I’m taking donations at the Queer Prom registration table, waiting out a lull between packs of gangly teens dressed from debutante to punk rock and everything in between, when the love of my life comes over, braces her hands on the table, and mutters, “They think I’m a bouncer or something; everyone keeps looking at my like this” – making a petrified face beneath her half mask – “and showing me their hand stamps.” I grin up at her from beneath my own mask and reply, “Well, you look like one. What do you expect?” She rolls her eyes and wanders back to her station at the gym door, where between handing out raffle tickets she’s also unwillingly become the door keeper.
“Is that one yours?” The volunteer beside me, a nurse in her sixties manning the table with the help of her long time partner, fixes me with a knowing smile. I can’t help the grin that splits my face as I nod and reply with pride, glancing over her shoulder to where my beloved stands, “Yeah, that one’s mine.”
I’ve been watching her all night, stealing glances between taking cash and explaining the sign-in process to eager prom-goers. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to admire the subtle balance between feminine and masculine in some of tonight’s attendees, but my girl takes the cake. She’s dressed in black pants and a crisp white dress shirt beneath a fitted black vest, shirtsleeves rolled up to show the black leather vambraces laced up her muscled forearms. Her face is hidden behind a black mask bordered in tarnished gold scroll work and framed by dark, wavy locks of hair through which I’m dying to run my fingers. She does look like a bouncer, back straight and legs planted firmly, and I know I can’t be the only girl here tonight who can’t stop staring at her in hopes of catching her eye.
Is that one mine? Fuck yes she is, and not a moment goes by that I’m not humbled and awed by that knowledge. Maybe it’s the symbolism of this night, a first prom for her and the only one that will ever matter for me, or maybe it’s seeing so many kids comfortable in their own skin and with their chosen partners in ways our generation was never allowed, but I’m suddenly overwhelmed with love for this girl. I want to tell her I’m proud of her, the way she stands stiff-backed and alert, my guardian, my warrior goddess. I want to tell her she drives me crazy with her curves and muscle, silky copper skin and calloused fingers, the unkempt hair that nonetheless falls in perfect waves. I want to tell her she’s the most beautiful damn thing I’ve ever seen, and the bravest, fiercest, sweetest person I’ve ever known. I want to tell her she’s the one. The first. The only.
I don’t tell her these things, though, at least not in words. What I do is jump up the moment my shift ends, grab her hand on my way past, and drag her into the pulsing noise of a dark gym packed with people just like us. We find our own little pocket within the crowd and share the dance for which we’ve both been waiting years; the first dance, but not the only. All the things I want to tell her, I say in the way I hold her against me, in the way we sway out of time with the music, in time with our own.