By Mary Rawson
She opens the door to the pub and the warmth immediately hits her. There is a gas fire set in to the brick wall. Set back from the fire are people sitting at tables, looking serious, frustrated and earnest. It looks like a mixed-age crowd.
“Who won the grand final in 1982?” she hears a male voice shout from the corner table, at the far end of the room.
She looks over to the voice and sees a young man, mid-twenties, wearing a bright pink shirt and waving a piece of paper.
“Anyone, anyone?” he prompts, looking expectantly from table to table.
“C’mon Pete, you’re supposed to know this stuff,” she hears a woman whisper as she moves towards the bar.
She scans the bar, looking for clues. There are two young women to the right of her, one with a flower tattoo on her shoulder and green lace-up Doc Marten boots.
Maybe they’re part of the group? She hopes she’s not the oldest one there.
There is a woman on the far side of the circular bar, who looks about her age, drinking a glass of red wine. She is looking at the enormous wooden clock that is fastened to the wall just above the liqueur bottles. She takes a sip, looks at the clock, takes a sip, looks at the clock. By the time Mary gets the barwoman’s attention, her wine is gone.
Maybe she’s part of the group?
“Pot of lager, thanks,” she whispers.
She clears her throat.
“Pot of lager, thanks,” she almost shouts this time. The woman with the flower tattoo turns around briefly. She meets her eyes and registers an emerald green eyebrow stud. That would have to have hurt. The woman turns back to her friend. Mary hopes she hasn’t stared. She can’t trust her self-censure at the moment.
“Coming right up.” The barwoman smiles at her.
As Mary takes her beer and hands over her coins, she leans forward and asks the barwoman in a carefully modulated voice: “How do I get to the upstairs meeting room?”
The barwoman turns and points at a wooden door Mary hadn’t noticed before, which is directly behind the red wine drinker.
The red wine drinker frowns and looks confused.
“I’m not pointing at you,” the barwoman shouts over to her. “I’m just showing this woman the door behind you.”Mary nods her thanks and takes a larger than normal gulp of her beer… and then another.
She forces herself to stop and puts her glass back on the counter.
She looks at the clock.
It’s time to go.
Mary picks up her beer, with the serious intent of taking it upstairs with her, but finds herself downing its contents in two big gulps. She hasn’t drunk like this since she was a student.
She looks around to check if anyone has seen her. The red wine drinker is picking up a now full glass of wine and is heading for the door.
She must be part of the group.
Mary decides to order another beer
As she heads towards the door with beer in one hand and bag in the other, a check-shirted man with a bald head and red goatee beard jumps off his bar stool and opens the door for her.
“Going upstairs?” he asks, smiling encouragingly at her.
“Yeah.” She smiles back, relieved she’s not shouting or whispering this time.
“I’ll be right up. Just ordering another one,” he says and closes the door behind her.
The stairs are directly in front of her, and she can see a landing halfway up. A pair of red boots stops briefly on the landing, and then disappears out of Mary’s view.
The red wine drinker. She needs to follow her.
Mary pauses briefly at the bottom of the stairs.
No, you are NOT bailing out this time Mary girl, she tells herself.
As she ascends, the air grows warmer and warmer. She feels her cheeks burning hot.
She reaches the landing and puts her drink and bag on the wooden table next to the banister. She shrugs off her orange woolen coat, wondering now how she is going to manage coat, drink, bag and stairs.
The door opens downstairs and there is a surge of bar noise and then quiet again as it bangs closed. Brisk, heavy feet take the stairs two at a time.
In no time, the bald-headed goatee man is next to her on the landing. His cheeks look flushed.
“Let me take your coat,” he says.
Before she can reply he is ahead of her, orange coat over his arm.
“No need for coats up here,” he pants, opening another door for her.
No going back now. She has to enter.
There is a large wooden table taking up most of the space in the room, around which are sitting eight or maybe ten people. The wine-drinking woman from downstairs nods her acknowledgement and gestures to the chair next to her.
Mary sits and talks to the wine-drinking woman and the goatee bearded man about the traffic on the way here and how cold the night is. They all agree there may be a frost tomorrow.
For the remainder of the night, Mary listens to their stories but doesn’t say much.
There is the woman who thought she was a lesbian, but found she was bi.
There is the happily married wife who also likes women, the young trans man who has a boyfriend and a girlfriend, the gay man who was alarmed to find himself fantasizing about a woman at work.
There is a man who knew when he was thirteen and a woman who didn’t know until her mid-thirties.
Shame, bewilderment and anger are shared at being shut down, ignored and vilified.
Humorous stories are shared.
Gender and orientation become blurred, lines and borders fade and become more like wiggles that continually change form.
On the way home in the car, Mary cries tears of relief.
She is not alone.
Mary Rawson has always liked writing and quite recently had published All of Us, a book whose main characters identify as bisexual. She is a proud member of the Bisexual Alliance Victoria and is currently in the role of Secretary. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, but hails from New Zealand. She likes playing music, cycling and is also partial to a bit of yarn bombing.