you're sixteen when you kiss a man for the first time.
it's wrong, it's unholy, you know that, but it feels nice. it feels like it's meant to be.
you think god will forgive you for it, just this once.
you're nineteen when you sneak out of your house, when you make your way down the streets, feeling the cold sink into your bones.
the bar is right where the lady said it would be, and you stop outside. a couple stumbles out, and warm light streaks out onto the pavement. you stare at them, your heart thundering in your chest. one of the men breaks apart and looks at you, smiling. he seems kind.
you're twenty-one when your mother finds out.
you remember the twist of her mouth, the disapproval that lingers behind her eyes.
you swallow the lump in your throat and hold her gaze, pleading.
she looks away first, and it feels like a betrayal, like something in your ribs has given way, like the burning in your eyes. you blink the tears away. you will not break, not here, not now.
she doesn't tell your father, and that is the last kindness she will ever offer you.
you're thirty-one, but the years haven't softened you yet. you're still sharp-edged, still hurt, still longing. you wonder if you will ever stop being angry, and you fear the day you do. your rage seems like the only thing that's keeping you alive, these days.
you like being alive.
you're thirty-five when you fall in love.
you hope he'll smooth you out, and he doesn't.
you hope it'll be like a fairytale, and it isn't.
when you tell him this, he laughs and says he'll love you better in real life, anyway.
you believe him.
you're sixty-five when you look down at your hands, and think oh.
they're wrinkled, liver-spotted, and you--
you didn't think you'd get this far.
you're both older now, quieter, and this is a fuller life, a softer life. you wish you could tell that young boy that his life will not be spent angry and aching, that someone will warm him on cold nights and rub his feet when they ache, that you will love your husband all the more now, for the wrinkles in his eyes, for the softness of his belly.
you lean down to kiss him, and it's right, it's blessed, it--
it feels like it's meant to be.
i've been struggling to write this piece, because i wanted so badly to make it hopeful and happy and good. it's hard to write those things, when the world is so determined to burn, but i hope i succeeded (in the end at least, the middle got real angsty). it makes me so happy to see older queer couples. it gives me hope, to know that they lived and loved, to know i'm not alone, to know i'll never be alone. happy pride, everyone. stay strong, stay safe, stay proud.