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Seatac is sunny and warm on the best days; cold, snowy and windy on the worst. I’m not usually a nervous flyer, but I had to hold Adam’s hand to keep myself calm. His comfort spread up my arm and pulled shut my eyelids. I was asleep before we hit cruising altitude.
I dreamed that I was a taxi driver. It was dark out and my headlights illuminated the suburban street I drove down. I cast a glance into the rearview mirror and immediately regretted it. In the back seat was a couple. The woman was small and blonde; she wore a scarf and a dark jacket. The man was broad-shouldered and ruggedly handsome. His brown hair was messy, but appeared more casual than dirty. He was several days unshaven and he wore a similar dark coat. They sat close together, their arms around each other and identical smiles on their faces. They were so cute. It was disgusting.
I focused on the house numbers as I drew near to the destination. Slowing, I pulled up to the curb and turned off the cab. I got out as the couple realized they were there. I opened the trunk as first the man stepped from the cab, then the woman. Their bags were heavy, like they’d packed half the world. I set one on the ground, but before I could put a second one beside it, the man helped me. He grabbed onto the handles and, for a moment, we shared the weight of the bag, his hands touching mine. It was cold and I wasn’t wearing gloves, but my hands suddenly grew warm. The warmth spread through my body and I was filled with a sense of calm. In the moment we stood there, our eyes met and I was lost in his eyes. I’d never lived by water before; I didn’t know how to swim. As a result, I was helplessly drowning in the seas of his eyes.
The woman came to stand beside him and the ocean dried up. My feet touched ground and my hands slipped from the bag.
“Thanks,” he said. I forced a halfhearted smile and he spread a real one across his face in response. The woman grabbed the suitcase on the ground and began rolling it to the house.
“C’mon sweetie. Pay the guy and let’s get inside, I’m freezing my butt off.” He rolled his eyes and set his bag on the ground, then sent a hand into his back pocket in search of his wallet. I started to get the last bag from the trunk and as I put it on the ground, the man caught my eyes again.
“Really,” he said. “Thanks.” I melted inside. “And sorry about her.” He jerked his head in the woman’s direction. For another moment, we stood and smiled at each other. The clouds of our breath mixed in the air and I felt a closeness to him. The moment shattered as crisp bills appeared before me.
“No problem,” I managed, taking the money. “Do you want help with these?” He smiled and shook his head.
“Nah, I got it.” He cast one last smile my way and, one piece of overweight luggage in each hand, he headed up the walkway to the house. I stood and watched him reach the door, watched him stand next to the woman, watched them knock on the door together. As the door opened and a glow reached outwards and pulled them in, I shut the trunk and got back in the cab. From my seat, I could see into the living room window. A big woman with similarly big hair ushered the man and woman in to see the whole family. Hugs were exchanged and laughter was in their air. Everyone was smiling. The scene closed as another woman came to the window. As she spread her arms wide to reach the curtains, I got a full view of her shirt.
God hates gays.
With that, the family vanished.
I drove to the garage, clocked in, and headed home. Events jumbled together and I was suddenly leaning on the counter of my small one-bedroom. Coat and shoes off, Chinese food in hand, I stared dazedly into space.
I couldn’t shake him. That man I hadn’t even really met. His face, his smile, his laugh, they haunted me, hung over my mind like an ill reminder of permanent loneliness. I’d seen parades of people who were proud of who they were, what they were, but I couldn’t join them. How could I be proud of something that made me an outcast?
My calendar was on the last page; twenty-three days were marked with red Xs. It was the season of love and yet I was alone. Glancing at the clock, I sighed. It was late. I set down the Chinese food and pulled a red marker from the drawer next to the fridge. Carefully, I put an X through the twenty-fourth day, making sure it was just like the marks on all the others.
Another day had gone. Another day in solitary confinement had come to pass. I left the takeout box on the counter and went into my bedroom. I’d lost my appetite.
On the wall was a picture of a Christmas tree and a large empty space sat beneath that. Sitting on my bed, I looked at the tree. That family had had a tree. That family had been laughing and having a good time. It was a season for gathering, for grouping. If only my own family were there…
I laughed to myself and shook my head. What family?
There was a sketchpad and sharpie by my bed. Picking them up, I uncapped the black marker and drew a box. I made pretty designs on the box and drew a bow on it. Capping the pen again, I looked at the present before me and forced a smile.
“I wonder who it could be from?”
The plane shuddered and I woke with a sharp breath. Adam felt it and he looked over at me. His eyes searched mine and I was suddenly lost in his oceans. I couldn’t swim, but here it didn’t bother me; I was content to float.
My dream must’ve played across my face because he smiled comfortingly and spoke. His words echoed through me, washing me in a wave of calm. Our hands still clasped and I squeezed his for strength. As he returned to his book, I leaned my head on his shoulder and drifted back to sleep.
“They’re going to love you,” he’d said.