How to Thaw Your Unborn Children, Part 9

jail barsI’ve been thinking a lot these days about what it means to feel uncomfortable.  Is it really so bad to feel bad?  Why are so many people conflict avoidant?  What does it mean when we brush up against each other the wrong way, and what would happen if we forced ourselves, just once in a while, into situations that made us feel like we wanted to run?

I have this friend, Leesa (I call her Leesie), who is painfully girly. She’s got this small, soft voice, and when she speaks she sounds like she’s about six years old. Her perspective on the world is painfully innocent, and sometimes the beauty of the universe causes her to weep for no reason. My last name is Zemser, but she has never called me anything but Zoomie.

“Zoomie,” she says, pulling my shirt tails like a little kid, “Zoomie, I love you.”

“I feel sad today Zoomie,” she’ll say in a voicemail message.  “I need to talk to you. I have a deep reservoir of pain.”

The last time I visited her in San Francisco, she said, “Zoomie, I am sorry you are going back to New York soon. I miss you when you’re gone.  When you’re gone, I hurt.”

Leesie hurts, but then she moves on.  Either she’s figured out some way to cope with pain, or she’s a complete idiot.

Leesa told me she knew she was gay from the time that she was four years old.

“But how?” I asked, mystified.  “How could you know so young?”

“I just did,” Leesa said, her eyes all dreamy.  “I used to fantasize that my babysitter was my jailer,” she said.

I don’t know if this line comes across as funny to you, but the idea of Leesa, who had huge brown eyes and pigtails and was an adorable little kid, sitting behind bars in a little jail while a blond teenager sits outside with a key ring is about all that I can take.

“Did that scare you?” I asked her once.  “Did it bother you that something so denigrated could turn you on?”

“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesie said.  “It scared me a lot.”  She looked at me, smiling a little.  “But sometimes,” she added.  “It’s okay to be scared.”

There’s an episode in the second season of Louis CK where Louis is invited into the home of an acquaintance for casual sex.  The woman who invites him is the mother of one of Louis’s daughter’s classmates, and her name is Dolores. Dolores just wants sex, nothing else, and after some initial discomfort, the two finally get started. Pretty soon Dolores is asking Louis to paddle her.  “Oh, Daddy, I’m sorry, Daddy, I’m so sorry,” she says, first crying, then sobbing, as Louis swats her on the bottom. The look on Louis’s face is priceless.  It’s a great segment because the things that we eroticize are tied up in such nutty stuff.  And you can see that Louis isn’t really into it at all, but you know, he tries to make the best of it.

Leesa likes to be tied up and dominated. We once tried to carry on together, but I was uncomfortable, and she wasn’t into me anyway.

“I suppose you want me to hold your wrists down like this,” I said, pressing her to the bed and lying flat on top of her.  (We were fully dressed). I tried to look mean and terrible.  “Maybe I should do you like Mark used to do me,” I said, trying to sound powerful.

“Yes, Zoomie,” said Leesa.

“You are very bad,” I went on, thinking of Leesa’s first jailer.  “You are very naughty, and you need to be punished.”

“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesa said, her eyes wide.  She looked dazzled.  “That’s working.  Be Mark.”

I got off the bed and started putting on my socks.

“I can’t do that,” I said.  “I’m a D cup, for god’s sake.  How do you expect me to be Mark?”

“Let me in there,” my friend Jessica said once, after she met Leesa.  “I’ll be Mark.”

“Yeah, Zoomie,” Leesa said, when I told her what Jessica said.  “Let Jessica be Mark.”

I’ve never been one for good boundaries. Any self-respecting therapist will tell you that boundaries are very important things and that we are supposed to pay attention to them, but I’ve always been suspicious. The party livens up when boundaries dissipate. People fight.  Feelings get hurt and people become uncomfortable, yes, but I’m of the mind that this is when things start to get interesting. Whenever I’m scared or uncomfortable I figure I’m about to have a learning experience. Yes, I’m sort of miserable right now, I say to myself.  But I could grow from this, too.

I must have grown quite a lot after introducing Leesa to Mary, because as soon as I returned to New York, the two of them started carrying on together.

“I love her,” Leesa sobbed into the phone.  “Zoomie, she’s so hot.  She’s so brilliant.”

“I know,” I said.  I sighed.

“Do you think she will leave her partner anytime soon?” Leesa asked.

“Well,” I said.  “I waited a year. But perhaps your love will be stronger than ours was. Maybe the power of your love will compel her to leave once and for all.”

Mary came to visit me in New York.  I was in between women at the time, so I tried to whip something up.

“I really want to try and make it work with Leesie,” Mary said.

It was that dark period after I’d left Moira but hadn’t yet met Lynn. I wasn’t thinking straight.  I hated sleeping alone. Once, I spent the whole night on the phone with different women I’d connected with on Craigslist, thinking maybe I could get someone to come over and get in bed with me. But nothing panned out. Finally, at around two in the morning, someone sent me a a very nice email inviting me to spend the night in a hotel room in the city.

“Don’t do it, Zoomie,” Leesa said, on the phone from San Francisco. “You don’t know what could happen.  Who is she?”

But I’d gotten it into my head that I wasn’t going to be alone that night, so I took a cab from Brooklyn into Manhattan where, in a very nice bar in the west village, I discovered that Kieran was a male name.  Who knew?  I thought I’d been emailing with a woman.

“I can’t stay the night with you,” I said.  “You’re a boy.”

“Come on then,” Kieran said.  He was a burly guy in his mid-thirties, of Indian descent.  He spoke with a British accent.  “We’ll have a romp.”

He convinced me to go back to his hotel room. Hunched over in the cab, I whispered fiercely into my cell phone.

“Don’t do it, Zoomie,” Leesa said.  “Get out now and go home.  You don’t have to put yourself through this.”

“I’m not spending another night alone,” I said.

“It’s almost four in the morning,” Leesa said. “The night is over.”

I didn’t listen to Leesa, although I should have.  For inexplicable reasons, I had my mind set on a one night stand, even if a romp with a woman was going to be a shag with a man.

“But you told me once that it’s all right to be uncomfortable,” I told Leesa later, after the whole ordeal was over.

“Uncomfortable is one thing,” Leesa said.  “But what you did was kind of dangerous, Zoomie.”

Kieran and I got out of the cab on the east side….

Click here to read Part 10


  1. my scandelous sister— I don’t feel comfortable reading this stuff about you!!!! you dirty slut you!

  2. OK – since you love comments:
    1. How is this not protected by a password if the other two essays were?!
    2. It’s highly unfair to us, but totally smart on your part, to let us wait until Tuesday to know what happened with Kieran and you.
    3. Why am I not getting notified when you post a new piece here? I thought signing up will do that? No?

    • Hi Miriam. Thank you for commenting. I love comments!

      1. I feel that password protecting too much might be annoying or cumbersome. I want to keep you people with me, after all. Also, the second part of this essay is really the most personal part, so I suspect I’ll password protect on Tuesday.

      2. Most of the time I cut an essay in half because I’m just not done writing it. True, I do try to find places where it is a bit of a teaser to leave off, but if I didn’t do that what kind of a writer would I be?

      3. You should *definitely* be getting my essays to your inbox every time I publish them. Let me take a look at my subscriber list and see if I can figure out the problem. Sometimes these things can get buggy. Thanks for letting me know, and I promise I’ll fix that.

      Thank you again for reading and for commenting. If you can, I’d also appreciate it if you could tell anyone else you know about these stories. I love getting emails from someone in Louisiana who says, thank you so much, your writing really helped me out…etc. xx ABZ

      • Can’t wait for Tuesday!

        BTW – your first password protected piece was a great example of an exercise in self censorship. Or something like that. I admire your ability to be honest and brave when it comes to subjects most people don’t like to even acknowledge, not to mention talk or write about, not to mention share with the whole (English-speaking) world! And I love your humor.

        And I did not get an email about your reply either. So something is wrong, it might be with gmail though. I checked my spam and the emails are not there either. This actually teaches me to come and check your website out regularly and not to wait for the email in my inbox, so it’s not all bad.

        I don’t know anybody in Louisiana, but I’m sharing with my people privately :-).
        Like most people, I’m a bit of a voyeur and enjoy these essays tremendously.

    • Hey Miriam,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m so grateful, especially since I spend most of my time in mortal horror at the things I’ve posted to a public forum.

      I looked into your membership — it seems there are a number of people on my subscriber list that signed on as a subscriber but didn’t select which option (personal essays vs children’s books) to receive in their inbox. I suspect you subscribed before you even had this option. At any rate, try again. Just go on there and subscribe to Personal Essays (or both, if you like picture books) and everything should work. It’s annoying to have to remember to check the site. Plus, I sometimes send out personal letters to subscribers only. I want you to be in on that.

      Thanks again for reading. All best to you.


  3. i have practically lived at your house over periods of time in the last two years and i’m furious i have never heard this story before.

Something to say?