Femme Friday — Millie, from Trumpet by Jackie Kay

Darlings, I did not reread this beautiful novel for this post, as I did not have time, but I started it again, and was immediately drawn back in to this compelling, queer story. What had stayed with me was the sweet, hot love between this white femme and her husband, a passing woman, the black jazz trumpeter, Joss Moody, who she meets in Glasgow in the 50s. Have any of you read Trumpet? Tell me, talk to me! And while you’re at it, do you have a favorite fictional femme?

Deep gratitude to Jackie Kay for writing truth about Millie for all of us.

       It is dark now outside. The streetlamps cast their yellow light on the streets. A lot of us leave The Wee Jazz Bar at the same time. We look like people that have just been created out of the night, people who have just landed on the planet all at once together with the same pioneering, fierce look on our faces. We move along in our long coats with the collars turned up. It is windy. The wind blows a can along the street. Tonight is the night. Joss holds my hand tight as if he’s protecting me from something.

            He walks me right to my door. He goes to kiss me on the cheek, but changes his mind and kisses me full on the mouth. He grabs me up in his arms, sweeping my face towards his. He pulls me closer against him till my feet almost rise from the ground. His breathing is fast, excited. I open my eyes and stare at him whilst he is kissing me. His eyes are tight shut. He says my name as he kisses me over and over again. I feel like I am dying. I take his hand and lead him up the stairs to my small flat. I hope Helen is sound asleep, tucked up in her little bed.

            But when we get up the stairs, everything changes. Joss doesn’t throw me on my bed like I am expecting. He paces the room. ‘Sit down,’ I say. “Make yourself at home.” I’ve gone all shy. The intimacy of my own bedroom has made strangers of both of us. He sits down on the edge of my bed looking terrible, troubled. ‘What is it, Joss, what’s the matter?’ There is something he has to tell me. Something he should have told me ages ago, months ago, but couldn’t. He was afraid that if I knew I would stop seeing him. I feel sick. ‘Knew what?’ My mind is racing. Maybe he’s married; maybe he’s got one of those men’s diseases; maybe he’s committed a crime. I don’t know what it can be. I catch myself in the mirror. My hair is all out of place; my eyes look as wild as his. I can tell it is something serious, but I try to laugh it off. I ruffle my hands through his hair and kiss his cheek. ‘It can’t be that bad,’ I say. ‘Nothing is when you are in love.’ It is the first time I have ever told him this. It makes him more unhappy. He actually looks like he is going to cry. He tells me he can’t see me any more, just like that. I don’t believe this is happening. The moon is full outside the window, gaping in. The night is a lie. I want to go to sleep. I want to stop him talking and climb into my bed with him and fall asleep in his arms. I don’t care what he has done. I don’t want to know what he has done. He is saying he is sorry. The big moon gawps at me. It is strangely excited. I feel as if my world is turning mad.

            I knock my night cream off my dresser. Something in me just blows. ‘You can’t do that,’ I tell him and I find myself hitting him on the chest, crying. He gets angry with himself. I can hear him swearing under his breath. Then I hear him saying, ‘Forgive me.’ And he gets up to go. But I can’t have that. I grab him and pull him back. He is taller than me. I can’t shake him with my full force. So I shout instead. I don’t care about waking anybody up. I scream at him, ‘An explanation, you owe me an explanation. What’s the matter with you? Are you sick? Have you killed somebody?’ The strange thing is he already feels like he belongs to me. My anger makes him mine. ‘You really want to know, don’t you,’ he says in a voice I can’t quite recognize. ‘You really want to know. I’ll show you then,’ he says. ‘I’ll show you what is the matter.’ He has a strange expression on his face, as if for a moment he is suspended, not quite himself.

            He takes off his blue jacket and throws it on my floor. He takes off his tie and throws that down too. His hands are trembling. I am trembling. I think maybe he’s changed his mind and he wants to make love. I think, shouldn’t he undress me first? I’m not sure. I try to remember what the couple of other boyfriends I’ve had have done. My mind goes blank. He is undoing the buttons of his shirt. He slows down now. Each button is undone so terribly slowly. Underneath the shirt is a T-shirt. He takes that off slowly too, lifting his arms up and pulling it from his waist over his head. He discards it. His eyes are determined. He looks at me the whole time. An odd look, challenging, almost aggressive – as if he is saying, ‘I told you so. I told you so.’ He pulls the next T-shirt over his head and throws that away too. He has another layer on underneath, a vest. His clothes are spreadeagled on my floor like the outline of a corpse in a move. The vest is stripped off as well. He looks a lot thinner now with all that off him. I’m excited watching this man undress for me. Underneath his vest are lost of bandages wrapped round and round his chest. He starts to undo them. I feel a wave of relief: to think all he is worried about is some scar he has. He should know my love goes deeper than a wound. ‘You don’t have to show me,’ I say. I feel suddenly full of compassion. ‘Did you have an accident? I don’t care about superficial things like that.’ I go towards him to embrace him. ‘I’m not finished,’ he says. He keeps unwrapping endless rolls of bandage. I am still holding out my hands when the first of his breasts reveals itself to me. Small, firm.

 –Trumpet by Jackie Kay, 1998

 Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

Published in: on June 23, 2017 at 5:17 PM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow, that looks great- I’m so gonna buy that book! Thanks so much for sharing 😃 G

  2. It’s soooo good! Let me know what you think after you’ve read it! xottf


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