About Okelle

Self-portrait photograph of Frances Johnston, 1889-1910
A portrait of the artist as a young bohemian
Photo credit: Frances Johnston, on exhibit at Clio

Miss Ophelia Karen Elizabeth Laurel Lucia Emmett (commonly known as Okelle) was born into a prestigious Denver family fallen on hard times during the Great Depression of the 1970s. Due to the family’s lessened circumstances, Okelle was forced to sell matches and flowers on the streets of Denver after school during most of her formative years. She refers to this period of her life in her memoirs as the “burning flower” years.

After her mother attempted to sell her to a local brothel to pay off her mah-jong debts, Okelle absconded to San Franscisco with the family silver. There she made a name for herself among the buskers and street performers as Little Nell, the Singing Match Girl. Eventually she attracted the attention of a sociology professor from UC Berkeley, who recognized Miss Okelle’s as-yet-untapped intellectual prowess and groomed her for a scholarship position at the University. Okelle took advantage of the professor’s kindness and eventually earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from UC Berkeley before going on to study at Cambridge as a Rhodes Scholar. While at Cambridge, she met and married one of the descendants of the notorious Bloomsbury group and bore him a child whom they named Buttercup.

Poor little Buttercup met a terrible fate Continue reading “About Okelle”

Is It a Date? Will There Be Cupcakes?

Is it a date, a friendly get-together, or an interview? The femme is zaftig and pale with dark auburn hair, a violet orchid behind her ear that matches her dress. So I’m guessing it’s a date. Because my own femme-dar tells me this woman might be wearing that fabulous dress, but not the orchid if she didn’t have a reason to. Why else would a femme and a butch — or is ze a transman — be sitting together on an October afternoon at Fiore’s Bakery, in Jamaica Plain, the the Ground Zero of our tribe? Why else would they be asking and answering all those getting-to-know-you questions? Are all queer women so matter-of-fact witht their first-date questions? Or is it an interview? Are they sniffing each other out as they consider collaborating on some performance art piece, or some vaguely charitable business plan, maybe a cupcake store that sources all its chocolate from a women’s coca collective in Ghana?

[Adapted from an October 2012 journal entry]

From the Archives: In Pura’s voice

From the archives, a character study I started in 1998. Would you like to hear more of her story?

In Pura’s voice

She turned out to be just like all the other bitches. After all I did for her, she just cut me off. All those good times we had, those long drives in the country, all the times I took her out to dinner, nothing. It meant nothing to her. She just wanted to see how much she could get out of me.

I should have known better when I met her. She was alone, standing against the wall at the club when I saw her eyeballing me, dancing. I could see her eyes shining in the darkness. Demon eyes. I didn’t let on that I noticed her, just kept on dancing. But later, I eased on up next to her. She leaned down to me, like a fly to honey. I pulled her onto the floor. And she could dance. Really something for a white girl, for a pale-skin like her to dance like that. I did like her pale skin, too, all creamy, but dotted with beauty marks. That blonde hair, those blue eyes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because later that night, I saw her get on the back of a bike, and old Beamer cruiser, with some Dominican guy—an old Beamer. He even honked at me when they buzzed by, as if to say this one’s mine. The last thing I saw was her nice round ass speeding off on the back of that bike. It was enough to make me cry. Her wasting herself on some piece of meat like that, and my Harley in pieces in my brother’s garage.

I didn’t think she’d call. Forgot all about her in fact. Went back to work on Monday, driving those kids around to their summer camps. Told off that asshole Greg a couple times, but that’s nothing new. He thinks because I’m small and female that I must want a piece of his big black dick. He just doesn’t get it. So I try to explain it to him in a way that even he can understand.

So anyway, I get home one day, I have a few beers with my buddy Tim down at the Cool Moose, and there’s this note for me. Eliza. And a phone number. I don’t know anybody named Eliza, but I figure what the hell, I’ll call.

She calls back the next day and reminds me we met at the club. And bam, I remember it all, her eyes in the darkness, the way she shook that ass, her getting on the back of that asshole’s bike. “You’re not bisexual, are you?” I said to her.

“So what if I am?” she goes.

“Well, I just don’t like the taste of sperm.”

She didn’t like that one bit, but it didn’t stop her from calling me back. And talking to her, she had all these theories, something about poly-something, which was like supposed to make it okay to fuck around with whoever you want. And she used all these big words all the time. They just came right out of her mouth, like she thought you’d know what the hell she was talking about. But I wasn’t listening to what she was saying. I just liked the sound of her voice. It was saying something different. It was saying, “Everything’s going to be all right.” It was saying, “I want to take you to bed.”

I wanted that too, and that’s why I kept calling her back. That’s why I agreed to meet up with her for hike out by the reservoir. But I know how to keep bitches like her coming back. So I teased her. I let her know she wasn’t going to get me that easy. And she loved it—I know she did. You should have seen the look on her face at the end of that hike. I took a berry between my lips and I offered it to her. She got that satisfied look on her face, she sidled up real close and put those big pale arms around me. She leaned in for the kiss, but all she got was the berry. I was out of her reach in seconds. And you could see her face, all confused like, but excited too.

It wasn’t long before she let that Dominican guy drop, before the two of us were hot and heavy in her bed, in her bathroom, in her kitchen, on the back porch, in the car. There’s one thing I have to say for that bitch: she could fuck. She could give as well as she got, and then keep giving. I had to keep her in line, really, let her know who was in charge.

And that’s where the trouble started. We had a little argument one night, and she started talking this crazy shit, saying she was going to throw my stuff out the window. Then the bitch hit me, burned me up real bad with a cigarette. So I had to show her what’s what, and before you know it, she’s calling the cops on me! On me, when she started the whole thing!

I got the fuck out of there to let her cool down, and when I came back, the cops were still there. I explained the situation to them, and they were real cool about it, they let her know she wasn’t going to get away with that kind of shit. But I had had it with her. I packed up my shit and told her exactly what she was: a no-good piece of shit excuse for a human being. What kind of bitch starts a fight like that and then expects the cops to come and take her side?

But the trouble was, by then I had the taste of her in my mouth, and in my mind. She had cast a spell on me in the club that first night, and there was no way I could resist. She had those devil eyes, and they followed me everywhere. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Believe me, I tried. I took out a few girls, trying to get her out of my mind, but she had me. So I called her up again. We talked about it, we said our apologies, and before you know it, we were hot and heavy again.


See, she still had an attitude on her. She thought because she knew all these big words, because she worked inside at a desk while I was out busting my hump driving trucks, and she was somehow better than her. And to top it all off, I caught her with that Dominican guy again. They tried to make like they were all just friends, like they weren’t fucking anymore. But I knew. I could see it by the way they looked at each other, by the way they touched each other, by the fucking smell on her.

So I said fine, if that’s how it’s going to be, that’s how it’s going to be. Because see, the other thing about this bitch is that she lived with a really fine woman, this girl named Ingrid from Germany or Poland or some shit like that. And Ingrid had never been with a woman before, but I could tell she was hot for me. You know, you live long enough and you can just tell these things. So while Eliza was out fucking her Dominican man and pretending like she wasn’t, I was hanging out with Ingrid, smoking on the front porch, talking, listening to music, getting to know her. And soon enough I made my move. But Ingrid fucked up. She told Eliza, and then all the shit hit the fan. It’s too bad, really. If things had worked out differently, everyone would have been a lot happier.