It was sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon in July, and three girls crowded around the window seat, looking out at the hunks from a volleyball camp on the Skidmore campus quad play Ultimate Frisbee. Some of those playing had even taken off their shirts, revealing the muscles underneath, resulting in the squeals of delight that had first attracted my attention. As our camp was for the nerdy sort, our boys rarely looked so well-developed. My dormmates were chatting, creating a pleasant hum of conversation. I was the youngest in the bunch, rather like a kid sister.
‘You know, SJ’s a lesbian,’ Corinne said idly.
It was like poking a beehive. An immense buzzing started as every girl added her commentary. My face must have shown my consternation, because Corinne was suddenly asking, concernedly, if I’d known. Dead silence and all eyes on me. My face heated. I gave a short nod of acknowledgement.
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Inwardly I added a small footnote of ‘just since yesterday.’
In fact, SJ had been rather blunt. She’d said point-blank, after fumbling a few moments, that she was a lesbian. That while she didn’t go out and advertise, she also didn’t try to hide it. My reply had been equally awkward. The conversation took on a strained tone. I gave a half-shrug and mumbled ‘OK.’ The room was dimming with the setting sun, but neither of us moved to turn on the lights.
What should I say? Should I change the subject? It would be a death-knell to our friendship, but I had other friends here. It was only a week before I went home. I didn’t have to deal with this. I was panicking now. Invisible deep breath. I’m in a gifted program, think about this! What’s changed? She’s gay, you dolt! But that doesn’t change the fact that all in all SJ was still the same, still running to sign up for morning running, still able to have rapid-fire Spanish conversations with Lori that left me convulsing in laughter. I conveyed my revelations to SJ, and the room brightened as I flipped the switch and turned on the light. After that quick agreement, we fell into a more companionable silence. The conversation flowed on to family and other matters. Friendship kept, crisis avoided.
But apparently I hadn’t dodged the bullet as cleanly as I’d hoped. Now I once again had to make a decision. Betray SJ and talk behind her back, or defend her and possibly ostracize myself from the rest of my hallmates. It was especially likely, as several of them went to church. But there was really only one thing to do. I wasn’t panicking now. ‘I’m fine with it. Are you?’ I asked, a little challenging.
Two weeks after camp ended, I received a letter from SJ, which thanked me for being so accepting on campus and supporting her among our hallmates. I didn’t know she’d known.