I saw you today. You were working, bustling around tables on a busy and sunny Sunday afternoon. Your hair was in a bun on top of your head. The backside of your head was closely shaved. Your hair was blonde. But not any blonde. The blonde that makes you look like you spend your dreams on sunny beaches in some faraway place. The salt bringing out these warm tones the color of the sand you bury your feet in. Your face is angular. Your cheekbones prominent. In your right ear is a black gage earring, in your left is a dangling earring that catches the light as you move through this crowded restaurant patio. The sun that’s filtering through the windows compliments everything about you. Your skin is warm and bronzed. Your arms are decorated in tattoos that I can’t make out from my seat across the room. You’ve got this whole gypsy rocker vibe going with black jeans and a sage green knit top that hangs loosely around your petite frame.

When I saw you, I got this heavy feeling in my chest. Like my heart was in my throat. You had your back to me, your head bent over the cash register. My eyes involuntarily followed you, trying to glimpse your face. I remained a statue in my seat. My face didn’t betray the internal cosmic shift that was taking place. If things were different maybe I’d ask my waitress for your name. I’d swirl it around in my head and get a feel for it, try to associate it with this glowing mysterious person I can’t take my eyes off. Maybe I’d go up to you and offer my name with an embarrassed laugh. Maybe I’d plan to come back next Sunday and sit in your section, make small talk and see if there’s a spark between us. Leave my number on my receipt. Maybe if the weight of all these peoples’ stares and what they might think wasn’t overbearing. Maybe if I was with someone different, someone more likeminded, I might voice my interest out loud. Let it come into being with my words. Maybe if I knew how you’d react, it would be different. Maybe, just maybe, if you were a man things would be different. Or maybe not.

Maybe if I were a man, you’d notice me. But your oblivious to the effect you have on the stranger across the room. The girl that can’t take her eyes off of you. You’re standing in the corner and your arms are moving jerkily through the air as you talk to your coworker. You’re annoyed. I wonder what it is that upset you. What you’re saying in anger. I’m in your line of sight and for a second I think you might see me. So I look away. I try to talk myself out of it and I don’t know why. My internal voice tells me that it wouldn’t turn into anything if I did get up. That I’m just being fanciful. And yet, in this restaurant full of people, I can’t take my eyes off you. It’s not a romantic setting in the least, but I’m having one of those epic Hollywood moments where the cacophony of conversation dies out, all I can hear is the soft drum of music in the background, and all I can see is the way the light is hitting your hair.

As I pay and get up from my table, I can’t bear to look around the room to spot you. I feel suddenly as if my body is gangly and uncoordinated. My shoes lead heavy. Why did I wear this shirt, I think in despair. I leave with my heart feeling heavy in my chest. No one last glance. No timid smile from across the room. Nothing but regret. As I walk through the sunshine streets full of people on bikes, walking their dogs, all enjoying their day, my mind is back in that restaurant chair. I’m painfully silent beside my company, who’s oblivious to the thoughts stirring in my brain. I wonder if a week from now, I’ll tell myself I overreacted. If time will dull the feeling that is aching in my chest. Regret. And a deep sadness. Because things aren’t different. But maybe, if you’d been a man, they would be.

Thanks for reading and happy Pride month. This is my first post back after a long hiatus. I’m feeling incredibly raw right now, like someone has taken sandpaper to my skin. Like any poet drunk on pain, I decided that leaning into my vulnerability was the best outlet. Without going into the details of my personal journey, I’d like to proudly and unashamedly say that I believe sexuality and identity are malleable.

Before you try to figure out “which letter I am,” I will point out that your need to categorize me is very natural but you are wasting your time. I tried to do the same thing for a long time, and was very discouraged trying to put a label on myself. That’s when I realized that by not conforming to my natural instinct to append a label, I’m liberating myself from self-taught and intrinsic behaviors. Which can kind of feel like reaching Enlightenment in a dramatic but accurate attempt at description.

What I mean to say is that we are a product of our surroundings. It’s basic sociology. If everyone is gay, all are gay. Trust me, have you been to Berlin? That said, I pride myself on the philosophy that if we can un-attach ourselves from certain societal constructions, then we can achieve liberation of mind, body and spirit.

I was afraid to return to the South in fear that the very liberated version of myself I found abroad would vanish. She hasn’t. In fact, she is more rooted in herself and her beliefs than ever before. I was afraid that friends would misunderstand my intentions once they saw me in this new light, which they did. I was afraid that friends would suddenly think I was attracted to them now that they knew I wasn’t strictly confined to a pretty box, which they did. Not to burst anyones’ bubble, but rising above societal restrictions placed on human interaction doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to every single one of you. And yet, I’ve been ashamed, and am still ashamed of my own identification with the LGBTQIA community. This is hard to believe, considering I’m so outwardly expressive and welcoming to others in the community. We never allow ourselves the same freedoms we allow others. But this is a pivotal moment in time.

This is a time of revolution on many fronts, and normalizing the conversations around sexuality, identity, race, gender, and mental health, play an important role in mandating change and saving lives.

So here I am, being honest about a philosophy that I actually find incredibly exciting when I’m around likeminded individuals (shout out to my gal pals in Berlin where this thing is completely normal and not even worth writing about.) I realized that I do have something to say. And I do want to contribute to the conversations. Writing is my platform and I appreciate all of you who champion me. I hope that you get to experience somewhere different than your normal, so you too can join the conversation with a fresh perspective.

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