how to find heaven without leaving the suburbs (conversations with straight men)

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Yes. She was beautiful. She was almost holy. She looked at the world with eyes full of wonder that resembled nothing less than moonstone. We spent days sharing mittens when the snow came. Nights were spent on top of stained quilts, close, but never touching. She sang like a robin in spring, and created worlds with the touch of her index finger. She made videos of me singing to musical theatre soundtracks, and laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms. She held my hand once in the dark. When the winter came for us once again, she took her things in her father’s car and drove towards New Mexico, shedding pieces of me out the window. Interstate 25. 434. 376. Santa Fe.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

No, but we’ve watched hundreds of films, and I’ve thought about kissing her hundreds of times. She makes my skin itch. We were never closer than a head on a shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. We never did. We never have, and I’ve danced on the edge of action with her so many times that I’m afraid she might break if I touch her. I think it’s possible to love a girl too much to kiss her.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Briefly, in high school. She was stony-faced but straight laced. She wore combat boots but always did her math homework. She self-identified as ‘butch’ but loved winged eyeliner. She lived her life on the in between’s, a perfect balancing act of can’s and can’t’s, should’s and shouldn’t’s. All of my fears burned up in her atmosphere. She taught me how to climb barbed wire without scratching my palms, that fear is pointless, and that there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with rumpled sheets, cups of earl grey, and David Bowie. She forgot how to love me. She was everything, and then she was nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

On a date, once. She was bathed in swirling lights; pink, yellow, lavender. We danced in a crowded room of strangers. Her hands were smaller than mine, and when she kissed me I lost track of time. She shielded me from the eyes of strangers. We talked about her plants, her ex, her brother. There was mold growing in her lungs, destroying her from within. She took pride in becoming nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“That’s hot.”

pour croire a se; to accept oneself (ages 8-18)

18:

I am no longer afraid to touch her. Magnolias have sprouted from my chest as an atomic bomb; a mushroom cloud of my purest thoughts. I have always been this way. I have always been capable of this.

17:

He’ll grab your wrists and lay hand on your waist, spinning you madly about his shoulders and ridding you of any purity you once felt. But you will never hear him call you beautiful.

16:

Pecola Breedlove is the purest representation of your innermost thoughts. You are driven to mere insanity at the thought of who you are, of who you are becoming, and you will pace back and forth within the blackness of your own mind, wondering if it will always be this way. Remember that stars cannot shine without darkness. I could feel the chains of Cetus piercing my chest from millions of miles away.

15:

I think I look like a raccoon by 11:45. No dimly lit bathroom could make me shed this skin. I writhe like a snake, but I have never been able to rid myself of this veil over my eyes and body.

14:

At least he was honest. Could it be that this isn’t real, that this is something I’ve made up in my head; a result of external influence? Stifle it. I didn’t know it yet, but it would take me years to even say the word out loud.

13:

She said that friends don’t hold each other like that, and I guess she’s right. She looked at me, and I swear that I could feel elephants dancing inside my body.

12:

The man in the purple glasses said that there is nothing abnormal about me. I’m not sure that I believe him.

11:

The boys frighten me. They’re far too intense, too driven for this.

10:

I keep drawing ballerinas; elegant lines and arabesques gracing the shining white pages in front of me.

9:

I think I can tell by the heels of his shoes. I’d never met anyone else like me before.

8:

I’ve never felt so different.

18:

I posed an existential crisis at 17, and I let myself fade into black at a single tug of the chain. I am Andromeda, the lady in chains, and I lost myself between the can’s and the can’ts, the should’s and the shouldn’ts. I have written an epitaph to who I no longer am; I am no longer afraid to allow myself to breathe.

Qui vivra verra.

I am, I am.