Do you remember your homecoming, your prom, your turnabout? Was it exciting, awkward, humiliating, tender? It's probably a mixed bag. Adolescence is a mixed bag. A grab bag. Can I just wear a bag over my head? Stepping on toes, shuffling from side to side, where do I put my hands? Where do I put my heart? Can I hide in the shadows? Can I hide in plain sight?
I went to a faux Homecoming Dance this past weekend, a do-over Homecoming Dance, for all ages. There were young twenty-something couples, elderly couples who REALLY knew how to dance (no shuffling), and everything in between. There were shy wallflowers and brash sunflowers, twilight and limelight. There was a live band that knew how to boogie and knew how to croon, played it fast and strummed it slow. There was the sound of high heels clicking on polished hardwood, petals dropping from crushed corsages, rustle of satin and velvet. You could see that this would be a night to remember. A night when things began or began to end.
I also keenly noticed that there were straight couples, and a few lesbian couples, but no gay male couples. Sure, there were quite a few gay men there who danced, but not with each other. Solo or with an acceptable girl, isn't that appropriate? Acceptable. Careful and civil and proper and straight. In that way, it felt like high school all over again. I felt a shiver of cold, of old loss; I could trace the fleeting shape of it like frost on window glass.
We are trained with wires of convention, bent and styled like bonsai trees, pruned of our upstarts, our quirks, our naughty bits. Snip out, splice in, graft some straight fruit to that queer branch. Oh to be Golden, to be Red, to be Delicious, the apple of everyone's eye, the beau of the ball. Instead, I am quince, I am star fruit, I am horned melon. I am variegated and hybrid, I am other, I am heirloom and throwback. I am not round, I do not roll; I weeble as I wobble and sometimes I fall.
Sometimes I fail. The words fail me and I fail the words. I fear. When I kiss him, I wonder who's watching. I want to hold hands walking down the street, but I don't. I wonder who has a brick, or who has a metal bat. I know what cold sweat feels like between my shoulder blades, the rush of blood and the ringing in my ears when I hear: FAGGOT... HOMO... QUEER... They are bold and capital and blunt, they are hammer and mallet, they sledge and slam. So I want to slam and mosh, punch and shove, dance and dance and then hold you close, I want this to be the night when it began, not when it began to end.
When fear sets up shop, it nests. It infests. It mites and bites and fleas and tease. If you listen, you'll never leave the house. You'll cower under the dark covers of your skull. Fear is syrup and opiate, just a spoonful of shiver makes you sleep, comforts and conforms, keeps you compliant in public.
Lower your voice. Look straight ahead. Pay attention. Use pencil, not pen. No outside food or drink. Follow the signs. BYOB. Merge. Hands behind your back. Please use other entrance. School Zone. Chin up. Stay calm. No shouting. Emergency exit. Safety first. No parking. Stop, drop and roll. Stay in your lane. Enunciate clearly. No smoking allowed. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Walk slowly. Sit still. No dancing. Don't be a fucking faggot.