In eighth grade, Carrie knew a girl named Charlotte Netts. Charlotte was one of the popular girls, which basically meant she was an early developer. Charlotte used to invite other girls over to spend the night. She used to send notes to girls, too. Carrie's friend Jackie went to spend the night at Charlotte 's, and the next day it turned out that she had called her father in the middle of the night to come get her. Char-
lotte, Jackie said, had «attacked» her. She tried to kiss her and touch her breasts, and she wanted Jackie to do the same thing to her. She said it was "practice for boys." After that, they weren't friends anymore.
It was a scary story, and for years, Carrie would never sleep in the same bed with other girls or undress in front of them, even though you were supposed to be able to do that, because it was just girls. She used to think, What is wrong with me, why can't I just be like everybody else and not be uptight about it? But it would be terrible to have to say no to sexual advances from someone who was your friend.
A few years back, two of her girlfriends had gotten drunk and ended up spending the night together. The next day, both of them called Carrie and complained about how the other one tried to have sex with her, and how Carrie had better watch out. Carrie didn't know which one to believe. But the two women were never friends again.
Mr. Big was away for the whole month of October, and everything was just a little bit off. On the streets on the Upper East Side, people were walking around in their fall clothing, but the weather was too warm and sunny. At first, Carrie stayed home nights, not drinking and reading Jane Austen's Persuasion instead of seeing the movie. She'd read it twice before, but this time the book was boring, the characters going on in long speeches, and Carrie was depressed from a lack of alcohol and parties. Then she tried going out, but no one had changed or was doing anything new.
One night, Stanford Blatch came late to Wax, the new nightclub in SoHo, with a man's handkerchief tied around his neck.
"What's up?" Carrie asked, and Stanford said, "Oh, you mean with this? It's the Goose Guy's fault." The Goose Guy was a man who liked to have his neck wrung during sex. "Which was fine," Stanford said, "until he tried it on me.
The next night, she had dinner with Rock McQuire, a TV actor. "I really want a boyfriend," he said. "I think I'm finally ready for a relationship."
"You're such a great guy," Carrie said. "You're smart, cute, really successful. You shouldn't have a problem."
"But it's not that easy," Rock said. "I don't want to go out with a twenty-two-year-old pretty boy. But if I go out with someone in
their thirties, they have to be really successful, too. And how many guys are there around like that? So instead, I end up going to a sex club and having an encounter and going home. At least it's not, you know, emotionally messy."
The next morning, Miranda called up. "You'll never believe what I did," she said, and Carrie said, "What, sweetie?" while her right hand curled into a fist, a gesture she's been repeating a lot lately.
"Got a second? You're gonna love this."
"I don't, but I'm dying to hear it."
"I went to a party with my friend Josephine. You know Josephine, right?" "No, but. ."
"I introduced you. At that party that my friend Sallie had. You remember Sallie, don't you? Motorcycle Sallie?" "Motorcycle Sallie."
"Right. There were all these baseball players there. And guess what? I made out with one of them, and then I went into a bedroom with another and we did it, right at the party."
"That's incredible," Carrie said. "Was it great?"
"Awesome," Miranda said.
Something's gotta give, Carrie thought.
BEHIND THE WALL
"Let's go to some clubs," the Girl said. They were sitting on a banquette. Carrie, the Girl, and the Girl's friends, who turned out to be unattractive guys in their twenties with short, frizzy
whispered, earlier, but Carrie thought they were completely forgettable.
Now the Girl was pulling her arm, pulling her to her feet. She kicked the guy who was closest to her. "C'mon, asshole, we want to go out."
"I'm going to a party in Trump Tower," the guy said, with a fake Euro-accent.
"Like hell you are," she said.
"C'mon, sweetie. Come out with us," she whispered to Carrie.
Carrie and the Girl crammed into the front seat of the kid's car, which was a Range Rover, and they started going uptown. Suddenly the Girl yelled, "Stop the car, you shithead!" She leaned over and opened the door and pushed Carrie out. "We're going," she said.
And then they were two girls running down the streets west of Eighth Avenue.
They found a club and they went in. They walked all through the club holding hands and the Girl knew some people there and Carrie didn't know anyone and she liked it. Men looked at them, but they didn't look back. It wasn't like two girls going out looking for a good time; there was a wall up. On the other side of the wall was freedom and power. It felt good. This is the way I'm going to be from now on, Carrie thought. It didn't feel scary.
Carrie remembered that at a party recently a woman named Alex told her a story about a friend of hers who was bisexual. She went out with women and men. She'd be with a man she liked, and then she'd meet a woman she liked and leave the man for the woman.
"I mean, I've never been with a woman," Alex said. "Maybe I'm the only one—but who hasn't said, T wish I could be a lesbian just so I wouldn't have to deal with men. But the funny thing is, my friend said being with a woman was so intense because you're both women in the relationship. You know how women always want to talk about everything? Well,
until four in the morning. After a while, she has to leave and go back to a man because she can't take the talking."
"Have you ever been with a woman?" the Girl asked Carrie. "You'll like it."
"Okay," Carrie said. She was thinking, I'm ready for this. It's time. Maybe I've secretly been a lesbian my whole life and I just didn't know it. She imagined the kissing. The Girl would be softer and squishier than a man. But it would be okay.
Then Carrie went back to the Girl's house. The Girl lived in an expensive high-rise, two-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. The furniture was that Danish stuff with knitted afghans. There were porcelain kittens on the side tables. They went into the kitchen and the Girl lit up a roach. She had a small, earthenware bowl filled with roaches. She had an open, half-empty bottle of wine. She poured them both some wine and handed Carrie a glass.
"I still sleep with men sometimes," the Girl said. "They just drive me crazy."
"Uh huh," Carrie said. She was wondering when the Girl was going to make her move and how she would make it.
"I sleep with men and women," the Girl said. "But I prefer women."
"Then why sleep with men?" Carrie asked.
The girl shrugged. "They're good for stuff."
"In other words, it's just the same old story," Carrie said. She glanced around the apartment. She lit up a cigarette and leaned back against the counter. "Okay," she said. "What's the deal? Really. You must be independently wealthy to be able to afford this place, or else you've got something else going on."
The Girl took a sip of her wine. "I dance," she said. "Oh, I
see," Carrie said. "Where?"
"Stringfellows. I'm good. I can make about a thousand a night."
"So that's what this is about."
"Topless dancers all sleep with each other because they hate men."
"Yeah, well," the Girl said, "the men are all losers." "The ones you know. The ones who go into the club," Carrie said.
"Is there any other kind?" the Girl asked. In the kitchen hght, Carrie saw that her skin was not so good, that it was pockmarked under a heavy coat of foundation. "I'm tired," the Girl said. "Let's go he down."
"Let's do it," Carrie said.
They went into the bedroom. Carrie sat on the edge of the bed, trying to keep up a patter of conversation. "I'm going to get more comfortable," the Girl said. She went to her closet. She took off her fancy leather pants and put on sloppy gray sweatpants. She took out a T-shirt. When she undid her bra, she turned away. Without her clothes on, she was short and kind of chubby.
They lay down on top of the bed. The pot was beginning to wear
off. "Do you have a boyfriend?" the Girl asked.
"Yes," Carrie said, "I do and I'm crazy about him."
They lay there for a few minutes. Carrie got an ache in her stomach from missing Mr. Big.
"Listen," Carrie said, "I've got to go home. It was great to meet you, though."
"Great to meet you," the Girl said. She turned her head to the wall and closed her eyes. "Make sure the door is shut on your way out, okay? I'll call you."
Two days later, the phone rang and it was the Girl. Carrie thought, Why did I give you my number? The Girl said, "Hi? Carrie? It's me. How are you?"
"Fine," Carrie said. Pause. "Listen. Can I call you right back? What's your number?"
She took down the Girl's number, even though she already had it. She didn't call back, and for the next two hours until she went out, she didn't answer the phone. She let the machine pick up.