“Dear Mother, Please Send Rubles”

a 5-ruble note (Russian currency)
Image by frankieleon / CC BY

Picture it. Quebec City 1999.

We’ve been to six bars in one night. And we’ve made the most of each. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a Long Island Iced Tea. I’ve lost count of how many Jane’s bought me, but they’re hitting me pretty hard.

I’ve been staring at Jane a little bit too long for weeks as she’s getting dressed and undressed at the dorm. Fixating on her naked shape from where I stand in the doorway, chatting while she gets ready. Maybe she knows I watch her so intently, maybe she doesn’t. But she never covers herself.

And now here we are, after a long night of bar hopping — of dancing awkwardly to bad music. Smelling spilled beer.

We’re back in our hotel room.

But we’re not alone.

Bev is there, too.

Bev. Ugh. She’s nice enough. Sweet. And for what it’s worth, Jane has always preferred her. I don’t know why. But Jane craves Bev’s touch and sometimes (but not always) recoils from mine, although I would die for her.

You know. It’s complicated.

Oh well.

There are two queen beds in the room that we’re sharing. Jane and Bev pile into the far one. Start to make out. It sounds like it’s trending towards sex.

“Hey,” I say, brightly. “Can I join you?”

In that instant, a million erotic images flash before me. A melding of bodies. It won’t be my first lesbian threesome (that happened in middle school), but it’ll probably be my hottest. Because I’m crazy about Jane. I haven’t felt quite this way before — even though she’s never reciprocated it at full strength, seemingly preferring to be hot and cold. To throw me crumbs.

They stop kissing. “No,” they both say, almost in unison.

My heart sinks. “Okay,” I reply.

I don’t want to cry. I feel rejected in that moment but know I’m not entitled to anything. Because that’s not how anything works.

But I’m young and wounded. Low on coping skills. And I don’t have anywhere else to go for the night.

From the sound of it, things are starting to get more serious. They’re about to have sex. And I’m just kind of there. In the way.

I pick up the hotel stationery and a pen. Walk to the window.

I begin to write at the same time I dictate the words aloud: “Dear mother,” I say. “Please send rubles.”

They both stop kissing to laugh. And it’s a laugh with wild abandon.

I continue. “Siberia is cold. I don’t know how I’ll make it,” I say.

“Dear mother,” Jane repeats. “Please send rubles.” She’s shaking from it.

“Rubles,” Bev chokes out the single word, seemingly unable to breathe, let alone speak. Their laughter winds into a feedback loop.

If they do end up having sex that night, it takes place after I’m asleep.

I’ll Always Remember This Night I Dealt With Rejection by Making a Joke & Was Met with Compassion

The three of us have moved on to separate things, separate lives. Jane never quite got Bev where she wanted her. These days Bev is married monogamously to a man. It took Jane a few tries to get to a lasting marriage, but she’s been (monogamously) married to her third wife (who seems absolutely lovely and a good match for Jane) for a while now.

And I’ve taken a twisty turny route myself, having been with a long string of women and men in the interim. At the moment I’m polyamorous, have a husband and a girlfriend.

We haven’t all been in the same room for years, but on the occasions Jane and I have talked one on one (either in person or virtually), it inevitably happens. One of us will say, “Dear mother, please send rubles,” and send the other into fits of laughter. Sometimes it’s me, but usually it’s not. It’s usually Jane.

“Siberia is cold. I don’t know how I’ll make it,” I’ll reply.

And we’ll both be transported back to that one night in college when I dealt with rejection the best way I know how: By making a silly joke.

The night when she responded to this absurdity not by getting annoyed or accusing me of guilt-tripping (not my intent but a reasonable charge to make) but with initial laughter and eventual compassion.

Like anyone else, I’ve experienced a fair amount of rejection in my life, but this will always be one of my favorites.

*

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