He’s been here before.
I’ve been here before.
I recognize those eyes, flickering stop signs at anyone who steps within a few feet of him. He was so beautiful, no one dared come talk to him.
The mirror said it was a good day. I chose it over another bottle of whisky and music and loud noises going off inside my head. I said it was Friday night. That I should go out, get some fresh air. So instead I turned myself into a gay bar to do what I could’ve done at home, except surrounded by gyrating morons.
The kind of beautiful that you can’t look at for long because your insides burn so much it scares you. Everything around him lights up, but you couldn’t get very close without feeling like something in the world was going to change forever.
There are so many men who crack a smile and have hundreds drooling all over them. And then there’s me. The moment my eyes meet some of theirs, they look me up and down and then look away as if my hazelnut skin would burn them to a cinder if they stared long enough.
He’s different. He likes drumming his knuckles at the bar instead of dancing. When he does get up to dance all alone in his corner, everyone else jumps out of the way. It’s beautiful, watching him balter as if he was all that was left in the world.
They told me since forever that I couldn’t dance, so I owned it. I swing my left leg out, narrowly missing kicking two lip locked men in the knees. My right does a little shimmy on its own. I’m grinning, imagining how ridiculous I know I look, but they couldn’t make me stop even if I tried. This man eat man bar won’t bring me down, no way, no how.
I hold back a chuckle as I watch him throw himself onto the purple and blue strobe lit dance floor. In an instant, he’s broken up a couple kissing, almost poked a cruiser in the eye, and made so much room around him in general it was almost obscene. Everyone around him looks annoyed, but there’s nothing as beautiful as watching someone make as much space for themselves as they need. I can’t keep my eyes off him.
I try to not care as much as I can. But you always do. This place is like a fucking jungle, and if you don’t stay on top, you get eaten. You’ve got to own what you’ve got, even if years of oppression tell you otherwise. Indian. Dalit. Brown. Gay. Small labels that turn into dirty words in different mouths. I kick a foot out in a sudden jolt of anger. I kick the memories aside with them. I just really need to dance. But when they lays eyes on me, what do they see?
He is beautiful. There’s nothing else for it. He doesn’t care what any of us think as long as he gets to flap around like an angry hen in a long sleeved blue shirt and jeans. A square peg in a very round hole. Something in the way his eyes are glazed over, not from drink or drugs, but from studied insouciance, makes me think he knows he will never fit their limited, privileged expectations. But that’s what makes it all the better.
I’m winding down and I know it. There’s only so much you can dance without being danced with. I’m not here for the dripping sex, I’ve long learnt that when oppression is branded into your skin, your pain will burn desire like droplets in a summer desert. But I don’t just want to be touched. Needing to be held is never the same thing as wanting to be touched.
In his cinnamon skin and eyes, I see infinities growing between us. I want, no need to talk to him. I know, in his hard, gritty way that he loves himself. I want to let him know that other people can love him, too. I walk towards him.
Someone’s walking towards me. He’s smiling. He’s got an olive green tank top on and his ears stick out more than you’d expect. His neck is cocked, face at half smile, and his jeans are ripped at the knees. Something in those eyes makes me think that fairytales can maybe happen.
Suddenly, someone grabs me by the waist, spins me around. “Baby, how you been? Long time no see. You doin’ okay?” The man hugs me hard, leaving his whisky breath trailing on my neck. I remember the smell of it from a few drunk nights ago when I could barely remember my own name. I give him a fake smile, trying to get away but he twirls me around on the dance floor.
Someone jumps at him and his smile alights on him before they spin themselves away faster than I can blink. In a second, I’ve lost sight of them. I inhale deeply. Inhale, exhale. I do it one more time. Then I throw my head back, down the wine glass, and leave.
By the time I get rid of the guy, the man with the ears is no longer there. I dash out of the bar and I glimpse his bowed back turning around the alley. “Hey!”, I shout before running down the pavement. I feel the blood pumping through my legs as I rush to catch up with him.
As I’m turning around the bend, wondering what book I’d pretend to read for a few minutes before I finally turn in, I hear a voice shouting out a little way me. I turn around.
He turns around and the two of us stare at each other for a minute, with just the echo of my voice, the wind, and the Parisian sky keeping us company. I look at him. We smile. My world goes quiet.
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