The crackle of the record player with every spin of the disc hissing in the background, the muted orange lighting that bathes skin with a night time glow. Socked toes, catching on the tug of the cream carpet pile with every turn, the brush of cotton beneath fingertips, the feel of fingers spread low around a waist.
Soft hair from a bent head brushing over an already bare shoulder. Shirt buttons against skin with every exhale. Breath, calm, steadier than the heart thudding beneath bare chest as a hand raises, stroking slowly up from the waist over the smoothness of a back. A head raises; stubble brushes back against stubble making breath catch; the ghost of a hint of a kiss as lips linger longer in passing.
A look; certain in uncertainty, a right when everything outside these walls says wrong. Shaking fingers snagging against tight shirt, seeking out shirt ends, pulled up from a belted waist. Buttons, unsteadily unfastened with fingertips revealing a swirl of wiry hair, an endless expanse to explore, a shrugged shoulder that asks to be rid of shirt.
Clothes fall to carpet, nerves numb to need; desire wins out over fear of defamation because here, here we are alone. Together. Where we are meant to be. Skin on skin, sweat on sweat. In this room, in this moment we are exactly who we are and do not have to justify it, or fear it – or fear other’s fear of it.
I am you, and you are me, and in this moment, we are free.
The thud, thud, thud of the club downstairs has the walls rattling. The desk lamp jolts across the desktop, teetering along the edge as we teeter on our own edge. A swirled thumb, a darting tongue. The telltale snick of a zipper being slowly pulled down.
Muffled moans on contact, catches of breath and clutches for more; a stolen moment, perhaps, but one that is ours, one that is heated, and filled with need. Even the anonymous voices beneath us do little to disturb but to raise a smile, before we’re diving straight back in, drawn to one another and submitting to what so many view as immoral, a depraved sin.
We’ve both lost friends. A never-ending cough, a night filled with disturbed sleep and drenched sheets, and lesions to the skin like a badge of belonging no one wants to have on display, or to ever have to wear. And no one is doing anything; stood on the sidelines, observing, judging. Silently hoping that our kind will disappear, eradicate itself with its own unnatural urges.
The clock is ticking, however, and now is not the time to dwell on the things beyond our control. This night is almost over and tomorrow will dawn a new day of keeping secrets, seeking reassurance and pleading with gods we still hope to believe in that it is not our turn, it is not us, nor those that we love around us.
Tomorrow, we will go about our day jobs behind masks and make believe, make them believe us just enough to allow us to fit in. Turn a cheek to hatred, to persecution, to misinformation. Go about our lives as though we have a right to it, to live, to exist, to breathe easily.
But for now. In this moment. I am you and you are me, and we are free.
The sidewalk glistens slickly under the streetlights after a deluge of rain. You huddle closer to me for warmth, lean in for a kiss as my arm wraps around your waist, draws you in. The couple behind us mirror our movements, shooting us a shy smile as we all look together to the front of the queue, see the newly engaged couple, so happy in their happiness that they are lost in one another, oblivious to the doorman rolling an amused eye, ushering them in.
Inside, the club is busy, vibrant, welcoming; there are cheers for the newlyweds, hugs for returning friends. Drinks at the bar, beats on the dancefloor. Safety, acceptance. A home away from home. We get this now; free to love, free to live, free to legally spend the rest of our lives together if that is what we choose.
Pride went off almost without a hitch last weekend. Only a handful of protesters whose ways were blocked by allies and voices louder than ours. A spectrum of accepted sexualities to match that of our rainbow of flags. We are equal, we are together. We are one.
And next weekend, it’s just you and me. A weekend retreat where we’ll be hand in hand, side by side the entire time. A shared bed in a hotel booked without secrecy or shame, because we can do this now. We are accepted now. And that ring box in my dresser that is burning a hole through my sock draw just reiterates that acceptance somehow. That need to have something that has been taken for granted by so many for so long.
My heart thuds at the thought of it and you smile, curious at my thoughts, squeeze my fingers and lead me over to dance without a moment’s glance back.
Of course, nothing is that simple. No day is without a comment, surprised look, falsified smile. No moment when we don’t have to second-guess stereotyping, steer clear of subjects people find unsettling, smile sweetly through insensitivity. Bigotry is rife in the undercurrent, unsilenced by blanket acceptance. Still a punch to the gut for each disparaging comment and every sneered out queer.
But for now, we are together, we are successful, living our lives alongside every other couple out there, existing in the in between beside our friends, families and allies. In a community to which we are sometimes tethered, and often tied, but that still questions if we belong.
Where I am you, and you are me. But are we really free to be that?