i am holding hands with a girl at the pet store. i love how her voice changes when she speaks to different animals. round and bubbly for the angelfish, high and breathy for the calico kittens, sonorous and slithery for the python. she loves them all, even the great hairy tarantula that makes me cringe.
i am holding hands with this girl whose halo of hair glows banana yellow under the heat lamps in the reptile section, who offers her index finger to teething kittens. she asks “can’t we have one?” in the voice she uses for only me. a voice i can’t describe without using her name, but i imagine joan of arc heard something similar the day she picked up a sword. she is still holding my hand, and i feel like i’d sink into cartoon quicksand if i let go. so i don’t.
“are you two… together?”
this is not unfamiliar, but the woman’s voice, the voice she has chosen, is angrily acidic. this woman has laced her tone with arsenic, without even a passive aggressive teaspoon of sugar to hide her poison. she inhales, puffing herself up like a frightened lizard before her final words.
“there are children here, you know.”
in the future, i think of a thousand things to say. we were children too. two girls holding hands after school. two girls holding hands at the movie theatre, two girls in a booth at tony’s pizza, two girls sharing awkward first kisses after two solo cups of wine in someone else’s backyard. two girls holding kittens at a pet store on a saturday afternoon.
i know now that they see us through funhouse mirrors: distorted, disturbed, our monstrous bodies taking too much space, spoiling innocent spaces with our imposing sexualities. our innocence never ours to begin with.
even with this, there is nowhere i would rather be than holding hands with her in a pet store, with her voice like rain on a hot day, her peach lips blowing kisses for fish, her grip tightening as if to say “i dare you to take this away from me.”