Cheryl Chase

Karen sat on the edge of Zara’s bed and her body began to shake. It was late, and the two women were tired. Karen had flown into town to speak on a panel organized by Zara. In the course of the evening, Zara’s film had been screened several times, perhaps one time too many for Karen.

The images came back to her now. Zara speaking, recalling her own initiation ceremony in Mogadishu. “The worst was the sound of the scissors, cutting, snipping, taking away part of my body.” There was fire, but no tears, in her eyes. She had the dark olive skin, beautiful features, and thick black hair of a Somali. Karen was strongly attracted to her. With each screening the video Zara recounted the story, and Karen’s imagination filled in the image of 13-year-old Zara struggling, struggling and losing.

The images came back and she was overwhelmed with grief. So much destruction, so much unnecessary pain. She wept for Zara and for herself, for African girls and for American infants. “Why are you crying now? Was someone cruel to you there today?” Karen recalled the reactions as she spoke about how surgeons had removed parts of her genitals while still an infant, how it had been kept secret from her. A strange resistance seemed to come over her listeners, some of them physically drew back from her. They had come to learn about African clitorectomy. But cruelty? No, no one had been cruel to her.

Zara put her arms around Karen, looked close into her face. Karen shook her head, tried to speak, but her voice failed her. She couldn’t understand how Zara could remain so calm, controlled. “It’s ok, baby. Go ahead, cry all you want to. I still cry, God knows I do.”

“I’ve never seen you cry.”

“I cry, but I can’t cry in front of anyone. Maybe I’m gonna be able to do it with you, sometime.”

They wrapped their arms around each other and rocked, Zara speaking, stroking her friend’s hair. Gradually Karen’s tears subsided, she pushed her grief back down to its usual hiding place, and another feeling rose up in its place. She rubbed her cheek against Zara’s, pressed her lips, moist and swollen from crying, against Zara’s. She drew her head back slightly, searched delicately with her tongue in the corner of Zara’s lips. She opened her eyes briefly, the better to appreciate the effect of this delicate touch on Zara’s countenance.

Zara let her head roll backward, moved her hands up into Karen’s hair and gripped. She released the two fistfuls of hair and slid the fingertips of one hand down Karen’s neck and across her shoulder, producing a shudder. Karen cupped one of Zara’s breasts in her hand, feeling the soft flesh through the thin silk. Zara’s pelvis began to roll, just perceptibly. Karen wrapped both arms about her, enjoyed the feeling of breast against breast, and of both their breasts against the inside of her own arms. She drew breath, slid her right arm up Zara’s back, tunneled the fingers into the mass of black hair. A little purr of pleasure escaped the Somali woman’s lips. Karen’s hands moved down now, and Zara put her arms up as her blouse was slipped off over her head.

Karen looked, appreciated the full round feminine figure, laid Zara back across the bed, and slipped out of her own dress. She stroked her face, running fingertips over forehead, cheeks, chin, sliding across to the earlobe. She lay her body down onto Zara’s, took earlobe between her teeth, tongued it as the two women pressed bellies, thighs together. She rolled onto her side, Zara’s face followed and their mouths came together. As tongues explored lips, teeth and tongue, Karen’s hand stroked Zara’s breast and belly, her fingers sliding into her pants. She removed her hand and slid it between Zara’s thighs, pressed upward, and felt the growing warmth and dampness there, the more insistent motion now of Zara’s hips.

Zara unfastened her belt buckle, and three hands cooperated to slide pants over hips, past thighs, knees and ankles. Returning her attention to Zara’s ear, Karen took the outer circle of cartilage between her teeth, applied gentle pressure. She traced out its inside diameter with her tongue, directed a measured volume of hot moist breath into the deeper recesses as her hand stroked buttock and lower back. Zara squirmed, goose flesh rose on her arm and thigh. Karen’s tongue slipped around now, pressed behind the ear, tickled the hairline, then worked down Zara’s neck. She took a large area of flesh into her mouth, compressed it with her teeth, and a spasm passed through Zara’s back, her body bucked. Adjusting her position, Karen reached further around and lower, bit into another mouthful of neck and shoulder muscle as she raked nails up Zara’s back, and was rewarded this time with a delighted squeal.

Karen found herself pushed over onto her back, and she stroked Zara’s hair and back as tongue and teeth traced out her own nipples, skimmed across to her underarm. As this reversal was repeated several times, heat rose and swelled in the two women. Now Karen ran her tongue down the crease between belly and thigh, used one hand to urge Zara’s thighs apart wider. Avoiding the broad pad of scar in the center, she lapped along the sensitive flesh outside what remained of Zara’s lips. A moan escaped from deep inside of Zara, and Karen pressed on, down and back, tonguing the intact flesh behind her vaginal entrance as she brought both hands under buttocks and around hips, stroked the other woman’s belly.

Zara rolled onto her side and raised one knee. She stroked her own side as Karen’s tongue slid further back, circled the opening which was now revealed to her. She slid a finger at the same time gently into Zara’s vagina, pressed and swirled it, careful to avoid too much pressure against the scarred entrance. Her other hand searched out a foot, she slid fingers between toes. Zara’s energy grew and grew, was expressed in her voice, her breathing, the rocking motion of her hips.

Their bodies intertwined, Karen pressed and Zara strove, hips thrusting. They continued so until Zara, finally tiring, brought her hands down and took hold of Karen’s face, directed it up until the women were face to face again. Karen held Zara tightly, stroked her gently and whispered to her while her energy subsided, her tension slowly eased, the rocking motion of her pelvis gradually receded.

Author’s Note

I wrote this story in 1993, before ISNA was founded. I had not yet met another woman who had been clitorectomized because she was intersexual, but I had met some African women who were working to eliminate clitorectomy in their countries. In this piece of fiction, I projected my own experience of sexuality onto an African woman. Please read it with that understanding; it is not my place to say what another’s experience is.

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