love

We sat in your room. You kissed me by the blue light of your computer screen.

“I love you,” you said.

“That’s not possible: I don’t love you,” I said.

I don’t remember when you told me you loved me. You said it so many times, it stopped meaning anything.

“Why don’t you want me to be your boyfriend?” you asked.

“I’m going to Pittsburgh in August.”

“I could go with.”

“You have a life here.”

“But, I love you.”

We walked through Panther Hollow, hand in hand. It was dark. We’d started playing Capture the Flag at twilight, and now we could barely see in front of us. We helped each other up the creek bed. I don’t remember what we were talking about.

“I love you,” you said. It snuck out. You looked at it, desperation in your eyes, as though by somehow wishing it enough, you could take it back. You looked at me hopelessly. “I didn’t–I do, but. I…”

I choked on the words, wanting to say them back, and not knowing how.

“I love you,” you said without looking at me.

“That’s just something people say after sex,” I said without looking at you.

We sat on the porch. Painfully drunk. I knew later you’d be vomiting. I knew I would get you a glass of water and you would down it in one go. I knew you would pass out next to me and throw an arm over my torso in the middle of the night. I knew as soon as you woke up in the morning, you’d pull it back and pretend nothing had ever happened. We’d done this before.

I smoked a cigarette, knowing it would be one of my last. My mouth tasted like watermelon jolly ranchers. You took my cigarette and had a drag. You put it back in my mouth.

“You know, I–” you said.

“I know,” I said, cutting you off. You wouldn’t remember it in the morning. It would hurt too much to hear you say it.

I dared you to put the cigarette out on my arm. You did.

After three months, I knew I had to do it. I didn’t know what to say. I tried the words in my head. I knew how you felt; I knew what you would say. I stood in front of the mirror and practiced, like they tell you to do before a speech.

The entire trip I tried to find the right time, but I never did. The words, again and again, died on my lips.

Before I’d even gone to the airport, I mailed you a postcard that said it all. You were annoyed that your roommate knew before you did.

Even in confessions, we were separated by an impossible distance.

The flight made me stiff, and the air and adrenaline kept me running. We had to be quiet, and there was a lot to say. We lay on the floor, surrounded by darkness and invisible obstacles and the defining features of our relationship: the heat on your skin, your voice in my ear, your featureless silhouette in the night.

“I told him that I think I love you,” you said.

“I love you,” I said. You crushed your mouth into mine and I forgot where I ended.

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face

Sometimes I log onto facebook and see that a userpic of some non-human image has been replaced with the beautiful face of a trans* friend who came out. Every time, it makes me smile and I frequently think “Man, I wish my skin was that nice.”

snapshot, 09

We bike side by side up a hill. I’m struggling. Everyone else is ahead, but you’re next to me. In the future, this will color how I ride, always checking behind me, never letting someone get too far behind. Going next to them. Up ahead, a light is flashing yellow to warn vehicles to stop for pedestrians. I stop.

“We can go,” you say. “Sometimes we can go even when the lights tell us not to.”

constructed

I’m in a room full of people. I recognize some of them–a lot of them actually. I also don’t recognize a lot of them. Some of them are dressed well, and some of them are in t-shirts and jeans. In front of us a man is talking about a man who died two months ago. He says something about the next generation. Our children. I turn and look at a baby in a stroller. His eyes are open and he’s staring up. He’s making a face, like he’s deciding whether to cry or not.

In my mind, the dead man is a distant cousin and the baby my nephew. I put my arm around the person next to me, the one I call my rabbi. This is my Boston family: the baby’s mother and his father. The one on the floor, resting her head on my rabbi’s leg. People standing and sitting behind us. Two men sitting at the front of the crowd with the parents and brother of one of them. A man on a screen, a video playing from Germany talking about the man who is my distant cousin and his close cousin.

This is my family and they’ve lost someone and not knowing what else to do, I cry.

color

The band is set up on stage. The warms and cools are pushed up, pink and pale blue streaks of light cross the grey stage. They shine off guitars and mandolins, dobros and fiddles, banjos, buckles, jewelery, and everything else. I hear them talking, in unmiced voices that sound quiet when they’re not. A light breeze blows in and it smells like rain. The fiddler plucks a string to tune. Someone leans into a mic and I look at the clock and start the timer.