It all started when I wouldn’t get up on Sunday mornings to go to church. I was an energetic, nervous baby dyke, and I simply could not sit still that long with nothing to engage me. And the old guy up front was talking Latin, for pete’s sake. So, over some of my most formative years, say 10 through 13, I got in the habit of staying in bed really late on Sunday mornings until my mother finally gave up trying to unearth me.
Sleeping late on Sundays led to the complete and utter pleasure of staying up really late on Saturday nights. That became my time. Listening to the alternative radio station, watching horror movies on the $15.00 used console TV and, by high school, writing love poetry to my girlfriend and my crushes.
It didn’t take long before I was staying up Friday nights and as many other nights as I could get away with. That usually depended on when my mother got up to wake my father in his recliner, turn off the TV and make sure he went to bed. Then she’d sleep a couple more hours before discovering my light was still on. The poor woman. Riding herd on her Lynches was an unwinnable battle. I remember her warning me, “You’ll read your eyes out!”
So here I am all grown up – or so I’m told. My night still doesn’t end until three or four in the morning. For most of these years I’ve fought myself, acting as my own insomniac mother and ordering myself to bed, then not complying. Mornings I was wont to beat myself up for starting work so late yet again and I’d tell myself I’d go to sleep earlier that very night, only to be lured by the sirens of stillness and solitude into another rendezvous with an absorbing book or a project I wanted to finish.
So sue me: nights are when my inner owl awakens and challenges my intellect. I get ideas then and work out knotty writing quandaries. I dream then, of what I might achieve given leisure and a long enough life. I read my eyes out. I delight at the 3:00 A.M. madness of the cats and try to quiet them so they don’t wake my wife, sleeping all lonesome in the next room.
But there I go, beating myself up again. My sweetheart doesn’t. I fear creating a rift in our relationship by abandoning her to the night, when in fact she is the one with enough insight to recognize and accept – and still love – this night-fired insomniac. Just make sure you sleep long enough to get at least seven hours, she urges. What a simple revelation: be who you are.
I work on west coast time so I don’t have to be at my desk and my job till noon. Why not answer the call of my nature, she reasons. When I force myself toward early sleep, I come wide awake next to her, wriggling and itchy and grabbing index cards or the iPod to jot notes. The early hours of the morning, the rich dark of deep night, fan the fires in me. Their light flares and I’m up again, much to the cats’ delight.
It’s taken most of a lifetime and a perfect match to understand this quirk of mine. My wife is teaching me what love really is as she embraces this flawed being. She’s teaching me that flaws are not flaws: they are what make us ourselves when we’re not trying to conform to someone else’s agenda of normal. What makes me this way? I don’t know the answer any more than I know why I’m gay or how I came to be able to put pretty words on a page or how my wife got so wise and understanding.
With August’s wilding of England; America’s confusion between religion and power, people and corporations; with people drunk on hate of gays and colors; with the abandonment of wildlife to bulldozing developers – how I wish my sweetheart had a counterpart who could marry the world and steer it, also, to simply love all its parts and stop trying to quash the differences among living things that make this earth whole in its glorious self.
Lee Lynch has been writing as an out lesbian since her work appeared in “The Ladder” in the 1960s. She wrote the classic novels The Swashbuckler and Toothpick House. The most recent of her 14 books, Sweet Creek and Beggar of Love, were published by Bold Strokes Books. Her short stories can be found in Romantic Interludes and at www.readtheselips.com. Her reviews and feature articles have been featured in “The Lambda Book Report,” “The Advocate” and many other publications.
Lynch’s syndicated column, “The Amazon Trail,” has run nationally since 1986. She is a recipient of the Golden Crown Literary Society Trailblazer Award, the Alice B. Reader Award for Lesbian Fiction and was honored with induction into the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2010 she received the James Duggins Mid-Career Award in Writing, and, for Beggar of Love, the Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, and Book of the Year Award from ForeWord Reviews.
Books by Lee Lynch are available at women’s and gay bookstores and at http://tinyurl.com/2vtuo9k.