(Names have been changed.)
At 14 years old, I acknowledged to myself that I liked girls.
It was after a few years of pretending those thoughts weren’t really there. The understanding that I was queer was a vague, fuzzy concept that I’d felt creeping up behind me. I hadn’t yet turned around to look it full in the face.
Once I wrote it down in my journal, it became real. I’d eased into it by starting out with a blatant lie:
“I’ve been having questions about boys…”
After I’d warmed up to that, I moved on to the crux of it: “…and questions about girls. I think I might be gay.”
It was no longer an amorphous energy behind me that I wouldn’t acknowledge.
And from then on, my diary became my safe place to keep a running log of interactions with girls I had crushes on, if I saw them in the hallways, if we made eye contact at any point throughout the day. And most certainly if there was any conversation that took place.
And I do mean any conversation.
Today in science, Holly asked if she could borrow my highlighter. I said, ‘Sure.’ It was yellow.
But not all interactions were as benign as borrowing school supplies. Sometimes, there were situations that got uncomfortably close to what I wanted no one else to get close to, at least not yet.
Like this one:
I am in a basement with my two best friends, Laura and Melissa, along with a few other girls who I don’t know very well. Laura and Melissa and I are each wearing around our necks a three-way best friend necklace, made up of silver puzzle piece shapes.
We are playing Truth or Dare and it’s my turn.
Because I hold the secret in my heart that I do, I would never risk being challenged with Truth. Dare is so much safer. Make me do anything, but don’t make me lie about my heart.
“Dare,” I say, giddy with nervous energy.
Laura says, “I dare you to kiss Melissa.”
People groan and gasp, including me.
What is going through my mind at this moment is complicated. Yes I want to kiss a girl. But Melissa is not a girl, she’s one of my best friends. She’s not someone I’m pining after.
I don’t want my first kiss with a girl to be a joke, something that has a room full of people squirming and laughing.
In any case, this is happening. And it doesn’t much matter if I figure out my feelings about it because there’s no backing out.
Melissa and I face each other. We are kneeling, our knees not even close to touching.
“On the count of three,” Laura says.
“One.” My heart is creating a new rhythm I haven’t known before, and which doesn’t feel healthy.
“Two.” This is it, I think. My entire life is about to change. In one more moment, everything will be different.
“Three.” Melissa and I dart our faces out toward each other simultaneously like someone kissing a mirror. Just as quickly, we reel our heads back to our starting positions like strong magnets on opposing sides, like kissing a hot stove, like brushing up against an electric fence.
It’s a blink and you miss it moment. Someone shrieks. People are laughing.
“Did you even do it?” Laura asks. It was so quick, no one could tell what had happened.
Melissa laughs and says, “Yes,” with a clear surety that wouldn’t be questioned. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand dramatically.
But Melissa and I didn’t kiss.
Our lips hadn’t touched. And believe me, I was paying fucking attention.
I’d specifically chosen Dare over Truth so that I wouldn’t risk having to tell a lie about something I wanted to honor, something significant about myself that I was just starting to be a witness to.
But in that moment, I laughed and nodded along with Melissa and her lie.
It was a lie that saved my first kiss with a girl for someone else, 18 months later. Not on a dare, but rather in a moment of nothing but truth.