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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1990)
“Thanks,” Ellie said. She didn’t think
David and Susan understood all of what she
felt. They were married after all. They’d
bought their ticket to respectability. But it
was good to have them on her side.
David squeezed her hand. His expression
was serious. “You know, I was watching a TV
program on AIDS a few weeks ago. It’s not
only gay men who get AIDS. It’s going to be
everyone. But a lot of people don’t act like
they know that.”
Ellie nodded. “Like Steve. He just wants
to use AIDS as an excuse to hate gays.” She
tightened her grip on David’s hand. “There’s
a lot of Steves out there.”
“I know there are,” David said. He rubbed
his beard thoughtfully. “I think it’s always
easier to hate someone, or to fear them, than
to try to understand them.”
Ellie looked at David, at his slightly
hooked “Jewish” nose, strong eyebrows, and
honest brown eyes. “I’m glad you’re not like
David put his arm around her again, just
for a moment. Then he exaggerated a smile,
puffing out his cheeks and rolling his eyes —
just as he’d done as a little boy — until Ellie
had to laugh along with him.
When they went downstairs, the party was
starting to break up. The couples were
gathering coats and children and getting ready
to head homewards. Tomorrow, after all, was
a regular workday. In the American work
world, the Jewish New Year didn’t exist.
As they were leaving, Lois and Dan
Levine came over to where Ellie, David and
Susan were standing. Lois put her hand on
Elbe’s arm. “I’m glad you said what you did.
We wouldn’t sit still for anti-semitic jokes. A
lot of people don’t see it, but anti-gay
comments are the same kind of thing.”
Dan Levine nodded his agreement. They
both smiled warmly at Ellie, David and Susan.
“Good to see you again," Lois said to Ellie.
“Hope we’ll see you next yeair”
Ellie smiled. “Good to see you too.”
The friends and relatives said their
goodbyes. Ellie kissed her aunt goodbye, let
her uncle pat her on the back as he helped her
on with her coat, and thanked Richard and
Lynne. Happy New Years were wished all
It was dark outside now, and the air had
the chill of a Midwest fall. Ellie hugged
Susan and David goodbye, before they got
into their car. Then she took her accustomed
place in the backseat of her parents’ car, with
her father driving and her mother sitting
I should have a husband sitting next to me
or driving me home, Ellie thought. That’s
what’s expected. Not that a husband was
what she wanted. But Kate would have been
She wouldn’t have felt so alone if Kate had
been there. Or John. Or one of her other
friends, who could understand what it felt like
to be a lesbian running up against a guy like
Thank God they weren’t all like him. She
thought about David and Susan. About Lois
Levine and her husband Dan. Even if they
were comfortably married, with two kids and
Dan a doctor as well, they were good people.
She couldn’t be angry at them.
And Kate. Whom she’d hoped would
come with her this year. Who wasn’t there
with her and wasn’t going to be.
That though left sadness in its wake. Ellie
closed her eyes and swallowed hard against
the knot in her throat. The car was dark, so
she let a few tears run down her face. Kate,
she thought again. She pictured Kate smiling
at her, her blue eyes warm.
Ellie wrapped her arms around herself,
trying for the feeling of giving herself a hug.
Everybody seemed to have a place already.
Kate and Diane were together. David and
Susan would have their first child soon.
And what about Elbe’s life, she thought
ironically. Rosh Hashonah meant the
beginning of the year after all. The time when
the Book of Life was opened.
Elbe hugged herself one more time. What
she wanted for herself most of all was
someone to love. Some new woman who
would love her back. Maybe, just maybe, that
would happen this year. And maybe then she
could forgive Kate and Diane.
They passed a Greek restaurant, then a
delicatessen, then turned onto a mostly
residential street. It was never easy to come
back to Chicago, Ellie thought. Her parents’
dreams for her and her own dreams were so
far apart. She guessed that all she could do
was live her own life. Maybe just by being
herself, and not apologizing for that, she could
make a little bit of a bridge between her
parents and herself. Then sometime she might
bring a new lover to Chicago, show her the
city she’d grown up in.
Relaxing her arms, Elbe leaned back
against the car seat. Her father was driving at
his usual slow pace, but they were getting
close to parents’ house now. From the
window of the darkened car, Elbe looked out
at the familiar streets of the city.
just out T 17 W February 1990