(Cassie and S. are walking back from the Orange Market while she tells him about going to see the soft-core lesbian cult film "Therese & Isabelle" the Summer before starting at Temple University)
I think part of the reason I was mad at Rochelle was jealousy. She was my best friend at the time, and Stephanie and Gina were inseparable, so I felt a mild sense of betrayal Rochelle had brought Judy along, especially since she was in 11th grade and might’ve screwed up our getting in. Gina said we should all go in as a group, even though the movie was about two women, no one seeing us would think anything peculiar, right? Just girl’s night out, right? We all laughed a little too loud, all except Stephanie, who looked pained and seemed like she’d bolt if we hadn’t all locked arms and headed for the door.
We sailed in without a hitch, then found a section with only a few single guys and plopped ourselves down.
I don’t remember most of the movie, though some parts are quite vivid because I was concentrating REALLY HARD on them. Some of that was not wanting to look around, the I-don’t-want-to-be-recognized-in-a-porn-palace paranoia. I certainly didn’t want to look at the others, not Rochelle and Judy who giggled at all the sex parts, and not at Stephanie and Gina, who seemed serious and even sad watching. Mostly I studied every scene because I’d never seen anything quite like it. It was pretty tame by what you can see now, even at Yale: bare bodies, mostly bare breasts, and no shots of actual sex, though a lot was cleverly suggested.
Despite its limitations, somehow the story and the girl-girl sex fascinated me, especially the voiceover with all these literary allusions to her clitoris as a pearl or the artful way the act of Sapphic love was described. It was so gentle, two women loving one another slowly and softly. The film’s goal was to be arousing and titillating, not overt and aggressive. I felt cheated and let down that it took the two women so long to get together for the "main event," with so much of the plot about the boarding school they attended. And once they got around to having sex, the plot lost all its tension, sorta like a sagging rubber band. The ending was even worse: the movie just seemed to run out of gas. I especially disliked having one of the lovers recall the whole thing years later during a return visit to the boarding school where all the action took place. The film ended, and the five of us headed straight for the exits without saying a word.
"I guess that was my first initiation, both into X-rated films and the vagueness of French movies."
S. laughed out loud again, so loud a neighbor walking into his house looked up and scowled at us. I stuck out my tongue. I felt sagacious and witty, and as we were almost at the apartment, I didn’t feel ready to go in just yet. Besides, this discussion needed to remain outside.
"All in all, an X-rated movie made a good beginning to our 'bright college years.' [the Yale anthem] I don’t recall any of us mentioning a thing about it on the bus home; stranger still, I never discussed it with any of them afterwards. There’s also a really funny ending to the story—not funny ha-ha, but weird. Only a year or so ago I found out why Stephanie and Gina were so serious and sad: they were having this passionate schoolgirl Therese and Isabelle affair no one knew anything about at the time. Then one day freshman year of college Stephanie broke it off, and got engaged to a guy at almost the same time. Gina nearly had a nervous breakdown. She’s still carrying a huge torch for Stephanie, who’s cut off all communication with her. Won’t even speak with her on the phone. After she got married, Stephanie and her husband moved to some hick town in western Maryland. He teaches at this tiny college, and they almost never go back to Philadelphia." S. simply went "Hmm" or some other sound indicating thought and pondering, then looked at me with his most piercing smile.
(to be continued)