HAPPY PRIDE

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Image by Mayo Saji.

The smell of dewy green grass mixed with the scent of happiness and excitement in the air. Both smells blended with the flowery sweetness of Ari’s body lotion and made my head swim, in a good way. I wanted to inhale it and hold onto it forever, to capture the essence of the moment and bottle it up for my scrapbook. Instead, I settled for grabbing a handful of the grass beneath my legs and leaning deeper into Ari’s embrace. Her soft red lips grazed my temple and I felt her smile against my skin.

        “How does it feel?” she asked.
        Overwhelming. Joyful.
        Crushingly sad.
       
No.
       
I pushed that one aside.
       
Colorful. Warm. Natural. Like where I belong.
       
My first Pride.

I leaned deeper into her arms, like I was trying to burrow into her skin and hide. She kissed my temple again and I felt her arms tighten around my shoulders.

        “Just breathe and take it in,” she said.

To my left, two femmes in rainbow tutus kissed slowly, completely enveloped in each other, like the world didn’t matter. Next to them, two teenage boys held hands tentatively, as if scared of gripping each other too tight. As if they needed to be able to let go in any moment, as if they were expecting to be torn apart.

I wanted to hold them both. I wanted them to tell me that we would all be okay.

Far down the park, a group of intensely colorful people with large beards and fluffy skirts scream-sang Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I couldn’t help the smile that took over my face and the laugh that bubbled from the depths of my chest. The sheer joy on their faces, the freedom in the way they thrust their hands into the air made me breathe even deeper, smile wider, love Ari harder. Tears fell down my cheeks unannounced, streaking through my foundation and plopping on Ari’s arm.

“Hey, babe, what’s wrong?” she asked, turning my body to face her. Her eyebrows were knit together, worry etched into her beautiful brown eyes.

I pressed my mouth to hers, swallowing the sob that threatened to separate our lips. My hands found her face and ran down her jaw, picking up the stray specks of glitter that didn’t quite stick to her skin. Our mouths moved in harmony as more tears fell down my face, wetting her cheeks along with mine. Her hands traveled through my loose braids, pressing my face closer to hers. Her hands ran down my back, over my rainbow bralette and the suspenders of my overalls and down to my hips, pulling me closer still.

“I love you,” she breathed, pulling away to look at me.

I pressed my face into her collarbone and stayed, letting the harsh sounds of the people singing Firework soothe me. We kissed for another thirty minutes and I let myself get lost in her lips, in the soft caresses of her fingers, in the scent of her lotion, in the hum and thrum of the joy all around me.

Finally, just as the sun started to set, we got up. Ari held my hand as we walked away, as if she knew I wanted to run into the crowds and get lost and never be found. To be enveloped in proud, unabashed queerness and to never have to face the more permanent reality. We passed by a group of five people sharing a joint. Ari grabbed my hand tighter as I stared at the group. They were all dressed in black, sadly watching the colorful, joyful people downhill. They sat at the very edge of the park, as if scared to join the others, as if ready to leave, although they made no move to.  I kept my eyes on them as I settled into the car. Ari pulled away from the parking lot. I turned my head to watch them until they disappeared into the distance.

My mother called when we were only a couple of miles away from my house. I stared at my phone, listening to my ringtone and letting my anxiety build before sliding the green button across the screen. Ari squeezed my thigh with her free hand as I took a breath.

        “Hi mom.”
        “Hi my love, how are you?”
        “I’m good.”
       
“What’d you do today?”

I looked at Ari, at the curve of her lips, at the smudged lipstick on her chin, at the dip at the neckline of her tank top, at her full thighs, at the small dark bruise on her neck, at her hand on my thigh, at the careful grip of her fingers on the steering wheel, at the love in her eyes when she glanced at me and smiled.

        “Nothing. I didn’t do anything today.”

 

Osun Taylor is a staff writer for bluestockings. She is interested in exploring the many intersections between blackness, queerness, gender, and sometimes religion. She can usually be found stanning for black women, writing, watching copious amounts of TV, and cooking.

Edited by Maryam Ahmed.

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