She nodded, “Yeah, I’m having a great time. I mean my parents don’t ever let me do stuff like this so...” she trailed off.
“Thanks, again,” I said.
“Yeah, sure.” she smiled, “I mean but don’t you think all this sneaking around is a little 1990’s. No offense, I’m honored to have been chosen as your beard and all. It’s just you’re gay, not a Republican.” The joke made me laugh partially because I had registered to vote as a Republican.
“Great, now I have two secrets.” I rebutted. The gymnasium lights started to get bright again, and the music changed to a song that was just slightly faster.
“I’m serious Todd, what are you afraid of?” she probed and the sick feeling I had in my stomach worsened.
“It’s not like I like lying to everyone. It’s not like I don’t know that when I finally stand up and tell people who I am that I’m going to feel this enormous soul-crushing weight lift off my shoulders, that after I tell my parents and my friends and everyone else for the rest of my life I’ll be relieved.”
“I don’t see a problem?” Jessica said.
“That’s the thing you don’t see a problem.” My throat got tight, and my palms began to sweat. I could feel the blood rush to my face. “It’s something that will change my entire life. The rest of my life I’ll be coming out. Every time I make a new friend or bring a date to a work function or wedding or whatever parties thirty-somethings go to I have to introduce the guy I’m with to them and then deal with what other people think of me. I have to deal with those judgments.” I felt out of breath.
“Babe,” Jessica said loosening my tie as I looked around the dance floor hoping no one was listening in on our heated, little conversation, “ you’re eighteen years old. Do you know what that means.”
“I’m an adult,” I said looking over toward Zach Donovan. We made eye contact, and he gave me a nod I looked back to Jessica quickly as she took my tie off.
“Yes you are an adult, a man actually and do you know what that means?” she asked taking off my suit jacket.
“That I shouldn’t care what other people think of me,” I responded as Zach started making his way through the crowded dance floor toward me. I remembered the kiss we’d shared in his pick up the night before when he dropped me off at home after his shift waiting tables at the local diner.
“What? No, a jury is made up of your peers why wouldn’t you care what people think of you.” Jessica responded acidicly rolling her eyes as she flung my jacket over her shoulder and started rolling up my right sleeve, “It means you can buy a pack of cigarettes or porn, It means you can vote. You can shape the future of our country.” she started rolling up my left sleeve, “It means you can be free. So, I already rolled up those sleeves for you get out there and be free.”
My pulse raced this was easier said than done. My stomach fluttered, and I took a step forward, past Jessica and toward Zach. The music and lights were combining into a cascade of excitement around me. My hands were shaking as my arms grew heavy. “Hey,” he said reaching me through the crowd.
I smiled uneasily. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know if I could. “So do you wanna dance?” Zach asked, “I mean it’s cool if you don’t or if I’m reading into this to much. I do that sometimes.” He kept talking his lips moving like they were in slow motion. I was mesmerized, the sound of his voice washing over me like waves over the shore. I reached my hand out, and when it found the crook of his neck, Zach sent electricity through my entire body. We moved toward each other, and our lips met. I pulled away from him slowly fully aware of the stares, “Yes. Dance with me.”