Dancing Boys + Red Poppies


“This wasn’t just an attack on Americans writ large — it was an attack on the freedoms that LGBTQ people have rallied for for decades.” – President Obama

I took a walk this afternoon after a short nap with Mani. She was still asleep, and I slipped out as quietly as I could so as not to wake her.

The sky was that deep-dark grey that so often comes before a storm this time of year, and the sun flicked in and out from behind its cover.

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, Aviva asked me when I told her dad that I’d realized I was gay.

“The night of Sunday, June 6, 2010,” I answered, not looking up from the dishes I was washing.

She looked genuinely surprised at the specificity of my response. A bit shocked, in fact.

But it’s like that, coming out. My life really did flash before my eyes at supersonic speed. A slideshow of ten thousand moments instantaneously interpreted and understood. I was driving a blue RAV4. I was crying. I was punching the steering wheel and listening to those two songs over and over. It was June 2, in the afternoon.

That was a Wednesday. Four days later, I was telling my husband of nearly eleven years that I was gay. And yes, I was sure.

I’d never even kissed a woman, but I knew.

Had I grown in a time like the one my kids are growing up in — well, who knows. The bottom line is that they wouldn’t be here, and every single step on this path has been real and necessary and is mine. This is my life. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

I remember one of the things my mom said to me in the wake of my “news.” I can see now, that it was a statement stemming from fear, which for better or worse, is so often the way all parents for all time express love.

She said something about it — being gay — being “a harder life.” Maybe it’s every loving parent’s wish for his or her kids, that life should be easy.

I think I know what she meant. But it wasn’t true. Life already wasn’t easy, and trying to jam a me-sized genie back into a slender-necked bottle sure wasn’t going to make it so.

No, what’s hard is trying to conform to a model for life that doesn’t fit. What’s hard is forcing yourself to “make things work” at the expense of everything your body is screaming at you — and it will scream after many years of tip-toeing around, of negotiating with life in order to keep things pretty and peaceful.

Peace and lies don’t co-exist very well, or at all.

And why, why am I writing this tonight?

On my walk earlier, that gusty wind tossing my unwashed hair around my unwashed face, the taste of love on my lips and my mind swirling just as much as the unseasonably cool air, I grieved the lives lost at Pulse in Orlando.

Everything from Trump’s incendiary tweets to lists of senators who voted against background checks to the first photos of the victims to pleas not to conflate one hate crime with an excuse to hate, all of this and more filled my Facebook feed and weighed on me and I didn’t know where to put any of it.

Where do I put this? I had asked Mani earlier, between grocery shopping, making food, and some Sunday morning housecleaning.

I read all of it obsessively. Every few minutes, I’d read some new element to her until finally it was time to put clean sheets on the bed and climb into it.

We made love this afternoon, and in my head, in my heart — I told her this later, our bodies curled around each other like they were, we were, made for this alone — I dedicated our love and our lovemaking to those boys. The gay boys. The dancing boys. The boys out for the night. The boys out, period. To their families and friends.

My heart breaks.

There are a million things to say about our country and I won’t do that here.

The dark, dark sky and the bright sun against it. How can there be so much darkness among so much beauty?

Rows of poppies down at the farm where I walked alone, each one like an announcement of itself, unapologetically red.

7 thoughts on “Dancing Boys + Red Poppies

  1. sltfain says:

    Your words and the depth of your soul. No room for shallowness. Thank you for writing this, THIS, for my gay granddaughters and for those who could not come out, who are afraid to breathe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lisa Sorensen says:

    the beauty and clarity of your words, your presence, your life add to the intensity of my grieving such horrendous fear and hatred. yet somehow, in these same words, there is a sense of solace and strength that does not diminish the dark. thank you for the heart you bring to all. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leah says:

    This is so beautiful that I hardly know what to say. Thank you for this.

    It’s funny, though; my mom expressed the very same concern. I have had it very easy,and have tried to reassure her over the years.

    Others have lost their lives. I grieve for them because they are our family. I grieve for our world and the dark sky. You remind me to look to the sun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gavi says:

    Jena, this is stunningly powerful and beautiful, and your questions resonate so deeply. Where do we put our crushing grief, our fiery rage, our overwhelming desire for a safer, kinder, and more loving world? How can we behold so much beauty amidst the ugliness?

    Your words made me think of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42469). Thank you for finding words at this excruciating moment–and reminding us to grieve, and breathe, and dance, and love like hell, and cry, and mourn, and fight.

    Liked by 1 person


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