Banjo Lesbians

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Written by Charles Rammelkamp. Charles Rammelkamp’s latest book is entitled “Mata Hari: Eye of the Day,” a sequence of poems about the life of the famous exotic dancer/spy (Apprentice House). A chapbook was published last year by Finishing Line Press entitled “Mixed Signals.” For more on Jewrotica by Charles, see Kitty, Reunion, More Jewish, The Merkin, Forever Jewish, Glasscutter, Revolutions Per Minute, and When I’m Sixty-Four.

I did a doubletake at the light pole outside Starbucks on Roland Avenue. Handmade signs with notices about missing pets, roommates wanted, apartments for rent, piano, guitar, Italian language lessons, plastered all over the pole like some weird haphazard wallpaper design, taped and glued and stapled. Banjo lessons. I’d mis-read it at first glance.

I tried to think when I’d ever seen a female banjo player and came up blank. I didn’t know many banjo players at all, to tell you the truth. The banjo began in medieval Africa, actually, not in the backwoods of America. Enslaved Africans brought it to America and European Americans learned it from the slaves, toured rural and urban settings playing in minstrel fashion. They also merged it with English, Scottish and Irish musical traditions. It was popular for a while but waned for years until the bluegrass revival of the 1940’s. Jews only came to the banjo in the 1960’s with the popularity of folk music. Nowadays, we use it even in klezmer bands. We have a whole new musical genre, Jewgrass.

My college girlfriend had played violin, though not well. Vivaldi, Mozart. This was thirty years ago. We’d met at a folk concert where a jugband was performing; one guy played a banjo and another played a washboard, among other instruments, I recall. Rebecca would also later come out as a lesbian, with friends who worked at OBX strippers. She had difficulty having an orgasm, while I fired off about three every time we had sex. I couldn’t get enough of her. It was the first regular sex I’d ever had. We sucked and licked and fingered each other in every conceivable hole but in the end she just felt resentful more than anything. It was like we were keeping score, but we wouldn’t admit it even to ourselves. Or at least I wouldn’t, unless my feelings of guilt and inadequacy were some sort of admission.

“You just want me for the hole in my ass,” she accused once.

I protested halfheartedly, recognizing the truth in what she had said, not wanting to believe her, but also not seeing the shame in it. I really enjoyed fucking her.

Later, after we’d broken up, I saw her in a butch motorcycle jacket and her hair cut short like a boy’s. We waved at each other, cordial, but we didn’t speak. She’d dumped me, broken my heart. So sure, I had hard feelings, who wouldn’t? I never actually saw her with another woman, just heard rumors. We drifted apart, moved to different cities, never saw each other again.

“You turned your girlfriend into a dyke!” my roommate Isaac laughed. “Rebecca prefers women to you.”

I laughed feebly, unable to tell him what I thought was the truth for fear of sounding like I was just defending my manhood. This was years before the whole “gay-is-a-lifestyle-choice versus you’re-born-that-way” argument; it was just the way Rebecca was, her preference, I’d concluded. We’d even talked about it some, theoretically. But Isaac was a moron, and I knew he thought he “had” me, and he wouldn’t stop with the teasing. After our lease was up, I didn’t keep in touch with him, either.

“Venti latte,” I told the barista when my turn came to place my order. She was a cute little thing with short hair, some sort of tattoo on her arm, and a piercing through her lower lip. A Star of David swung on a chain at her throat. I wondered if she played the banjo.

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