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The school hallway was a suffocating swamp of stares. I waded to my locker, straining against every step. I’d had a sickening feeling since yesterday’s game that this was going to happen. That everyone was going to know what I’d done. My fingers fumbled on my combination lock again and again, but the final click was muted by the whispers that shouted in my ears.
Wait… is that her?
Yeah, it’s the girl from the bleachers.
From yesterday’s football game?
Who would’ve thought.
So weird, you mean.
I was drowning in the noise. I grabbed my headphones from the pocket of my baggy jeans and cursed their twisted state. My shaking hands took longer than normal to detangle the chord, each knot befuddling my muscles and straining my sanity. But as soon as the music started, I felt myself relax: my shoulders dropped, my eyes closed, my worried frown softened. This song always reminds me of her. Of her smile. Her laugh. Her eyes.
With my locker emptied and book bag stuffed, I braced myself to fight through the hallway to my first class. I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea, if Moses was a high-school junior girl in the oppression of the twenty-first century, and the Red Sea was an immovable mass of judgmental teenagers. Usually, kids bump against me multiple times in the hallway. Even before the “Football Fiasco™,” as I’ve dubbed it, people would go out of their way to shove me in the hallways, reject me at lunch tables, or other forms of general nastiness. This is the life of a struggling high-school student who feels like she should’ve been born in any time or place other than this. But that’s not right either. For if I was born in a different time, I would’ve been judged even more. And if I was born in a different place, I never would’ve met her.
Today is different than normal, though. Instead of going out of their way to push me over, people are now going out of their way to avoid me at all costs. As if having any physical contact is somehow contagious or deadly. Everything blurs around me: the people, the stares, the whispers, the passing classroom doors, my Converse squeaking on the hallway floor, even the music seeping out of my headphones. Nothing stays still. I’m walking through an immaterial world of jeering and malicious judgement. It’s a place I don’t belong in, where nothing makes sense, where I feel like an alien on a strange planet or a foreigner in a different country.
I sense, more than I see, the shift around me. But I ignore it. I don’t have the energy or the motivation to pay attention anymore. It’s only when I’m tackled from behind that the haze covering my senses is lifted. I know those arms. I know that smell. And as she takes the headphones out of my ears and greets me with a kiss on the lips, I don’t care anymore. I don’t care that everyone is watching. I don’t care that everyone is judging me for being lesbian, or for having a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend. I don’t care that the people that weren’t at the football game yesterday are seeing the rumors confirmed, the rumors of the head cheerleader kissing a bystander after her team won.
I don’t care about them.
Because I care about her.
Her long blonde hair that’s tied so tightly during games and school, but is released into soft curls when we’re alone.
Her warm skin and perfect figure that encloses me perfectly within her embrace.
Her ocean eyes that I drown in every time they meet mine.
Her laugh that brightens my darkest day.
Her subtle touches that remind me that she’s here, that she loves me too, that I’m not alone in my feelings.
But yesterday she wasn’t subtle. Nor is she being subtle now. With her fist grabbing at the collar of my sweater, her other hand cradling the side of my face. With her sweet lips on mine, her breath fanning my cheeks. With her small laugh as we pull away. With the gleam in her eyes. With the whispered I love you as we walk to class together, hand in hand, our little bubble shattering the stares and hatred that try to pierce it.
Because I love her. And she loves me. And if everyone knows that I kissed a girl, so what?