That first summer I lived in Santa Cruz, I got a really good job. Four-ten an hour, thirty-six hours a week. A very good job: it paid better than minimum wage. Six days a week I worked at the Seaside Company's Boardwalk, cleaning the Ladies' Rooms.
They called me Restroom Matron. I felt myself a member of an elite set, apart from the other boardwalk workers. Besides making a lot more money, we had freedom. We walked from rest room to rest room up and down the 'Walk. Our uniform, broom, and bag of supplies identified us as the free-roaming Restroom Matrons. We also were invisible, the way the lowest class of any society is invisible. We enjoyed our freedom, we also flushed toilets all day. Nobody wanted to look at that. Not even supervisors.
There were two of us per shift. Three rest rooms. Sometimes we worked together, especially during the long and rigorous training period. You can image the complexities. First, flush all the toilets--I still flush public toilets with my foot--sweep, fill the paper, towels, sinks, mirrors, mop.
We'd start at Arcade, usually the cleanest, then Merry-Go-Round. Last, we'd go to Loggers' which is actually, physically, under that ride, the Loggers' Revenge. Loggers' was the worse. You had to study the boats' trajectories high over your head, and dash under the flume just after the spray of stinking water. Water splashed over the doorway constantly, and the concrete floor was a slurry of sand. A dirty place encourages dirty behavior, as we all know. This rest room, more than the others, is where women dipped their babies' bottoms into the sinks, leaving for me plugs of shitty sand.
As a relief from this excess reality, I began smoking pot regularly that summer. Being stoned at the Boardwalk is far better than not. I'd get high around 4:55 p.m., show up for my shift at 5. The train from Davenport ran down the old Sun Tan Special line, just at the edge of the Seaside Co's property around 5:10 p.m.. I would stand real close to the tracks, in my uniform, holding my broom and my supply bag, and I could imagine the train would sweep me away, down the beach to Seabright, to Capitola, to Aptos, to anywhere.
But I'm not here to tell you about a shitty job. I want to talk about lesbians.
It was July. I had moved out of the College Five dorms weeks before. I was living in a house with physics students who liked to play roulette. I was meeting interesting people.
But no lesbians. I hadn't met any lesbians. And if you had asked me, I would not have told you I wanted to meet lesbians. But I wanted to meet lesbians. I had always wanted to meet lesbians. I chose UCSC because I heard some lesbians lived in Santa Cruz.
One day, I stepped out from under Loggers' with my uniform, my supply bag in one hand, and my broom on my shoulder. In front of me walked a couple. I had watched many couples that summer. Many mostly naked teenaged people, enjoying themselves just like on TV. They liked to walk together hip to hip. I would laugh at them.
But not this couple. These two were women. A female couple. They wore jeans and tee shirts. They walked together, hip to hip. I watched them. I walked behind them. They put their hands on the others' waist. They nuzzled their necks. They put their hands in each other's back pockets. They kissed and walked at the same time. They both had long hair. They were enjoying themselves, like I had never seen on TV.
I followed them past Merry-Go-Round, even though I was to clean it next. In my Matron's uniform I could follow them up the 'Walk and no supervisor would know I was watching two particular girls, following a certain couple, a singular couple separate and memorable from all the couplings I witnessed in my stoned bemusement that summer. In my blue invisibility I followed them, watching their touching, kissing, rubbing joy. They were so hot together. I'm not sure if they noticed they weren't in bed. They never noticed me.
They left the 'Walk at Merry-Go-Round gate. I watched them. I followed them. But then I stopped. I could not step over the tracks. I could follow them no further. Off the 'Walk, my uniform, my supply bag, my boyfriend--all would expose me for what I was, and what I was trying to be. The lesbians would notice. They would know. They might ask me about myself. Iwould ask me about myself. I would think I would remove my uniform, and leave behind my Boardwalk freedom invisibility, cross the tracks, and follow them. Into the real city, real life, where lesbians live.