Updated: Jul 12, 2018
“Do you have any idea what it feels like to be in a place where it just feels like you don’t belong?” I was rife with frustration. Anxiety had been creeping up on me all evening.
I watched her consider my words. For a moment I felt trivial, we are lesbians. Of course she’s been places where she felt like she didn’t belong or was unwanted. Every time we had to unlink hands in a public space because of unwanted stares, she felt what I was feeling now. I watched her beautiful bushy brows furrow as she considered my words, my feelings. I loved this about her.
“You know that I do. More so than anyone here.” Brie finally said.
“Yes, but not more than me."
“Oh.” She said, understanding spreading across her face, her expression softening. “Ava.”
“Look, Brie, I’m sorry if I made a scene. I wanted to make a quieter escape.”
“What happened exactly?” She took my hand in both of hers.
I looked up at her and thought about how I could explain my experience to her. There wasn’t one specific moment that set me off but a collection of them. Being the only person of color at her sister’s wedding made me hyper aware of my skin and the impact it has on those around me. The assumptions they make, the looks, the way they talk to me in a way they assume is hip. Someone actually used the words “dawg”. I at least know that, that word is not relevant anymore.
“Talk to me please.” She looked at me with pleading eyes.
We stood under the trees draped in twinkling light. The mood was romantic. This was a wedding after all. Brie looked handsome as ever, even without her suit jacket and now untucked shirt. Her hair was down and free, cascading down her shoulder and back. She always knew how much Brie’s family loved her, but that only applied to her immediate family. Brie had brought her home as often as was possible. Her family was so warm and welcoming. It only makes sense that Brie grew up to be the same
I had told myself that this would just be a bigger version of their family dinners. But it wasn’t. The woman I sat next to at the ceremony put enough space between us for two more people to fit in and clutched her purse the entire time. Now, that could just be normal for her, but when you’re black there’s also that nagging possibility it’s because of you. That was where it started. It ended when one of the groom’s friends used the word “ratchet” to describe “other” black woman. He thought he was complimenting me. That’s when I had to excuse myself from the festivities, and Brie, aware that something wasn’t right, followed me out.
“You know how we stop holding hands sometimes because it’s uncomfortable?”
“Like our gayness might offend someone?” She said this while rolling her eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh a little.
“I get a similar feeling when I’m the only black person in such a large space.”
“Was it Craig using the word ratchet that did it?” I could laugh about it now. Hearing the word leave her mouth was odd and amusing.
“That was part of it, but it was a variety of things just adding up. Someone thought I was part of the staff. I’m. In. A. Sundress.”
“So it was like being in a room of homophobes.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice.”
“It’s not something you’ve ever had to be aware of.”
“But I need to be.”
At that moment, she took me into her arms and I felt my frustrations melt away.
“Do you want to go for a walk?”
“I’d love that. Are you sure they won’t miss us.”
“They’ll be fine. We just need to be back in time for the send-off.”
As we walked away from the wedding, the sound of the festivities faded away. Her hand in mine was all that I needed.