It’s one of those days, where you pulled your hair back because no matter how hard you tried it wouldn’t fall right, where your clothes don’t sit right and the only bra you could stand was a sports bra. When it feels like something inside you has shifted out of alignment, tried to come into new focus, and thrown everything off instead – or maybe that something has always been just a little off, if you looked for it, but you don’t look. Have learned how not to look, how to ignore it. Almost, almost.
Almost, but not entirely. Because if you’re being truthful you know exactly what’s wrong, why these days always leave you feeling worn and frayed around the edges. More so than usual. You know, and that scares you, because acknowledging it means upending the identity you have built, because acknowledging it means you’re even more other in a world that already wants to pretend that you, that people like you, do not exist. So you ignore it, keep your mouth shut, deny it even to yourself.
Deny it to yourself, even though you can feel yourself unraveling a little more every time you push it back down. Every time you bite back the words “I know,” or “I feel that too, when you’re talking to Park or to Adrian. Every time you push Alex away, when things get heated, because it is too strong right then and makes your stomach knot at the thought of sex, at the thought of Alex seeing and touching your naked body. But you you don’t ever let yourself acknowledge the why, even as every “she,” every “her,” every “girlfriend,” strikes your ears… not completely wrong, but hollow, empty. Like something is being missed, is being overlooked.
So it’s one of those days and it’s also been a long day, by the time you and Alex get to game night at Kara’s. A long and tiring day at work, in the aftermath of the Daxamite invasion – working with people who don’t give a fuck about so many of the lives up-heaved by the destruction because they aren’t human, because even the humans aren’t middle class and white. It’s been a long day, and you are frayed down passed your skin, the point where ignoring it is becoming practically impossible.
You try, though, God do you try. Try to distract yourself, to bury it. Because Alex is here, pressed into your side, laughing into your shoulder. Alex, who brought love and light and family into your life, at a time when you had started to give up on those things. Alex, who wants to marry you. Alex, who you don’t ever want to lose. Are afraid of losing, if you voice it.
Because Alex is still so new, to all of this – she only just came out, less than a year ago, and she doesn’t know all of the complexities, the spiderweb of intersections that is sexuality and gender. She doesn’t know all those things and you are afraid, afraid it will be too much – that she won’t see you as someone she can love.
So, by the time Alex gently squeezes your shoulder, says she’s ready to leave, you are on your…. fifth? sixth? beer, and you realize you probably shouldn’t be drinking this much, especially not in front of Alex, but you’re just this side of splitting apart at the seems and the buzz from the alcohol is almost enough to take the edge off the stactic-y buzz that’s been settled under your skin since sometime around noon.
You wobble and stumble as you stand up, nearly sending your chair to the floor, Alex catching and steadying you with lightening reflexes.
“I’m calling a cab,” Alex says, already reaching to pull out her phone.
“You don’t have to,” you slur into Alex’s shoulder. “I’ll give you my keys, trust you with my bike.”
“Maggie, you’re drunk,” Alex says. “You’re not getting on a bike at all tonight.”
Which, yes, Alex is right. As much as you want the feeling of the air whipping against you, of pressing close to Alex, you really shouldn't.
"Hey, Kara?" Alex says. "Can you take Maggie's bike to our place later?"
"Yeah, sure," Kara says.
"Maggie," Alex is squeezing your shoulder, "give Kara your keys, okay?"
"Be careful with her," you say to Kara, as you surrender the keys to Alex, who passes them to her sister.
"You can trust me. She'll be in your parking lot by tomorrow morning," Kara assures. Then, turning to Alex, she says "get her home safe, okay?"
"I will," Alex replies, momentarily pulling you closer, before pulling out her phone to call the cab.
You stumble about as gracefully into the cab as you did standing up at Kara's table and Alex has to help you with your seatbelt, has to help you out once you arrive at her apartment building. Out of the cab, up the elevator, down the hall, Alex stays close to you all the way to the apartment proper. Once inside, she directs you to the couch, to sit down. Takes your jacket and comes back with a glass of water, which she presses into your hands, cool and heavy. She makes you drink half of it right then and there.
“You gonna tell me what’s eating at you, Mags?” Alex asks. You swallow and look down, look away – of course Alex has noticed. Noticed that something is wrong. Because she is Alex and she pays attention to you in a way few people ever have. “You can tell me anything, babygirl, okay?”
You don’t want to tense but you do, as the buzz under your skin gets louder and your chest tight, that carefully ignored part of you being nowhere near okay with being ‘babygirl’, and Alex notices that too, of course. So she asks you again, asks what’s wrong, but she also says it again – calls you ‘babygirl’ – and somehow, somehow you have no idea how, you find the words to speak.
“Please – please don’t call me that -” your voice shakes. “Not right now, not ‘babygirl’.”
“Okay, it’s okay,” Alex – perfect, amazing Alex – agrees softly, agrees without question. “I’m here for you sweetheart, you can talk to me.”
You’re not sure if you’ll ever be completely ready to talk about this, to give voice to it, but you’re pretty sure that if you don’t, you’re going to fall completely apart. So you’re caught somewhere between almost nearly telling and not at all telling, the words bubbling up half formed in your throat, only to fizz in your mouth so all that comes out is air.
“I’m sorry,” you say, your voice thick and breaking. Sorry, for being drunk. Sorry, for keeping something so important, so pivotal, locked up. For not voicing it sooner, before things got so serious, before Alex had said she wanted to marry you. For not telling Alex now. “I-I can’t… I’m sorry.” It’s still too soon, too undefined, too scary.
“It’s okay, I’ve got you, you don’t have to talk right now,” Alex says, pulling you close, running comforting hands over your back. “I’ve got you, Mags.”
You cry. You cry until you have no more tears, no more sobs. Alex makes you drink water, helps you into sweats and a hoodie, braids your hair back for you when your own fingers fumble at the sections. Helps you up the steps to the bed, with her arm firm around your waist. When you lay down, Alex lays down behind you, wraps her arms around you, pulls you close. As she whispers a soft ‘I love you’ into your hair, so soft you can barely hear it, all you can hope is that you won’t lose this. Won’t lose this when you have finally voiced it.
It’s the next morning and you have to go to work, headache be damned. You still feel frayed, feel raw, but it is better than last night, if only a little.
You need to talk to Alex, you are going to talk to Alex, but first – first you have to start untangling this, untangling yourself from where you hid it all away. Because you’ve pushed it aside, ignored it, it denied, so much that you don’t even know where to begin.
Park will help you, they will be kind, you know this, but that doesn’t stop part of you from worrying. Doesn’t stop the part of you that whispers about how long you’ve taken, how long you ignored and denied it. Doesn’t stop you from being afraid.
Breathe in, slow, through your nose and out through your mouth.
Park is your friend, they will help you, and you need to do this. Need to do this for yourself. If you don’t, it’s going to eat you from the inside out. So, standing by your bike - waiting and unharmed exactly as Kara had promised - you take another deep breath and pull out your phone.
Maggie Sawyer: hey, you free for lunch today?
Maggie Sawyer: there’s something i wanna talk to you about
H. Park: yeah, sure
H. Park: there’s this new place in koreatown i wanna try, sound good to you?
Maggie Sawyer: sounds great, thank you
As you put on your helmet and straddle your bike, you take a moment to steady yourself, take a moment to breathe, before you start the engine and roll out of the parking lot, into the street. You let the feeling of riding fill you, take you away if only for a moment.
You are strong. You are going to be okay.