The openness and kindness is always the first thing I notice when I go to the pride parade: no lies, secrets, shame, nothing along those lines. People are as expressive as can be, smiling wide and not showing anger at each other for the simple sin of existence.
The next thing I notice is my partner. Their overflowing with joy, for once no fear behind their eyes, the glee be able to be themselves without a care in the world. They were walking around holding my hand tight worried they would lose me in the crowd. Their goal was to see as much as possible before we had to go home. That makes me tear up every time I think about that. To see them truly cheerful is a simple thing, but no amount of money could ever compare to that sight. Their giggling, their silly dancing they do when overexcited, and that dazzling smile that only can be achieved by genuine happiness.
But there is only so much time in a day, and we must head to the bus. Neither of us wants to take that ride, but it would take too long to walk. If we weren't at my home by the expected time, the backlash from such a choice would be catastrophic.
With more effort than it should have been, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the parade. We drag our feet as we march towards the bus stop gushing over the events of the day, not wanting the day to be over already. But time is always the enemy when it comes to fun and joy.
Quickly and as nonchalantly as possible, I fold my pride themed bandana and stuffed it to the bottom of my bag; as I get on the bus.
My partner standing next to me, now viewed as nothing more than my friend to everyone else around us, wipes the colorful makeup they spent hours on off their face.
We ensure that our standing distance cannot be interpreted as anything but platonic.
We were downtown, yes, but not for that silly pride parade, of course not, just hanging out at the mall with old friends.
Together, we hold our tongues as my religious mother rants about how filth like that could exist in our town. I do my best to keep the tears from my eyes as I for what feels the hundred time, I have heard this spiel. This woman was supposed to love me unconditionally no matter what I am, besides maybe an axe murderer or something. I knew deep down though she would kick me to the streets or send me somewhere worse than here if I told her the truth about myself without a second thought.
We make up some excuse to go upstairs to hide our contraband somewhere safe in my room. For I may just be kicked out with such items, my partner's family would do much worse if they found anything like this in their home.
In a move that comes only with lots of practice, we sat on my bed quietly on our computers, talking and listening to ensure nobody was coming up unexpectedly.
We sit and make ourselves as forgettable as possible to be left alone. To not be dragged back downstairs to my mother and listen to her terrible words and actions.
It was the way to survive, to wait out the clock till we could return to school that following Monday. Most of the time school wasn't the best place to be, but sure beats being at home.
Count the days till we can graduate.
Count the days till we can safely move out.
Count the days we can be together without hiding behind closed doors.
Count the days till we can be ourselves and be happy.
Count the days till we can live like we are always at a pride parade.