A story that won Honourable Mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest in 2007, but wasn’t published in Geist because we lost touch with the author. A version of the story appeared in Punoqun 2007 (see wayves.ca).
I ignore the declarative text on the street sign, it’s got nothing to do with me, I just need a place to secure my bike. I go in through the side door, do the hug and greet—this is a festive day—lay out my tools. Her fingernails are short and square, I have to work on them a bit first. I paint half the thumbnail a deep red, the other half orange. Orange like a hot country. Half the index fingernail the same orange, gives way to yellow. It’s not easy to find a yellow nail polish you’d actually want to wear but it won’t work without it. Yellow to green on the middle-finger-for-anger. On the nail, rather. I’m doing a rainbow manicure and each nail needs two colours. Ring finger (hold gently to ease sadness) gets both green and blue. The smallest nail looks great, with that iridescent blue sliding into a purple as deep as the red that started this. My nails are already done, the same way. But my fingernails are longer, the sunlight shines through the tips and so the colours on me are less concentrated and intense. Not quite pastel, but not primary either. Many lesbians think of bi-girls this way. Some bi-girls do too.
Bisexual women, however, are another story. If you can find that story, squarely told, in contemporary Canadian fiction, send it along. We can use it to design something for next year, maybe even a float with live music and treat bags. For now, let’s evoke Mexico, where lesbians call themselves tortilla makers. Go ahead and imagine the changing texture of the corn masa, the over-under dance of the hands. Talk about wordplay. The label bicicleta kind of pales in comparison and my first thought when I heard it was: Oh well. I guess we’ve been called worse.
But this is not about the first thing that occurs to you when you hear a word, but the second, slower thing. Bicycles are common but not always what you’d call obvious. In circulation but not the main branch catalogue. I look for those solid U-shaped locks in stories, fluorescent orange reflectors, pant-cuff fasteners. The well- designed pannier. I listen for the changing gears. Bicicleta is a good enough (though not the last) word and I’m fond of it now. Maybe soon we’ll have a Canadian equivalent, along with protagonists.
Back at the table, she stops waving her hands around, her nails are dry. The colours catch the light as we spread our three hands on the flat surface. I arc my arm up to take a photo. Can I say—can anyone—where balance comes to need momentum? I unlock my bike and we go, to join the parade.