A Lesbian Journey
tatiana de la tierra
White fog moves in wisps around the freshly rained-upon Andean mountains. It covers the view of Cali’s valley as a black hen pecks among grasses. It weaves around my ears and seeps into my home in the mountains as tiny chupaflores sing and zoom around in dozens of designs. The woman I love, Gloria Eugenia, is at my side. Another lesbian couple, Ana and Elsy, sit with us in the morning fog, eating breakfast. We drink hot chocolate spiced with canela and thickened with fresh cream from the 4 a.m. milking. We eat fried patacones topped with farmer’s cheese.
This morning the plan is a long walk up a mountain road. We head for “la nevera,” a cold region where the cows wear thick fur and people wear woolen ruanas. We leave with the fog at 7 a.m. and watch it transform as the sun takes its stand. Gloria Eugenia and I walk casually, matching steps and holding hands all day. I’m nearing the end of a two-month visit that was inspired by our love, and each moment with her is a treasure. Ana and Elsy also hold hands all day; I marvel at the affection they have for each other after five years of being together. We trek over the rock-embedded, reddish-brown, packed earth, and are graced with views of mountains languishing in green beauty.
“Why do you like women?” My lover questions me and, to my surprise, I question myself. Why do I like women? More than ten years ago I would have said, “Because men are hairy beasts with too much power.” But now, I fix my eyes on the barbed wire as I consider all the possible responses. Because we speak the same language, because we’re from a familiar tribe, because we were destined to wander upon the earth together. Finally, I answer, “Because with women I allow myself to be revealed.” My response feels incomplete as we take turns discussing why we’re lesbians.
The four of us, all in our 30’s, speak universal lesbian clichés: women are more understanding, open, affectionate, intimate, beautiful. We’ve all had good relationships with men and have no intention of seeking more. We strive to be economically independent from our families and from corporations. Ana and Elsy make gauzy cotton women’s clothes and coconut jewelry that they sell in crafts fairs and small boutiques. Gloria Eugenia owns a bakery in her home town, and I am a freelance writer and massage therapist. We are Colombian lesbians and we find the combination, in our country, to be incompatible. The towns are too small, rumors circulate and our families reject us. Or even worse, other lesbians won’t look us in the eye; we live solitary, obscure lesbian lives. Elsy, Ana and Gloria Eugenia scheme on how they’ll be able to leave the land they love to live freely as lesbians.
On a road where houses are spaced apart by miles, we are keen to every sound. At the possibility of an approaching person or vehicle, we instinctively separate from our lovers. Even I participate in the unspoken ritual. I’ve been out for over a decade the world over. But here, I don’t want problems with the neighbors.
The wind gently rustles a grove of pine trees that block the view of cows grazing. We stop to pick seeds dropped by the tall eucalyptus trees scattered among the forest of pines. They are moist and soft from the morning dew. Elsy is going to make a mobile with hers and I’m going to make a set of runes with mine.
Elsy skips playfully, chanting, “somos hermanitas, somos hermanitas,” mocking people who ask the two single women who share a bed if they’re sisters. Ana’s brother moved to London a few years ago so that he could cruise men and dance to Madonna into the dawn. He wanted to be at peace with his gay self. But he never accepted his homosexuality and ended his life in the English countryside. Since then, Ana’s mom, who used to reject her for being a lesbian, welcomes her daughter and her female lover into her home. Elsy won’t have anything to do with her family. And Gloria Eugenia, who’s been out for less than a year, was recently ousted by hers.
It’s not even noon yet but we scout for a place to lunch along the road, continuing with our leisurely lesbian conversation. Our scenic green paradise and the garlic scent emanating from the backpack tempts our senses. I assure my lover we’ll never be in a more enchanted place together. We settle on a grassy mound by a wooden gate with a sign that reads “Alaska.” Fittingly, we are all cold. We devour wedges of potato-and-cheese tortillas and drink the cool pineapple juice that we made that morning. Afterwards, seeking warmth, Gloria Eugenia climbs on top of me, making herself small. I envelope her with welcoming arms and legs. We could be like this anywhere.
written: 1994, el abejero, valle del cauca, colombia
re-write: 8 de abril de 1997, el paso, tejas