Staining the Gazebo

31 Dec

I had just finished showering in “my” bathroom inside the Cabin-Mansion one summer morning.  Mary fervidly pounded on the bathroom door as I was standing naked in front of the mirror brushing my unusually long (for me) hair into a pony-tail.  I thought she was going to walk right in, and nervously tried to remember if I had locked the door.  “Just a minute!” I called, feverishly pulling some clothes on. Dressed in my shorty cheer shorts and a purple tank, I opened the door a crack.  Mary was visibly excited and said, “I have a job for you.”  A concerned look must have crossed my face as I thought of the many jobs Mary had me doing as of late.  I “got” to help put up fencing in the front yard, shoveled rock from a large pile in the driveway to various locations–always a distance away, raked leaves out of rock-work and gardens in the side-yard, and helped with endless watering.  The list of outside maintenance and yard-work was endless, and I felt I had no interest in it or aptitude for it.  “Don’t worry, it’s a FUN job,” she emphasized the word, “fun” to really sell the idea.  Thinking her version of fun was vastly different from mine, I inquired what the job entailed.  She told me it was mindless work and I would like it as she led me outside to “my” side-yard.  Though I was a guest and living in a fifth wheel in the yard, Mary gave me the use of a few places in and around the Cabin-Mansion.  She led me to the gazebo in the side yard, and said it needed staining.

The gazebo was round and tall, and had many cris-cross pattered pieces of wood around the circumference.  The stain was in paint buckets that stood as high as my knees–two, maybe four full buckets.  The job looked daunting, to say the least.  The weather WAS beautiful–maybe I could work on my tan at the same time.  After all, I sort of owed Mary for so generously giving me a free place to live and for hiring me back at work.  I was not paying her back in any way, and I couldn’t offer my exceptional cleaning skills, because they had a house-keeper that came twice weekly.  The least I could do was help out around the yard.  I also liked the fact the fact that Mary really seemed to open up while doing manual labor.  Mostly, she was closed-off and private about both big and trivial things.  I had known her for seven years, but was only aware of what she wanted me to know.  I was hardly privy to substantial personal information or history.  When we worked, I felt like I was in her inner circle, because she was more truthful and chatty than ever.

I decided that even though my skimpy outfit was hardly appropriate for working, it would minimize any tan lines.  As I awkwardly got started, Mary settled in to the flower bed next to the gazebo.  I guess she planned to work close by so we could talk.  As she weeded and tended the dirt, she told me two gay guys had previously owned the house.  As proof she told me to look up at the gazebo’s ceiling.  Craining my neck, I noticed five or six painted sections, each featuring a gay scene.  Mary told me to look closer at one of the spaces–it featured a homo-erotic penis.  She explained different artists had each done a panel, and she wanted to make the gazebo more feminine by painting something different in the “penis-panel.”  She said her house-keeper was an artist and had asked to paint a panel, but Mary denied her the privilege, because she wanted only gay artists.  She offered to let me paint a scene in the last panel.

Surprisingly, I was not that miserable standing on tip-toe to reach the top beams of the gazebo, stain traveling down my up-stretched arms in rivets.  I was enjoying my new place in Mary’s life as well as the warm sunshine coloring my skin.  Mary absentmindedly talked to me while she planted new flowers in the garden.  She said I had better do a good job staining the gazebo, because that is where I would get married.  I was astounded Mary would want a lesbian wedding in her yard!  She was normally very “on the down-low” about her sexuality in the small, republican town of Dayton.  I wanted to ask her about her wedding to Kim, and if they had even had a ceremony, but shied away from the topic, remembering how unacceptable this discussion would have been in the past.

Mary also continued (she had been at this for years) to try to convince me to work at her veterinary hospital–with or without my DVM.  She said she would make me partner and eventually sell me her practice.  I gave her a doubtful expression as I stepped off the white, plastic chair and began to stain the smaller, cris-crossed pieces of wood along the sides of the gazebo.  When she saw my hesitation, Mary said she would wine and dine me and if I had one, my girlfriend too.  She said even if I did not make it in to veterinary school I could work as office manager in her hospital.  I told her I would be miserable working in a veterinary environment if I could not be a veterinarian–it would remind me of my failure every day.  She said this was nonsense and she would pay me well enough to make up for my bad feelings.  She also said I should consider living across the street from the Cabin-Mansion.  At this, my paint brush paused–I could not believe my ears.  Was this the same closed-off Mary I had known for so long?  Knowing full-well that Mary would not actually like me to work with her AND live so close, I said, “You’d get sick of me.”  She said, “No I wouldn’t, if you lived across the street the trees would give us privacy.”  I scoffed at her silliness–what was going on with Mary?  Had she really become more laid back while I had been in Missouri?  It was difficult to wrap my mind around.

After what seemed like hours, I was finally finished painting the upper beams just out of my reach, the intricate crossed wood, and the hard-to-get-to crevices of the gazebo.  All I had left was the floor.  I hunkered down to my hands and knees to stain the bottom of the gazebo.  Mary was telling me about her past relationships (with men), a very familiar topic.  I had heard about the men Mary had dated in her youth dozens of times.  She told these stories to everyone as a sort of decoy–to make sure the public knew she dated men, so they didn’t come to the conclusion that she’s a lesbian.  What was unfamiliar was how Mary said she preferred sleeping with women over men.  She claimed she was bi-sexual, but told me not to tell Kim she had said this.  I asked why in the world Mary would chose a harder life if she in fact did like men equally well.  Mary said the sex with women was preferable.  She continued, “They can’t help it.”  Meaning the quick intercourse men are infamous for.  Crawling on my hands and knees, with more than half the floor left to stain, I said, “If I had the choice to live an easy, heterosexual life, I would do it.”  It was difficult for me to believe that homophobic Mary really HAD chosen to marry a women over any relationship with a man.  Mary passionately stuck to her claim that she was bisexual and lesbianism was a choice, but said, “Don’t tell Kim I said that–she doesn’t like that kind of talk.”

It was at this point, while digging small trenches for the sprinkler system in the garden, Mary told me she dated a 40 year old doctor when she was 23.  Suddenly I was very conscious of my skimpy outfit and my kneeling position.  She kept saying it would be like her and me getting together.  It unsettled me for some reason.  Trying to keep my cool, I subtly looked where Mary was standing, trying to gauge if she could even see anything.  She had stopped working and had moved directly behind me.  Suddenly desiring a less vulnerable and revealing position, I started staining a space by the door, subtly scooting around to face Mary.  As I told her that was weird, and what is wrong with a 40 year old going after a 20-something, I randomly re-stained the higher walls so I could stand up entirely.  I said that I thought there must be something wrong with an older person taking advantage like that.  Mary just kept saying it would be like her and I getting together.  I’m not sure if she was just having a deep, intensely emotional conversation (as I said, she’s not open very often) with me, or if she was hitting on me.  I definitely shut her down though.

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