"Are there any straight women in this bar?" My best friend Jon, who helped me move from New York to Florida two years ago, was in town. Naturally, I took him to the Emerald.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
He turned his head from one side of the bar to the other. "Every woman here is a lesbian. No wonder you love this place so much."
"Nah, they're just hipsters."
He looked around again. "Nope, lesbians."
Increduously, I looked around the bar. Forget getting him laid; how had I been having so much trouble with women since moving here?
Because it somehow made sense to completely uproot my life at the time, I'd come to Florida with a broken heart, unable to look at other women. The plan was to go on an adventure, start from scratch and never date again.
But after living here for four months, I started accidentally dating the only friend I'd made after a vodka-fueled New Year's Eve jaunt to Atlanta. I'd met her on the vast, scary Internet, something I never really do, but I was living in the boonies of Spring Hill, desperate for friends.
When that didn't work — we were complete opposites — I decided to throw myself into creating a life. In New York, I didn't spend much time at gay and lesbian bars, but here I made more lesbian friends than I'd ever had up north. PLAY became my default bar in Ybor City. I learned that Thursday is the best night to go to Georgie's, because even if I don't dance, the Long Island Iced Teas beckon. After moving to St. Petersburg, I found a stronghold at Beak's, where I befriended one of the servers and bounced back and forth between there and Queenshead. And the Emerald turned out to be a polyglot place where all kinds of people (straight, gay, trans and — yes, Jon — lesbians) feel comfortable.
The entire time, every girl I met couldn't live up to the exalted image of my ex I had in my head.
But eventually, I started to think I should maybe move on.
I met M on Christmas night, the third night in a row my buddy Ryan and I'd stayed at the Emerald till closing time.
I sat at the bar doing shots. "Surprise me with something," I said every time the bartender came around. I swiveled in my chair and glanced at the girl next to me. "You have really pretty eyes," I said. I could tell I was slurring.
The next morning, I awoke to a text from M. All I remembered were her eyes. After a few texts, I was reminded that she had a 2-year-old son and didn't drive. But I could hang out at her place anytime.
We started talking often, flirting tremendously, making plans for when she might have a free night. She was an artist, studied mortuary science, and liked to clean up graveyards.
One day, after she'd showed me her favorite cemetery, I texted her, "I had a really nice time today."
"I forgot to tell you, it's really bad luck to walk directly on top of a grave, even if you don't see them. I should have warned you earlier," she responded. "The spirits gave me a lot of crap for it, but I think I was able to calm them down."
At a loss for what to say, my contact with her quietly petered out.
I met S at Cafe Hey. She was cute, energetic, fun — just what I needed. I overlooked that she didn't have a license and lived with her father in Tampa.
But after the first night she spent at my apartment, there it was in my bathroom. Not just lying haphazardly on the sink like it had simply been forgotten, but standing proudly in a cup next to my soap dispenser like it owned the damn place: her toothbrush. I pictured the B movie poster in my mind — a menacing giant toothbrush taking out innocent victims. The movie would be called Attack of the 50 Foot Lesbian Implication.
I took the offending toothbrush, holding it in front of me as if it were contaminated, and threw it out. Not on my watch, I thought.
My birthday was the night before The Rapture. I threw an apocalypse-themed party, asking people to bring canned goods and gas masks, drinking Toxic Sludge Punch, watching Tank Girl and Dr. Strangelove. I felt lighter when I woke up the next morning, and haven't thought much about my ex since.
A personal apocalypse.
A week after that, a friendship turned into something more. I met J — a tall dance instructor — for a drink after work. One minute she was teaching me the rumba in a parking lot, the next we were kissing in her car. There's incredible banter and I smile every time I think about her.
As things go oddly well with J, I'm aware that everything has an expiration date. But I'm comfortable with our situation — more than comfortable, I'm happy. A couple of weeks ago, waking up at her house, I indicated that I wanted to brush my teeth but had no way to do so. "I should probably get a spare toothbrush for you," she said, as she got dressed. I just nodded calmly, thinking briefly of S.
Obviously, I thought, it's more about the person doing the brushing than the actual toothbrush.
Tiffany Razzano is the editor of CLGBT, Creative Loafing's LGBT website.