The girl has short hair, thick and black and curly;
The side of her head is shaved
She wears no makeup
A ripped plaid flannel shirt, torn black jeans,
Combat boots.
This look could be punk
Or just fashion in general
But the way she laughs,
Turns her head,
Watches that girl in the sundress at the bar,
Holds her beer;
These things tell me, maybe
Maybe it isn't fashion
Maybe, she's a bit like me.

The boy wears nail polish today
With a baseball cap and t-shirt and shorts.
It's usually easier to tell with boys,
The way they move their wrists like he does,
The compressed voice, further back in their throat than other boys
(Not like his)
The makeup and the nails, sometimes...
But is he just really good at gender equality,
Smashing the patriarchy,
Enjoying what he does no matter what gender people think those things are for,
Or is he also
A bit like me?

I can't tell if they are a girl or a boy.
Are they neither?
I love their hair
It's pale blue with streaks of purple
Which tell me it was probably purple and just faded really well.
Short and floppy, it dips into their eyes sometimes.
They're quiet, sitting in the corner, sinking into the ancient sofa
Sipping a water
But they're not bored, or on their phone,
Just watching
Watching everyone laugh,
Listening to the sounds of friendship.
Are they one of us too?

The room is hard to read.
I know some of these people, love them
But is everyone here safe? I can never tell until I try.
Conversations sometimes lead that way, sometimes not
But I always wonder how to handle the moment
Until suddenly the moment comes and I must decide, now.

"So, 'Alex' - is that your boyfriend?"

It's my turn to talk.
They all look at me
It's a normal question, just part of conversation
I smile. I know my face. It hides things well.
This split second is my decision time
I could so easily get away with a lie...
But I decided years ago.
I am done with lying.

My heart is a marching band, my stomach a storm;
I count my breathing in my head to make sure the pace doesn't change.
My smile remains.
It waits.
Waiting to see if it is real
Or must simply remain pasted across the cheeks
Long enough for me to leave, after.

"Actually, she's my girlfriend."

This pace is timed, this tone is practiced
I've done this often before.
Look at them as you speak, like anything else.
Look down at your cards just after,
Like all you've said is,
"Whose turn?"

I wait.

"Oh." Their faces shift.
They try to hide.
But they cannot hide from me;
I've watched this too long.
The eyebrows rise.
The lips purse involuntarily before they push them back out to an odd smile.
The room is suddenly cold.
"I've got to get going actually, I'm meeting someone in a few minutes."
"Yeah, it's getting late. We should head out."
I know the excuses. I pretend they're convincing. We all know better,
But society demands false stupidity.
Sometimes one of them catches my eye,
An unspoken apology waiting,
And I know, if we were alone, they would support me,
And they think, because they want to, it makes them better than the others.
That's a load of ****.
Silence will never support me,
And they leave with the others,
Not knowing that they are part of the problem.

This is what happened last time, with my last group.
What will happen now?

"Oh!" The questioner laughs.
I can hear the odd discomfort,
But they shake their head and shrug
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed. That's cool!"
Another nods
"Yeah, you're really brave."
I shouldn't be brave for just falling in love
Like a majority of humans on the earth
But in this world I am
And it's nice of them to say it.

The girl looks at me in her periphery and smiles, chuckling as she swigs her beer.
The boy scratches his neck, staring down at his cards, making himself invisible.
The person with purple-blue hair waits for me to make eye contact and grins.
I don't remember their names
I just met them today
But we are family
And we stand together
And in this moment, we are


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