Legacy of Love

Alicia Lewis (San Francisco, CA / Albany, NY)

Prelude

I wrote this short story seven different ways
Crafted several different things to say,
And hit the delete key more times than I can count.

[It felt so important that I get it right.]

Essentially, what I was trying to get at was loss
How queer folk stand to lose authenticity in exchange for acceptance,
lose piece of mind, lose love,

lose life.

What I was trying to convey was “coming out,”
How it was mortifying for the first few years
And how fucked up it is that
Anything other than straight is an unveiling.
An announcement.

I was trying to get at the beauty of resiliency.
How queer folk are at war, and they are the bodies on the front lines.
Leaping hurdles, overcoming.
going down fighting.
believing.
In living life as a whole being – not contorting, nor severing
Not compromising self, for convention.

I was trying to capture the conviction of the Stonewall riots,
the beauty of my first pride parade,
The female anatomy, lying next to a woman.
Being in love with a woman.

The beauty
of looking at a being
Whose sole existence
Is too expansive,
Too wondrous, too ethereal
To be categorized as
“Male” or “female”

Whose sole existence encapsulates softness, vulnerability, and strength.
The personification of ambiguity.
Seductive debonair all rolled up into pure, unadulterated
confidence,
Bred of being at home in one’s own skin.

I deleted all that because it wasn’t coming out right, but…

What I was trying to get at is that our resistance is pretty fucking beautiful.

 

Part 1 | For Her

I remember sneaking out of my house and getting picked up by Trevor Matthews.

no other sounds for miles around.
the town drowsy and dormant
as his two door ford sat stalled in the middle of the street at 1 am

I was a first year in high school, he was a senior on the football team, and I couldn’t believe that he was paying attention to me.

He was so coveted. One of the most known boys at Scotia Glenville high, and he wanted me. At 14 I thought I’d learned what magic felt like.
in this way that could only be described as youthful bliss I thought his football jersey on my back with my fingers in his hand felt like the beginning of my first love.

In actuality, I remember the moment it happened more vividly, more sharply, than deep red blood cast against a white canvas.

I remember the first time that Gabby kissed me. 19 years old in my twin bed, hiding in my room while my parents grilled hamburgers outside. Stealing the forbidden in frantically hushed increments.

After 7 months of emotional intimacy I wanted everything when she laid next to me. her gallows and her heavens. I yearned for her naked skin against mine in the most intricate, carnal places of my being. I wanted all of her.

Love notes disguised as birthday cards. Relieved when I had a reason to express my love for her. White knuckling a lid on a bottle about to burst.

19 years old in my twin bed, hiding in my room while my parents grilled hamburgers outside. Lying in between her legs, my arms around her, hovering over her smiling.

And in the best moment of my life, that I never expected, she tilted her head up half an inch, the distance between us so small that I didn’t believe it really happened.
And she kissed me.

That was seven years ago and I know the intricacies of that moment better than I know the contours of my own palm.

The way that every fiber of my being stood at attention and our bodies took on the work of a magnetic field.
Colors brighter, time stopped and raced forward
seemingly simultaneously
nothing in the room,
but her.
Soft, delicious and mine.
Orbiting around each other like
Centripetal force

You never forget your first love.

They say love happens when you least expect it, and i hate that phrase because I’m not that patient
But with her it was true.
I came home for fall break, dropped my stuff off and raced over to Tim’s house, casting everything to the floor as I climbed the ladder to his attic.
Gabby was there because she played volleyball with Summer and i didn’t know it in that moment, but nothing would ever be the same.

In the year that followed I fell hard in the way that only young lovers can, devoid of the scars that belong to crashing and burning.
at 19 I was pure.

I made her mixtapes and didn’t fall asleep without hearing her voice first. When she was sad I emptied my $6 savings account and spent it on gas money to take her on adventures.
It was us against the world, and i would never let her fall.

I loved her freely, without inhibitions or fear, and for 9 months I couldn’t believe that was my life. That I could really be that happy. I had lived 19 pretty perfect years, and then I met her and realized I hadn’t been living at all.

Her mother was a Christian – of fire and brimstone, you know the type. And as all things go, the most precious things in life are finite.
[
pause]
her mother caught us, and demanded her daughter straight.

When she left my heart shattered into a million pieces.
driftwood, cast along vessels, and for a long time I traveled the canals looking for myself.

It’s a strange thing –
to feel loss so profoundly.
So relentlessly.

In the way that tiny fragments,
set in a cast:
never heal the same.

so many pieces could never be put back together to recreate what once was. Chips lost to the crevices of the wood floor of my bedroom. As I cried and begged for the day I would feel numb. Because to feel nothing would’ve been better
than the intricate way I knew the vacant and infinite abyss – like an old pal from the school yard

I genuinely wonder,
if my heart is even capable of breaking that way again.

 

Part 2 | Survival (The Aftermath)

In the years after, with the help of family and friends I found my way out of the darkness. I fell in love: with straight girls who couldn’t love me back, with queer girls, with toxic girls, with life changing women, and everything in between.
I fell in love with myself. And,
I fell in love with my life again.

Colbie Caillat once said, ”We learn to live with what we miss.”
And that was just it. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Gabby. Wondering what her life is like now, wondering if she’s happy, and trying to leave the past in the past.

But, ultimately, we learn to live with what we miss.
How to accept a new reality, how to move on.
How to put one foot in front of the other.

I want to respect her life now. I want to respect that she’s married with a kid on the way.
Yet, it feels so surreal sometimes.
Like,
who knows what would’ve come of us if we’d had the chance to see it through.

I’m pretty proud of where life has taken me, and I hope she can say the same for herself. But who’s to know what life would’ve offered us if we took it on together.
It’s easy to get lost in the what if’s, sometimes.

I’ve made selfish choices in the lifetime I’ve lived since her.
For me, and only me. And there’s something so freeing in that.
To have the luxury of centering all decisions, in my aspirations.
I’ve contemplated how to satisfy my own cravings,
how to fulfill my own wanderlust heart.

I have traveled and moved, and experienced things I’d only previously dreamed of, unbound to anyone [but myself]
I have put my own career first, and I have shattered glass ceilings.

I’ve spent 7 years looking inward, mastering myself.
Familiarizing myself with every intricacy.
Learning how to look the darkness in the eye, and choose the light.
Accepting every piece of myself.

I’ve been at the liberty of my every whim.
Who knows if I could’ve done that with her,
while feeling [however lovingly] accountable to her.

Maybe it’s like Drake said,
“Maybe I had to let go of us, to show myself what I could do.”

Or maybe that’s just me finding ways to cope. We’ll never know, really.
It’s a weird thing to let go of someone knowing that they are very much alive, but untouchable to you.

I know life doesn’t imitate cinema,
but nonetheless I’m a hopeless romantic, and I have this desired ending to our story, which,
regardless of time shows itself to be relentless.

I imagine that one day after living full lives,
(when our youthful beauty has since faded, and time is evident in our faces, and in the way that we walk)
we find each other, and we make peace with all the hurt, the lied in the wake of our love and our self-destruction.
I imagine that one day,
we’ll both get closure.

 

Part 3 | The Stonewall Legacy

Queer folk fight battles of the heart that no hetero person will ever venture to know.
We break our hearts in half and share pieces of it with those we love
to hold onto when their’s breaks,
for there is nothing another person can say to heal someone whose family
walks away.
and yet still,
we try.

We demand our equality, watch it debated in the supreme court,
across dinner tables and church pews
via those who feel
they are of the moral caliber to condemn us to hell.

We are at war,
and we are the bodies on the front lines.
Overcoming,
and sometimes
going down fighting.

We are at war,
and we are the bodies on the front lines.
Surviving.
Flourishing.
Leaping hurdles.

Believing;
In living life as a whole being – not contorting, nor severing
Not compromising self for convention.

And if one day fate should come knocking,
and it’s time to make the hard choice,
I will offer up my body to the front lines.

For no matter what they do to my body
They cannot break my soul.
They cannot cage something that was never theirs.
They cannot contort what was meant to be free.

I loved her freely without inhibitions or fear.
I lived for our love, I died a little bit for it too.
And I would do it again, one hundred times over
Because in the end:
Loving a woman – loving her

[is a sacred thing]