Author: David Alton Dodd
Mona was cute in an odd way that you couldn’t put your finger on. I was a freshman in a college near Los Angeles, or perhaps a sophomore. I worked full time, was in a rock band, and tabled 16 credits. I was all of 18 or so.
One day, working on a major in music, I was dutifully crafting something in a practice room, and a head kept peering in from outside of the door. I played on because I had the room reserved. Yet the head kept appearing. Some young girl was interested that I was in this particular practice room. Other practice rooms were unoccupied; I could tell from the lack of activity. Finally, I had to stop. I got up and opened the door. “Yes?” I asked her. She was maybe five feet tall. Compact. Cute. A smile that lit up the hallway.
“I…um…was just listening to what you were playing,” she said.
“Ah, well, there are other practice rooms available,” I told her.
“Oh, I’m not a music major. I was just passing through,” she informed me. It was awkward. “Can I come in and listen to you for a while? I promise not to bother you.” I let her in.
“Mona,” she said, extending a hand, smiling, as if I were someone important.
“Dave. Or David. Whichever.” Mona had these big brown eyes and freckles on her nose. Everything about her was warm and comfortable. She sat, and I played on, and she kept smiling as if to make me believe that everything I did was wonderful and special and amazing.
My tongue is generally planted firmly in my cheek when I refer to Monday as lesbian night in the Dandy del Sur, in Tijuana. But this is also a truth, in part — it doesn’t necessarily have to be Monday for lesbians to enjoy a nice cold drink there. It could be any day. It does seem that Monday is most likely, for whatever reason, the day to enjoy the very distant company of two girls who are unusually interested in each other.
How would I know that they were lesbians? I didn’t used to. I went to the Dandy del Sur for a lot of years and only know of one lesbian who was self-professed. We occasionally watched a ball game and chatted from a distance. She was masculine, in her 30s, and drank her liquor straight. She knew the cantineras very well.
Girls and women frequent the Dandy often, workmates or friends. The Dandy is one of the only bars in Tijuana where females can comfortably enjoy a drink and not get pestered. Most Mexican men are aggressive, flaunting their desires with speed and verbosity, pouncing on their prey with drinks and propositions. But not in the Dandy del Sur. The Dandy is a safe haven, generally filled with professionals and artists of all different types. Mexican men who drink there have enough money, education, and class to have overcome what is culturally expected. I noticed this even before I learned that on some nights as many as half of the female patronage might well be lesbians. Even before I started paying attention to it.
Mona began to follow me around a lot, and I enjoyed her company. She always seemed to know where I would be, and we would snack out on the lawn outside of one of the music buildings. She was studying psychology. One day we were out there on the grass between classes, and I was working on something.
“David, I have to tell you something,” she said.
“Um, sure,” I answered, not looking up.
“Before we go any further…” she continued. This got my attention — I had no idea that we should be going any further. Going further with what, exactly? In the two days that I had known her, nothing romantic appeared. I had no designs on it, and she didn’t seem to either.
“With our friendship,” she assured me, reading my face.
“Ah, okay,” I said and put away my work to give her my undivided attention.
"I’m a lesbian," she confessed.
I waited for more.
"And?" I finally asked.
"That’s it, that’s what I thought I should let you know," she finished.
“Well, then we have something in common, Mona — we both like girls.” Mona smiled really big and then hugged me as if I’d just given her a car.
One Monday evening, after Scott and Jody and everyone else had left, I sat and sipped on my scotch. It was somewhat crowded in the Dandy, but there was still plenty of room at the bar. I was watching American football, taking stock of the people around me. There was one young lady who had been there for at least an hour. I had seen her there before with a friend.
She was beautiful — brown skin, small firm body, occasionally smiling. She pretended to watch the television, sipping her beer, alone. She wore glasses, and it made her even more attractive. She was the diamond in this rough terrain of half-drunk stones. She sat five barstools away, occasionally chatting with a curious stranger. She was elegant and polite. She was so very young, perhaps 22.
I pulled out my laptop to distract myself and began to write, but the words came slowly. She was buying her own drinks, and I kept thinking about how wrong it was. All of these young men in here, and no one was buying her a drink! I stewed in my own thoughts, frustrated and perplexed — she was so beautiful. I ordered another scotch.
“Don’t look over there,” I told the cantinera in Spanish. “There is a pretty young lady in glasses sitting over there. I’m buying her a drink, but please don’t tell her whom it’s from. Put it on my tab, please.”
Mona came with me to all of the band’s rehearsals and gigs; she was my best friend. We laughed at everything, pointed out attractive women to each other, and shared our darkest insecurities with one another. She had girlfriends — the most beautiful, sexy girls I’ve ever seen in my life — and all of them were smart. We partied a lot, too. And then one night it happened. It didn’t change our relationship outwardly, but I think that it was something that allowed us to both move on, to no longer be joined at the hip, and then to eventually drift apart forever.