I’m at an LGBTQ dance and I am terrified. I’m nearly sixteen years old and trying to ride high on the flawless alibi I gave my parents about being at a friend’s house, but this environment is so new that I know I’m not enjoying it at the level I want to. I’m overstimulated by the rainbow decorations laid across the recreation room attached to the church, the Christmas lights lining the stacks of Bibles a room across the way, how girls walk around so confidently with their hands clasped tightly.
I’m glad my friend doesn’t mind. At least, she doesn’t look like she does. After all, she is the one that helped organize me being able to come here. She’s the one that fed me the alibi and even arranged to have her mother pick me up from my house, so my parents could see an adult clearly attempting to be responsible for my well being. She’s probably motivated by how I’m her own cover for the night—she’s apparently told her mom that she’s attending as my ally. I don’t pry. I know better than to question why a kid wants to stay in the closet.
We stay close, wordlessly alternating between the two rooms. We’re trying our best to be sociable. The boys are a little standoffish, but the girls are warm and friendly. We talk about what it’s like to be queer in our schools. I stare in awe as they list the cool things they are doing through their schools’ GSAs. I shy away when they ask me why I’m not in my school’s club. We’re all around the same age, but these girls seem older than me. It’s like they’ve lived more of their queer lives than I have. I’m jealous. There’s a hole in me that’s developed, and I know I can’t fill it as long as I’m living with my parents.
I go onto the dance floor with these new girls. We laugh a lot as we stumble through mid-2000s pop music. The lights are low: greens, blues, and reds flash across our faces. I don’t think I’m any good at dancing, but no one is saying anything about it. It’s nothing like when I’m dancing with my straight friends.
I separate from my friend to start dancing one-on-one with a girl. She’s a bit like my friend—Black, butch, not afraid to support me in spite of my nervous energy. We dance and chat about where we’re from. She’s one of the only people at the dance from her town. I don’t remember if I ask her how she found out about this thing.
The space between us closes. When our thighs touch, I smile. She tells me I’m beautiful and I don’t think I believe it, but I accept it without argument. It sounds almost sincere when it comes out of a girl’s mouth.
Our bodies move together, hardly in time with the music. She brings her face close to mine and kisses my cheek, trailing her lips down my jawbone, my neck, and settling there, deeply kissing it. It’s exciting but too much for me. I pull away, smiling nervously.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes firmly, “I can stop if you want me to.”
I nod my head, still smiling. I wave my hand and say, “It’s fine! I’m just not ready yet.”
She accepts it graciously. We dance a little more and separate. I return to my friend and she smiles but doesn’t pry. I feel electrified knowing what it’s like to be wanted by a girl.
I don’t make another advance toward the girl. We see each other the rest of the night, smiling every time. I hate that I don’t know what to say, but I’m too nervous to ask my friend for advice. So when the party ends, I wave at her and leave, piling into my friend’s mom’s car.
When I go back to school on Monday, I mention the dance to my straight friends. They ask about how it went and I keep it vague. I don’t expect them to understand how it felt. I keep the dance with the girl to myself, forming my own personal realizations of the ways I could have handled it. I probably could have asked for her number. That would have made the most sense. Maybe someday our paths will cross. Maybe they won’t. I just hope if I experience something like that again I’ll be more ready. My straight friends push the conversation to focus on the honors biology class I’m not in. I keep to myself and wonder when I will be able to dance with a girl again.