Two Animal Lovers Meet at a Tiki Bar

Kaia Wilson could tell there was something wonderful about Nicole J Georges the first time she saw her, and it wasn’t necessarily how skillfully she sang both parts of “You’re the One That I Want,” the duet by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, on karaoke night at the Alibi Tiki Lounge in Portland, Ore.

“I just remember being drawn to her, that she seemed like a standout human being,” Mx. Wilson said. That was in 2004, before either had any notion of romance.

Mx. Wilson (right), 46, is the singer/guitarist for the feminist queercore band Team Dresch. Ms. Georges, 39, is a graphic novelist, pet portraitist and podcaster. It was inevitable that they would meet, given Portland’s tight-knit artistic community, Ms. Georges said. The evolution of their friendship into something more didn’t happen quite as naturally. First a global pandemic would have to set in, then a baby squirrel would need to be rescued and both women would be compelled to don space helmets, one while hanging upside down in an Airstream trailer.

Sixteen years ago, after that karaoke night, Mx. Wilson and Ms. Georges bonded over a mutual love of dogs. “Kaia is the biggest dog person who exists apart from me, and at some point in 2006 I came to her house to do drawings of one of her dogs,” Ms. Georges said.

Next came years of cross-country touring for both, Mx. Wilson’s with her band and Ms. Georges’ behind her graphic novels and with Sister Spit, a San Francisco queer-feminist spoken word and performance art collective. The women stayed loosely in touch until 2017, when Ms. Georges, long a fan of Team Dresch, invited Mx. Wilson to be a guest on her arts-focused podcast, “Sagittarian Matters.” During the podcast taping, Ms. Georges mentioned that a Team Dresch song, “Freewheel,” was sandwiched somewhere between the Mamas and the Papas and Nina Simone on a playlist she listened to daily for artistic motivation.

That, in addition to what Mx. Wilson said was a “natural affinity” for each other, helped Mx. Wilson avoid any self-consciousness when the urge to text Ms. Georges struck three years later, after listening to a different episode of “Sagittarian Matters.”

“Nicole was talking about entitled men not wearing masks, and I was having similar feelings,” Mx. Wilson said. “And then she started talking about a baby squirrel rescue she and her friend had been undertaking, and how all the wildlife centers were closed. I had just tried to rescue a little bird. Everything resonated.” Mx. Wilson told Ms. Georges via text that if she ever wanted to talk about the pandemic or orphaned wildlife, she should reach out. Ms. Georges texted back right away. They began video chatting.

At the time, both were quarantining in different cities, Mx. Wilson in Portland and Ms. Georges in Los Angeles, where she had moved temporarily for work. Their video chats quickly went from friendly to playful.

“Kaia would video chat me from an Airstream trailer on her parents’ property in Jasper,” the Oregon town where she grew up, Ms. Georges said. “It was spacey looking in there, like a pod. So we decided we were going to make a lesbian experimental space movie.” Ms. Georges had dug out her own space helmet, part of a Halloween costume. By the time Mx. Wilson figured out a way to shoot footage of herself hanging upside down in an astronaut suit, they were falling in love.

In June, Ms. Georges moved home to Portland to ride out the pandemic with Mx. Wilson. Their in-person reunion was purposefully gentle. “I knew I was going to be too nervous to answer the door when Kaia came over,” Ms. Georges said. “It’s that moment you realize you’re going to understand someone’s face differently, when you know you’re going to know them in a totally different way.”

Mx. Wilson asked Ms. Georges to marry her June 21 in the Airstream trailer in Jasper. In response, Ms. Georges had what she called a “full-body experience.” She said yes. On Oct. 2, they were married by their friend Brandie Taylor, a Universal Life minister, in a pagan ceremony on the Wilsons’ farm.

“I’m so excited just to have Kaia in my life, to be with her every day,” Ms. Georges said. “Everything around me was a burning trash fire of sadness when this pandemic started. She made it the best pandemic it could be, considering everything.”

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