Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Young Love

“See that boy over there?! His name is Garrett Brooks and he’s cute and I like him.” Shari Tate confided; I anxiously nodded in agreement. It was my first full day of kindergarten and my first afternoon at after school. When Shari, a super cool first grader, picked me to be her best friend and protege she also introduced me to crushes, boys like girls like boys, and the dirty word ‘sex’, and to the male gaze. Garrett was also a big first grader with an expressive face, a whiny, scratchy voice, and round head with large ears. For the next couple years Shari and I would be best friends. We’d  join hips in the cafeteria after school and put our almost matching book bags together as we rehashed our days. She had a rectangular Beauty & The Beast book bag and I had the Little Mermaid one. We’d visit each others’ homes for playdates and when her dad died, I’d go to her dark house and play with her as her mom laid in her bedroom and cried. I was so proud to be her best friend. She chose me and I chose her and the after school staff couldn’t tell us apart.

Shari taught me the ancient art of having a crush on a boy. Scientific things like: yes, boys do have cooties, but not the ones you have a crush on. So Garrett was clean. Her jerk friend CJ was cootie free too, but we didn’t have a crush on him…because he’s white and fat and rude. She taught me that we should do things so the boys will notice us and like us back, but it’s not okay if a boy is mean to you, he doesn’t deserve our crush if he is. She taught me about making-out, which is also known as ‘sex’, and we practiced with these masks over our face at her house. I really enjoyed that. Shari taught me that being a black girl was actually pretty cool, this was contrary to what I had been conditioned to think during my preschool years. Shari taught me that’s it’s okay to be friends with your crush and to let him know you have a crush on him, but to not force the situation. He may not reciprocate the feelings, and that’s okay. She taught me to only have crushes on smart boys, dumb ones are a waste of time.

Shari taught me everything I knew about how to crush on boys, but she never once told me how it should feel on the inside. I wouldn’t learn that feeling until much later. Also, it was Shari I had the crush on.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Glimpse of fairness

Her and I are both anxious people. But when I'm around her, my anxiousness completely subsides; and when she's around me her anxiety dials down to a sensible realist level. Which is why a couple weeks ago, when I quietly asked if we could hold hands, she said 'no' and explained she felt anxious about it. I gently answered okay and we kept walking, unattached. Her hand-holding anxiety made sense, we were in Concord Mills Malls. It was once the largest outlet mall in the East, and as a former resident of Concord, I remember in great detail the guarantee of seeing at least two confederate flags per day when out and about. It turns out racism isn’t the only thing attached to that fucking flag.

It’s something we’re always mildly aware of, hand-holding and general public displays of affection. It’s also not something we talk about; it’s unspoken when we walk closely to one another, but never make contact while walking through the aisles at the store. We pass by male-female couples holdings hands, leaning on each other, stealing kisses and we walk on without looking each other in the eye. It isn’t fair.

She played for the VIP lounge for Charlotte PRIDE, and I was exceedingly proud of her, but the best part was holding her hand and clearly being a couple in public. And it being safe. She said she’s played and attended many PRIDES, but that this was the first one she’s ever been excited about actually going to, because of me. So for the weeks leading up to PRIDE we giddily gabbed about being our gay selves out in public and holding hands and showing affection and being the couple that we are without fear of strange looks or assault. How sad, how wonderful.

I’m walking towards her after she’s performed and I’ve gotten off work and she looks wonderful and doesn’t know I see her. As I wrap up the phone conversation with my daddy I bend over to kiss her on her perfect lips. In uptown, in the middle of a crowd, in broad daylight. What a rush. She takes my hand and leads me to the VIP lounge where we commence the business of getting drunk off cheap beer and wine that came with her complimentary VIP passes.

The rest of the night was an ethereal, drunken montage. Hand holding, crowds, PDAing, booze, friends, ex-friends, laughing, walking, queerness, groping. The elation peaked when watching Estelle perform. My girlfriend, who was pretty tipsy, sang along to every word and I, so very drunk, grinded on her underneath the pouring rain. It was a good time. After the performances, we called an Uber and headed home.

For just those moments, it was fair.