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 [Portraits of Love cover]

angela + camille = love*

By Angela Romagnoli and Camille Roy

From Portraits of Love

(* Angela and Camille have been together for eighteen years, since Angela was a twenty-something and Camille was "chicken.")

An interview over dinner at Ruby's Pizza.

C: What about those names you have for different parts of my personality --

A: You mean like Jessica Horn.

C: Yeah. Do you think that's normal?

A: That name came from Little Richard. Do ya remember Arsenio Hall interviewing Little Richard? It was after he'd been born again, and Arsenio was needling him about that televangelist Jim Bakker screwing Jessica Hahn. Little Richard looked up very sly and said, "Are you asking me about Jessica Horn?" Did you know she was the church secratary?

C: Really.

A: What a sexpot-looking 'ho she was.

C: That's your fantasy. That's why you call me by that name.

A: Nah. I know what you are. I wouldn't love you if you weren't weird, and you wouldn't love me if I weren't a smart-ass.

C: I guess.

A: When I first met you, I thought your middle name really was McCormick. Little did I know it was just an affectation.

C: What about Nadja?

A: That suited you better . . . Listen, the fact that you were a femme for a while, that was just icing. You played it, it was a party, you were pretty good at it. But when I first saw you that winter in Michigan, wearing a huge Russian fur hat with earflaps, I knew what I was getting. A creature. It wasn't exactly what I wanted. I thought you might be more of a jock.

C: We have this odd chemistry. You're more socialized.

A: I try to teach you manners. My mother said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." Didn't your mother teach you manners?

C: Of course not.

A: You're not allowed to give my femme friends who come over to the house the evil eye. What makes you think you can act that way?

C: Whatever about manners. You're the only person I've ever known who used their good throwing arm to break bank windows. You were so rebellious.

A: Was? I still am. I'm defiant every day. That's how I can go out in the world and be a butch. I hate to be in the closet, ever.

This is what was cute about you. On our second date, you brought your toothbrush. We ended up at my house, and you brushed your teeth. When I came out of the bathroom, there you were on the bed, waiting for me. You'd taken all your clothes off. We had never even kissed.

C: You seemed rough and sweet. Sexy to me.

A: I felt tender after that.

C: You are a hunk of tender. Sometimes I ask you why after all these years you still like me, and you say, "Well, I have to love somebody." That's true about you.

A: It's your smell. I liked it from the first sniff.

C: I wasn't comfortable with you for at least five years. I didn't know what to say.

A: That's irrelevant.

C: Why?

A: At the start you were more fascinated by me than I was by you. It was my mouth. My bad-girl self. I had just gotten busted, and you were newly out, hanging with the dykes and drag queens and whores. It was all exciting to you. But that wasn't what was really going on. We didn't know what our process was going to be. How we would challenge each other . . . You kept giving me things I wasn't expecting -- in terms of family stuff, the incest. As long as I fucked you regularly! Your horniness is irresistible, though I know I can't totally take it personally. Even though you were scared at first of my pussy.

C: I got over that ages ago!

A: Yeah.

C: What else should we talk about?

A: Did I tell you I talked to the salesman from Sprint?

C: No. So what?

A: We were talking about my account. Then he told me his stepfather was so racist he refused an operation because the hospital wouldn't promise him that the transfusion blood wouldn't come from anyone black. This Sprint guy had witnessed a lynching when he was a little kid, and his stepfather had a hand in. Anyhow, this guy was pretty shy. In high school he didn't date much, but there was this one girl he liked, she was his friend and really sweet. So he asked her to the prom, and they went. She was black. His stepfather disowned him after that. They didn't speak until he was dying. On his deathbed, the stepfather admitted he was wrong.

C: Jesus. The salesman told you that?

A: Yeah.

C: On the phone?

A: Yeah. I don't know why he told me all that.

C: I can't believe the things people tell you. Perfect strangers. What is that about?

A: Don't know. I told him I was a dyke, maybe that opened him up.

Angela Romagnoli wants it to be known that, thanks to her mixed Appalachian and Italian ancestry, she has been know as Hound Dog and Romeo Ravioli. She is a social worker adn an ex-con (sort of). Camille Roy is a poet, fiction writer, and performer. Her most recent book is The Rosy Medallions.

Copyright © 1997, Angela Romagnoli and Camille Roy.

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