I scared myself out of the original outfit I’d chosen for Pride; the skin-tight, rainbow tie-dyed crop top and matching high waisted shorts were replaced with a safe black floral romper. My friend, Steven, talked me into donning rainbow patterned knee-high socks, and wrestled the overpriced bisexual flag I’d bought from a street vendor around my neck like a cape. He claimed to be protecting me from the merciless June sun, but I didn’t miss the assessing looks from gaudily dressed passersby–the pink, purple and blue stripes laying me more bare than I’d ever allowed.
A walk beneath a large rainbow balloon arch landed me in Times Square. I flinched every few feet, contorting my body to keep from accidentally touching other people. Rainbow streaks of paint were melting down thousands of flushed cheeks, the sun beating hard on the spectrum of colors waving about, saturating every ounce of space with LGBTQ+ representation. Upbeat pop music blaring from multiple sources belting phrases of acceptance, drowned out the hate speech shouted from a corner the Christian protestors claimed to try and shame the unapologetically shameless.
We turned a corner, making our way toward Central Park, relieved for a respite from the companies shoving freebies at us; stickers and wristbands with lazily printed rainbows over corporate logos. The sidewalk expanded into a performance space, where energetic rock music pealed from a live band playing for a small crowd. You were at the forefront, thigh high leather stiletto boots clinging to your legs, shaping firm thighs bulging out of barely-there ripped jean shorts. A faded rock band t-shirt stuck to your sweaty torso, your skin glistening under dark eyeshadow and sharply contoured cheeks. Slicked back blonde hair fell past your shoulders, either side shaved, resulting in a mix between a mohawk and a mullet.
You wove through the crowd like a parted sea, grinding and melting into any willing body you passed. You were lost to the feverish music, a glutton for any kind of touch, careless of where or by whom. I felt I should look away, yet couldn’t.
Our eyes locked, and the world narrowed. I barely heard the music, frozen in place as you uncurled from the body you were latched onto, slinking over. Almost carefully, you sidled up to me, keeping an inch’s distance. “Your call,” your tantalizing gaze said.
I closed the gap.
Your skin was a hot iron, blazing where we touched. You took what I gave, grazing caresses across hips, down sides. Our faces swayed so close I could count your lashes as they trembled, your eyelids fluttering, mouth open in a muted exclamation. You twirled into my flag, cocooned against me, a reassuring and intimate weight leaving my entire right side tingling. Nothing existed except your touch, your panted exhales breathing life into my every inhale.
Far too soon, it ended. You backed away, heels clinking on the sullied concrete, and blew me a kiss. I blinked, and you’d moved on, the world crashing back in.
My mind wandered to you on the train home. My rainbow socks and bi flag were tucked into my purse, my head lowered to the floor to avoid meeting the other riders’ eyes. The train was silent, the people in my peripherals cleaning their faces of paint and glitter, hiding themselves away with wet wipes. As the cage door snapped shut once again, I felt an overwhelming sense of envy and gratitude toward you: for the freedom you awarded yourself, and the ten second sliver of freedom you awarded me on that street corner of New York.