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.