It was only supposed to be a night out with work colleagues to celebrate a birthday at Anchorage’s hottest LGBTQ+ night club, The Gilded Butterfly. But then I met the most beautiful person and, yes, fell in love at first sight. Fell in love with someone awesome and unapproachable, someone who would never even notice me.
Yet life can be unexpected, and wonderful moments can be wrapped up in terrible encounters. My beautiful Crimson Lady was harassed for being who she is, and unlikely me found the courage inside myself to stand tall in the face of Hate. Love is Love is Love. And bodies are only bodies.
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
Tonight, I wanted to be just a woman who had come to watch the show. Tonight, I was perfectly happy to be invisible, melt into the entity that was the crowd, and relax.
She was the third act.
She was marvelous. Clad in red once more, her voice dark and raspy yet feminine. Even though the room consisted almost entirely of guys and drag queens, she had them eating out of the palm of her hand, had them howling for an encore, such was her radiance. Dollar bills and condoms flew on stage when she left -- a gay bar’s equivalent to flowers and bras; or perhaps just Alaska’s equivalent of it.
I spent the rest of the evening replaying her movements in my mind’s eye, trying not to feel self-conscious about the fact that I was by myself in a bar -- isn’t that something you normally do with friends? Isn’t it the slightest bit pathetic for a woman in her thirties to go to a bar alone?
I think I lost track of time in the noise-induced limbo of it all, because when I stepped outside the door it was dusking. It must have been around one o’clock. My legs felt heavy, I think I stumbled a bit, not being used to the shoes. Any bystander must have thought me drunk, or at least tipsy. There was nobody around, though. The only sign of life in the parking lot was some banter coming from behind a truck.
An argument of sorts, I thought, and wanted to make my way to the bike via a little detour to avoid the scene. Then my drowsiness evaporated when I heard terms of abuse and realized belatedly that it wasn’t an argument between drunks but harassment.
“Pervert!” I could make out, and “fucking bitch!” among other, more colorful phrases.
I don’t know what exactly came over me, perhaps it was some part of me that suddenly felt the need to channel my brother, who will never take crap from anyone.
I fished out the phone from the depths of my purse, but then I never dialed, because whatever came over me could not satisfied by simply calling the cops and making a dash for it. All the anger I had tried to dance away, all the bottled-up frustration over my messed-up family and our miserable little lives just cooked over like hot milk.
Luckily, the abusers turned out to be two drunk old guys who knew better than to stick around when faced with an angry woman and her smartphone. They barely listened to my flaming speech about gender equality and sexual freedom and their own questionable manhood; heaven knows they sure as hell didn’t hear me. The bearded one spat on the gravel in an attempt to put all his disgust in this one gesture, then they ran off fearing I might have caught them on camera to show to the cops (I didn’t, although I should have thought about that!).