Nothing prompts Peter to ask the question. It simply appears from his mind, like Athena bursting forth from Zeus’s head.
“George,” he asks. “What would you do if I were a woman?”
It’s a strange question. Probably not the best thing to ask during a late night cup of tea. But here they are.
George sets his teacup down and swallows. “If - if you were a woman…”
Peter blinks innocently. “Yes?”
“I would… well, I would do many of the things I already do with you.”
“We would still work together.” George sits up a little straighter. “I’m not one to discriminate.”
“And we would have dinner together,” George continues, nodding to himself. “Though I would have to take you somewhere nicer than our usual haunts.”
Peter cracks a smile. “More deserving of a lady?”
“Naturally.” George clasps his hands together in his lap. “If you were a woman…”
His gaze roves over Peter’s face, and Peter wishes he could see what George is thinking.
“We could go on walks at night.”
“We already do that, George.”
“Yes, but you would actually take my coat when I offer it,” George quips. There’s a faraway look in his eyes; he’s imagining the hypothetical in full color now. “And flowers, of course.”
“I would get you flowers.” George says it matter-of-fact. “For your desk, or for the dinner table.”
Peter swallows. “Oh?”
“Ann loved flowers. All women love flowers.”
Peter nods. George is departing wisdom upon him and he soaks it up like a sponge. “Jewelry, too?”
George thinks for a moment. “Silver?”
Peter shakes his head. “Gold. It doesn’t rust.”
George nods. “After that, I suppose it would be your choice what we’d do.”
Peter feels his heart begin to race. He likes this little game; maybe a bit too much. “We could hold hands?”
George nods. “If you remain as tall as you are now, I’d need to just to keep up.”
Peter chuckles, imagining George waddling behind him. He’d slow down to match his pace; he already does that for George now. Privately he likes that George is shorter than he is. He’s compact; every inch of him is being put to good use.
He feels a blush spread on his cheeks. “I’d match my dresses to your suits.” He would probably be a very plain woman, but he’d dress up for George. Makeup, rouge, all of that.
“My ugly suits? I hope you’d have a better fashion sense than that.” George has no illusions about what he looks like.
Peter didn’t mention that they’d be together. But it’s obvious they would be. Peter already follows George everywhere. He’s his closest friend. If George were a woman Peter would’ve proposed years ago, with a ring that cost him as much as his car.
George is not a woman. But here, in this small moment, Peter is.
“After - after dinner, George…” Peter leans in closer on the couch, so close their knees are almost touching. “Would you walk me home?”
“Certainly.” George looks away. His own face is turning pink. “And I’d kiss you goodnight.”
Peter’s mouth goes dry. He can see it, perfectly clear in his mind. “Would you make love to me, George?” Please, please, please… “If I were a woman, I mean.”
George’s eyes flicker and meet Peter’s; then they look away. “No.”
Peter swallows down a sob.
“Not until we were married.”
It’s like being swept up and carried away by a strong wave. Peter can’t even see the shore anymore - he’s in the dream, with George, coming home with him, a blushing bride. “After that, then. You’d want children.” As many as he could give. A house full of laughter.
George inhales, a shaky sound. “Yes.”
Peter doesn’t know how to stop. He knows he should, he just doesn’t know how. He tries desperately to halt the whole thing but it comes out fumbled. “I - I -“ he forces a small laugh. “I suppose I’d be rather demanding, as a wife.”
“Nonsense.” George’s eyes meet his again. His voice is almost reverent, like he’s reading from an ancient text. “We would do it whenever you wanted. Every day, if you liked.”
He’s still talking about making love. Peter thinks he might be melting into a puddle. His hands feel clammy. He has the urge to cup George’s face with them.
End this. End this now, before it goes too far. It already has gone too far.
“I… I guess then we’d… we’d be very happy,” Peter finishes lamely. He rubs the back of his neck. It’s a forced anticlimax, a lull where a kiss should be.
George’s reverie slips; his smile fades. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, we would.”
The joy has turned into tragedy. Peter can only laugh at it, like how people laugh at funerals.
“It’s a pity I’m a man,” he jokes.
George’s expression changes. For a moment Peter can see a pure, white-hot hunger in his eyes. It’s intense and Peter can’t look away.
“I’d like you to be happy now,” George says. “As a man. And you make a brilliant man, by the way.”
Peter could cry. He worries he might, so he starts fussing with the tea.
“Give me a few minutes,” he says. “I’ll, erm, I’ll have the guest room done up for you.”
If George were a woman, Peter would offer him his bed.
If Peter were a woman… what a preposterous idea.