs, burying her face in Gage’s chest as Gage buried herself in Daphne. Gage knew what to do. She found her rhythm, their rhythm, and kept steady as Daphne’s sorrow brewed and boiled over. It took awhile. She never knew how long it would take on nights like these. Give it to me, she thought. Give me what no one else can see.

The shift was immediate, when it came. Her gasping sobs shifted to gasps raw and thick with hunger. “Yes,” Daphne whimpered. “Yes. Like that, baby.” And Gage knew she could let go. She dropped her hands from where they’d been cradling Daphne’s head and shoulders, grabbed her woman’s hips, and drove herself home. “Yes,” she answered, panting. “Like this.” Daphne’s face wet, her body sore, her heartache subsiding. Yes, she thought, as she had every night for seventeen years. Yes, girl, please. Like this.

Published by Jen Cross

I’m a writer, performer, survivor, and writing workshop facilitator based in Oakland, CA, who has led transformative writing workshops in the SF Bay Area for over a decade. Like so many others, I’ve been in love with writing, words and books since I was very young — and after my experience of trauma as a teenager/young woman, it was writing that brought me back into my breath, my voice, my possibility. I’ve been publishing my work since the late 1990s.

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