I was 21 when I first had a conscious crush on a female. We can track fascinations and extremely tight transitory friendships back in time and discuss whether or not they were crushes, but that’s not what we’re concentrating on right now. “I want to kiss her in real life,” I thought for the first time when I saw a female. It was my roommate’s boyfriend’s best buddy. I knew who she was since I had only seen her in images, and I needed to know all there was to know about her. I thought she was really awesome, to say it in the most dorky manner imaginable. She was finishing her final year at college and preparing to play professional basketball, and all she had was swag? Please don’t laugh at me; I don’t know how else to describe it. I started “joking” with my roommate that we were going to hook up when I met her.
As if I had some kind of game or experience, or even that she knew who I was. This continued throughout the academic year. My roommate and her boyfriend were visiting his family’s beach cottage near where I grew up two weeks after graduation. “She’s coming and she wants to meet you,” my roommate texted me.
My stomach created the mother of all pits. SHIT. For someone who has never romantically kissed a female on purpose, I was talking big stuff!! I got dressed on autopilot after my roommate urged me to meet them at a bar. This was my first visit to this establishment, and no one I knew had either, so it came with its own form of New Place Anxiety.
On top of that, I’d be meeting someone I really wanted to impress. Furthermore, I had not yet digested my sexuality or anything else related to it. A hundred thousand thoughts raced through my head at the same time. Suddenly, I’m standing at the bar’s entryway.
This wasn’t just ordinary bar; the entire “shtick” of this bar was that it featured a number of distinct rooms, each with a different type of music.
That means it was both loud and crowded. There was also no service. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone I know. I began squeezing my way through each area in search of a familiar face. Then I noticed one. One I’d only seen in images, but was certain I’d seen in my head. I hugged her like an old friend and complemented her unique short-sleeved button-up because I loved it and because I was attempting to fill the space between us with words.
She smiled and embraced me back, thanking me for the compliment, and I’m not sure what more she said because my roommate and her boyfriend arrived at the same moment. “THERE YOU ARE!!” yelled my roommate. “I’M SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. I LOST HIM IN THE BATHROOM LINE AND THEN I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I WAS.” Drinks were recommended, and I gladly accepted. She kept looking to see whether I was keeping up as we pushed our way to the bar. I considered reaching out and taking her hand, but I refrained. I had the impression that everyone was staring at our quartet and remarking on our double date/set up. I was undecided about how I felt about it. I wanted people to know, but I didn’t want them to make judgments about me based on information I didn’t have.
I surveyed the room, desperately looking for a place where we could all converse. Another familiar face caught my attention. An acquaintance from high school. He raised his hand to wave at me as his head poked up above the crowd. I didn’t want to talk to him, but I felt compelled to. I left my little group, said hello, and he offered me to his apartment after the bar. I answered, “I’ll see,” and returned to my original company.
Seeing him, someone I recognised, knocked me for a loop. I thought that being in a place where I didn’t know anyone would offer me some freedom to explore, but he took that away from me. He was lurking just above my shoulder. My previous encounters with him. If he saw me kiss her, he’d be as perplexed as I am about myself, and I just didn’t have an answer for him or anybody else. I turned my back on him to hide what I was doing, and he was completely out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. My phone rang.
“I think you should come over to Pune.”
I had no intention of hanging out with him under any circumstances.
But, for some reason, I said, “Perhaps!” I’ve got to check what my pals are up to.” That was something I’d been doing for years, doing everything I could to keep folks interested in me. But for what purpose? I was outside of my body, seeing myself revert to the same dreadful loop I’d been in for years. Behind me was a history of appeasing men in order to retain a patriarchal position of “beautiful,” and right in front of me was a time in my life when none of that mattered and I could be myself.
On the verge of an emotional and mental breakthrough, I returned to reality and stuffed my phone into my pocket, intending to ignore it for the rest of the night. I overheard her speak to my roommate’s boyfriend, who answered, “Just do this,” and kissed her. Was she, too, apprehensive? I hoped she was nervous in a natural way, not the “this girl has no idea who she is, what if she flips out?” type of way. I summoned the last of my bravery to express my interest, but I was still learning how to chat to ladies in real life. So I behaved the same, but with a couple more Bambi Eye Looks thrown in for good measure.
We went back to my roommate’s boyfriend’s place to unwind when we got tired of yelling over the 7 separate sound systems playing at full power. On the way home, we stopped at Wawa for some snacks and giggled and whispered as his folks slept until it was time for me to return home.
“Do you mind if I escort you to your car?” she inquired. I either said “of course” or “yes, but it’s right outside so I believe I’ll be able to make it,” and I’m hoping it was the former. She inched closer and closer as I frantically glanced around and stomped the ground. We kissed as soon as I glanced up to say goodbye.
I felt butterflies, but they weren’t the same as the ones I’d experienced previously. It was more of a lifting-off-the-ground-and-the-world-melting-away bubbliness than an am-I-excited-or-uncomfortable churning. This sensation was fresh, exhilarating, and entertaining, and it was one I wanted to experience a million more times.
My brain’s Wall Of Internalized Homophobia was pierced by a hole. This meeting turned into a revolution. There is a movement in this moment. This weekend’s fling was a wake-up call. For the first time in my life, I was alive while dying off a part of myself that was no longer useful. It still required a lot of work, but when I saw the light peeking through the cracks, I was eager to keep chipping away. I suppose we could turn the light into a rainbow, but I think we’ve had our fill of analogies.
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