A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color
are some who always seek
The love that lasts an hour;
And some who in love's language speak,
Yet never know his power.
Of such was
I, who knew not what
Sweet mysteries can rise
Within the heart when 't is its lot
To love and realize.
Of such was I, Isolt! till, lo,
Your face on mine did gleam,
And changed that world, I used to know,
Into an evil dream.
Tristram to Isolt by Madison Cawein
A very good friend of mine called me one afternoon and during the course of our conversation, she asked me if I felt I could love or be involved with anyone else. My answer was quick, I said no. There was a long pause as she was obviously pondering whether to ask me why or make a statement. Finally, she said “you’ll rethink that soon enough.” Teresa (or “T”), lives thousands of miles away from me and we’ve been friends, albeit long distance, for a little more than 15 years. Teresa and I worked together when I lived in Chicago and I guess, after meeting her, I assumed she was straight. I didn’t find out otherwise until after moving to Los Angeles and in 1993, I was telling her about another friend of mine who was dying from cancer at that time, Mary Jo Froehle. While telling “T” I was beginning to realize this older, White (German) woman who I had been hanging out with all this time was a lesbian, she paused and said “let me ask you a question, do you know I’m gay?” I was stunned. Here I was, rethinking my lesbian life and my two best friends had just revealed they were lesbians and both have or had very active spiritual lives in their respective churches. What a bombshell. Needless to say, my friend “T” understands my naivety about certain things and is a very kind and understanding friend.
By 1995, when I met Christine at Unity Fellowship Church, I was no longer surprised that gays and lesbians could have a full and healthy spiritual life; in fact, I welcomed it and thought I could possibly find a mate here who believed as I believe. I wanted someone who knew trials and tribulations and could rise above them in spite of them. Unfortunately, I failed to realize yet another need I had which was the reason why all of the relationships (male and female) I ever entered into failed – I was the one who broke them off and it was no different with Christine – Eros.
In our “stated relationship” from 1995 to 1998, Christine and I were at odds with each other. We came together because of a mutual attraction to the other’s persona. We built a wealth of assumptions based on what we saw and thought to be the real person. During those three plus years of our stated relationship, I found myself not fully being myself when we were out together. I did not talk much and to compound matters more, I did not understand why. With one friend of Christine’s, Sergio, I could talk openly and freely with him whether we were in the presence of Christine or alone. When Christine was in the hospital, she actually broke with tradition by giving my phone number to a friend of hers – I did not know this woman, but I found I could freely and easily talk with her without restriction. It was “T” who brought the answer to this poor naïve child. She said it was for the same reason I chose not to tell Christine about Marianne, “T’s” partner who died of breast cancer in 1999. She felt I was protecting Christine by not talking so freely with others in an attempt to not betray who she really was. Christine, in her infinite wisdom, understood me as a social animal who loved to talk and that is why she gave my phone number to her friend who knew her equally and intimately as well as Sergio did. Sergio died a few years prior, so there was no Sergio to talk to.
In a later conversation, “T” asked me to re-read Christine’s letter and in reading it, she thought, I’d better understand the truth about our relationship. Funny thing, when I first read the letter to “T” and my mother, I read it like I was reading a text book – devoid of emotion. But alone, I could not get through the letter without falling into horrible crying fits. The letter spoke to my soul and was Christine’s attempt at being emotionally open; she admits this in the letter. It is a very simple, one-page typewritten letter. I know she had to have gone through many, many drafts before settling on the final. I also know it took a lot for her to write the letter and I understand why she never sent it to me – it was passionately honest.
After our stated relationship, Christine and I began to honestly understand each other and realize our public face was not who we really were. Christine would often refer to herself as a simple person, “what you see is what you get” she would say. Later, in our new relationship, when Christine made this statement I would respond by saying “you, my dear, are simply complex.” I learned hammer and chisel would be my modus operandi with Christine. Christine initially saw me as a college dropout who she felt at times could be very superficial. In one of our conversations, I somehow came upon the subject of Plato’s Phaedrus and the nature of love. The silent stare she gave me was deafening. Later, she asked what I aspired to do with my life? I answered her saying the greatest aspiration I had was to attain what Maslow talks about in his Hierarchy of Needs, “Self Actualization.” Her words betrayed her prejudice when she asked “what do you know about Maslow?” I responded, “I hope you’re not suggesting a person stop studying once they leave school.” My mother often told me, “keep stretching the dendrites.” From that point on, Christine and I, privately, engaged in a number of conversations on Plato (her favorite), Aristotle, Poe (another favorite of hers), philosophy, metaphysics and quantum physics.
During these wonderful enlightening conversations, I found myself thinking “finally, I have someone I can talk to.” Christine and I would go out on these “cheap dates” and just sit in the car and watch people as they passed by, their interactions with one another and, we actually started to have fun together. What a beautiful and brilliant mind she had. One time, when I became obsessed with Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, Christine became a little concerned about me not getting out much. One day, she decided we should go to a bookstore and find a book by Abd-Ru-Shin entitled In The Light of Truth (The Grail Message). Her thinking was it would help me in my journey. When we got to the bookstore, there was only one set of books available and I bought them. As I took them in (drank ‘em up like water I did), I found the answer I was looking for and immediately called her to thank her. At the time, I wondered, how she knew I would find the answer I was looking for within those books – I now no longer wonder.
On another occasion, I had laid down to take a nap when I heard the most beautiful song in my head “God is love and you are loved. God is love and you are loved.” It just came to me and I heard what sounded like Angels singing. I laid back to fully take this song in until I heard a woman scream. I jumped from bed and looked out of the window to see an ambulance and fire truck sitting outside my neighbor’s house. I saw paramedics taking my neighbor out of the house. One was doing hard and frantic chest compressions while another held a bag over his face – I knew he was gone. I immediately called Christine to tell her what happened and was hoping he made it through. I wanted to go over to the house but everyone left for the hospital and by the time I left for work, I saw no one to find out what happened. Later that evening, Christine drove the 27 miles from her home to mine to give condolences to my neighbors – people she did not know – and she served, by proxy, as the good neighbor. She called me at work while driving back home to tell me what she did. Her words, very simply were “you heard him die” and she felt “you probably wanted to be there but since you had to work, I did it instead.” I was so grateful for her act of kindness and love.
I soon understood why our stated relationship did not work with the understanding we had of each other at the time we met – I was eros (passionate love) and sought that form of love in my relationships. Christine was agapé (selflessly willing good for another), and she sought that kind of love in her relationships. We were giving each other apples and oranges – I did not understand agapé and she did not understand eros. In the end, she came to love and understand my eros as I grew to love and understand her agapé. Together, Christine and I became storgé (easy comfortableness together), and philia (friendship). Christine and I represented the four different kinds of love designated by the aforementioned Greek terms. Greek philosophy and mythology were our favorite topics of conversation.
After reading Christine’s letter over and over, I was reminded of the one great love story that holds a special place in my heart – the story of Tristan and Isolde. Tristan and Isolde's tale is one of the most popular stories in the Middle Ages. For many, the story of Tristan and Isolde is one of absolute and perfect love; the mingling of tragedy and fate only serves to make the tale all the more appealing. The story of the two lovers forms, in many ways, the basis for many love stories in the West, from Romeo and Juliet to love songs of today.
I fell in love with this story myself upon hearing it read aloud by a history teacher I had in grade school. This man, my history teacher, had such a love and passion for history, he was infectious. He mixed history with Arthurian literature, Greek mythology, and the teachings of Plato and Aristotle. Though most of his lectures were missed by fellow students, his lectures were not missed by me. This teacher inspired me to continue reading Plato, Aristotle, and to find and read the many variations of the original Arthurian Tale, as different writers at different times adapted the tale of Tristan and Isolde to their own agendas – much like the various translations of the Bible.
And, speaking of the Bible, having read Plato’s Phaedrus and other works from writers such as Marsilio Ficino, I came to better understand The Song of Solomon or The Song of Songs. I am a great lover of love and the text and tales of lovers. Love opens the soul and does, what a friend once said, “’cause you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.” Love opens and exposes the soul and makes you wickedly vulnerable if you give yourself over to it with reckless abandon and reckless abandon in my world of eros is not a bad thing. I particularly temper giving myself in this way with the reality that nothing lasts forever and I own no one. I enjoy and love everyone passionately because I never know when or if I’ll see them again.
This was another major difference between Christine and me. For me, playing with my father one afternoon before he left for work will serve as a time I will forever be eternally grateful because, when he left home that day, I never saw him again. Five afternoons later, my father died from the injuries he received from the accident at work. For years, my brother and I would be introduced, in graphic detail, by aunts and uncles as the children of the brother who was blown out of a building and who had 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 90 percent of his body. I would hear his ears looked like fried bacon and his eyes were gray. Fortunately, years later, my mother would read from her journal the events of June 17, 1965 to August 1965 and of particular note for me, my father was the only one of four men who tried to get up, tried to turn himself, tried to and did talk, in spite of his injuries. I am grateful our last moments together were filled with laughter. This is also why I stayed so close to Christine until the very end. I wanted us to spend as much time together, even if it meant possibly not talking, or her not knowing I was there. In my mind, we were going to spend every possible moment together until we could no longer spend time together. Well intentioned friends kept telling me to take care of myself, don’t’ go to the hospital every day, you’re developing circles under your eyes, you’re not sleeping, but my eros, my passion insisted and demanded we live every moment we could together.
Christine and I, like Tristan and Isolde, had our greatest love affair once we left our stated relationship and went to the forest, in exile, from the prying eyes of those who would not understand our love, our conversations, or our fodder. Like Tristan and Isolde, for three years, from 1998 to 2002, we loved each other freely and on our own terms in our own private forest. Unlike Tristan, however, I understand the healing balm Christine presented that cured me from the poison of cynicism came from her agapé love that was both inspiring and lyrical and, unlike Tristan, I know I will not go out again in search of a love that is similar, in name only, to the love I had with Christine.
I wish I could find who wrote the following text pertaining to the Song of Songs, but it aptly expresses my feelings.
My lover put his hand to the latch,
and my womb trembled within me. (5:4)
Never is this woman called a wife, nor is she required to bear children. In fact, to the issues of marriage and procreation the Song does not speak. Love for the sake of love is its message, and the portrayal of the female delineates this message best.
Though love is fulfilled when the woman and the man close the circle of intimacy to all but themselves, my imagination posits a postlude to the poetry. In this fantasy “the cherubim and the flaming sword” appear to guard the entrance to the garden of the Song (cf. Gen. 3:24). They keep out those who lust, moralize, legislate, or exploit. They also turn away literalists. But at all times they welcome lovers to romp and roam in the joys of eroticism:
Arise, my love my fair one,
and come away;
Yes, keep folks out of your business, it will allow you to appreciate love in its finest and truest form. And to that, add this by Ray C. Stedman on Song of Solomon: A Love Song and a Hymn:
[The Song of Song] is the last of the five books of the Old Testament. Job is the first, then Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and last, the Song of Solomon. Each of these books reveals one of the basic elements of man. Job is the voice of the spirit, the deepest part of man's nature, which is why the book of Job is perennially a puzzle to us. In the words of one of the Psalms, it is one of those books in which "deep calleth unto deep;" you can't read it without recognizing its profundities.
Now if the book of Job is the cry of the spirit, and Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes the cry of the soul, the Song of Solomon is preeminently the cry of the body in its essential yearning. And what is the essential yearning of the body? For love. Therefore, the theme of this book is love. It is an eastern love song, an oriental love poem, and there is no use denying that. It is frankly and fully that. It is a revelation of all that was intended in the divinely given function that we call sex. It is sex as God intended sex to be, involving not just a physical activity, but the whole nature of man.
Christine and I explored all of these subjects these past three plus years, but the Song of Songs, was the hardest avenue to explore– and, in all fairness, we ran out of time. When Christine finally came to the place of understanding my eros, she knew she had very little time. In her attempt at understanding, she thought to push me. Maybe she felt she impeded my passions in some way and felt the need to push me, with a vengeance. She told me to get a particular printer and went on to tell me why I had to have it – “for your magazine” she said. “Do it and call me back” she said. She pushed me to develop this website and when I complained, she said it again, “do it and call me back.” When I complained about not having any knowledge on HTML and web design, she said “oh, I know you, you’ll figure it out, you always do.” And, when I complained about doing this by myself she brought my own words back to me by saying “I thought you said there’s not enough passion in the world, only complacency as people talk about things and do nothing. Do it, wait for no one, not even me. Trust me, your help will come.” In the last year of Christine’s life, she had passion. Two days before her death, another woman and I were sitting with Christine and started talking about FemmeNoir, Christine tried to sit up and asked the woman sitting in the room “have you been to the site? You guys have to keep it going.” The morning before her death, as she tried to say everything she could to me, one of the things she said was “you gotta keep it going.” This is very important to me because a year earlier, she appeared disinterested -- later, she became pushy -- vigilante, as if it had to be done by some time certain.
Christine believed Christmas 2001, would be her last Christmas and as we drove around the city as we did every year to look at the Christmas decorations, I noticed something different with Christine – passion. She didn’t do as she had done Christmases past, stand back and say “oh how pretty,” no, she explored the scenery, she touched things, she talked to the people around her with a spirit of immediacy, joy and passion. I had great joy in seeing Christine break down this final wall – her fear of her own passion. I’m grateful to have both seen and experienced her passion; her eros. When I told Christine I had a vested interest in seeing her well because she was the only friend I had, it was not to say I had no other friends, it was because at that time, near the end of her life, she was the only one who really knew me and understood my passion.
When I talked with “T” again, she asked me about my journey through grief and I told her where I’d been. Her words to me were “and now you understand she found pleasure in your passion” and I answered, yes. “T” went on to explain my fault in thinking a relationship could exist on eros alone, that it needed the others in order to be a lasting relationship. Just as the art of rhetoric needs ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic or words), love requires not only eros, (passionate love), but agapé (selflessly willing good for another), storgé (easy comfortableness together), and philia (friendship); to be complete; “which is what the two of you had.” She continued, “in seven years, you two formed a bond of love that is lasting.”
“T” went on to say we had learned a little something from each other as well. Where I dealt with my grief and sought to learn from it, she opted not to deal with hers and forged forward with her pain. In the process, she entered into a relationship with someone who she subtly made comparisons to Marianne. Like Tristan, she took up with someone who was similar in name only, but was not the object of her true love, the love she never forgot. One month ago, the relationship ended with the new love taking everything out of the house she brought in. She left “T” only with the things she and Marianne shared together, including the coveted armoire. Unfortunately, the new love found herself in competition with the old and resented having to compete with someone she could not compete with. [Oh, and “T” did say I should write about this and maybe I’ll cover it fully later.]
I can now feel our time together, albeit spiritual, come to an end. Christine has helped comfort me through these months I’ve spent without her physical presence. She always knew the right things to say and do at the right times whether in music, a poem, stumbling across some mysterious writing in an equally mysterious way, or through others as they would call and say “you won’t believe what I just saw” or “did” or “read.”
There is only one way to deal with grief and that is to go through it, to just deal with the pain, or joy, as it comes. Dealing with the impressions or feelings you encounter along the way can be a bit unnerving, sometimes you’re often gripped with a private joke you know no one will understand, particularly when you say it aloud and everyone realizes you’re talking about your dead friend and they don’t know how to react afterwards, but you do it, you live it, and you will eventually come through it. One co-worker of mine actually said my little stories and jokes about Christine has helped her to deal with the loss of her grandmother and now, she incorporates “Nana’s” little sayings in a lot of her daily activities and she has found it to be a healthy and gratifying experience.
I have come full circle now. By “sitting at the feet of Jesus” in 1989 and painfully stripping myself down to nothing in a quest to understand why I was suffering from poor health at the time brought me, two years later, finding myself cured of the maladies of anger, hostility and depression – the reasons for my poor health. My mother’s “precocious child” always wants to know why? In 1990, when I left Chicago, my vision was clear – I was consciously living life for a change. God, in His infinite wisdom, gave me new eyes to view the world through and, to throw in a healthy sense of humor, kept some details hidden from me. When I realized my good friend, Mary Jo, would not survive long with the cancer, it was also revealed to me she was a lesbian. The wonderful woman Mary Jo and I visited often who lived in the beautiful house in the hills – yeah, she’s a lesbian too and the woman Mary Jo often referred to who I subsequently met was actually Mary Jo’s former lover. Then, to talk to “T” and find out her roommate (I thought) was really her life partner – oh my. When God granted Mary Jo’s wish to go to midnight mass either in a wheelchair, or on the wings of angel – Mary Jo left on the wings of an angel at 11:45 p.m., Christmas Eve. He gave me a few years to digest before revealing He loved them equally as well as He loved me. The path was then prepared for me to meet my greatest teacher, Christine and to experience the “great love” I always wanted.
“T” asked the question again, “do you think you’ll have another relationship knowing what you know now?” This time, my response was “possibly.” Then she said, “I just thought about something, you’ll appreciate this one – Christine, Christ; Angela, Angel – God loves you girl. Ponder that one, and I’ll talk with you later.”
I do feel blessed to have had some wonderful people in my life and that God, in loving kindness, placed people in my path that would take good care of my heart, teach me, challenge me, and make it possible for me to continue growing and learning. The joys, the pains, my reckless abandon have all been very beneficial.
Goodbye my friend, and thank you. Till we meet again.