The Hardest Answer: Ex-Loverbycawastedyouth©
That Saturday morning around eleven in the morning, Julia parked the car in the large structure and climbed out eagerly looking forward to the events around the corner. Lauren got out of the car with apprehension. She looked around nervously the parking structure. There were all sorts of people getting out of their cars, some wearing costumes and chanting excitedly.
Furthermore, all the people who seemed to be gathering knew each other. And there were thousands of people all claiming familiarity. Lauren shuddered at the thought of being greeted by someone she really didn't know.
Lauren swallowed hard, her throat dry, and looked at Julia for support. Julia paused heading in the direction of the stairs and looked at Lauren. And then she walked back and looked at her in the eye.
"I know it's going to be an experience for you Lauren, but you'll learn so much here."
Lauren nodded unable to form words, her stomach empty and her mind whirling endlessly without any one thought to grasp firmly onto. Lauren had gotten up and looked about the apartment and couldn't get herself to eat anything. Considering there was only cereal, oatmeal, and some bread left, it didn't leave her with many options. None of them were even remotely appealing. She had walked to Julia's house shortly after determining she was too nervous to want to eat. She couldn't even think about wanting food until she was gone.
Julia put an arm around Lauren's shoulders. "We can leave at any time after you see some." She promised. And some is definitely going to be more than two hours if I have anything to say about it.
Lauren took several deep breaths and nodded forcing herself to fall into step with Julia. She shoved her hands into the pocket of her grey hoodie wishing the sky were darkened enough that she might pull it over her face and take advantage of some anonymity. The three hours it took to drive to this event, Julia chided her for her clothing choice trying to get Lauren to laugh. 'Trying not to stand out in the gay community would mean you should have chosen something more brightly colored. They're all going to see you like this.' Julia had said just as they took the off ramp. But Lauren didn't own anything brightly colored, and it would not have mattered much anyway, bright colors seemed to repulse Lauren.
Lauren forced her uneasiness down, grateful that Julia had offered to bring her to this event.
They came down the stairs to the street and Lauren was bombarded with colors and people.
To her horror, Lauren found herself scanning the streets and realized the couples walking hand in hand were committed. They were gay. The horror was more how judgmental she felt.
'He's gay. They are a couple.' She found herself checking her mind looking at all different sorts of people who were couples, who lobbied on the behalf of gay people, who supported the whole community, who appeared to be drag queens, who could have been transgendered, and there was no limit to what anyone could be labeled.
The overwhelming sensation reminded Lauren of the time she had taken the gay community magazine, who was the sponsor for today's event, to the corner of the library to first begin her foray those long weeks ago.
And then just as suddenly, 'They're looking at me and seeing the same thing.'
The guilt began to unnerve Lauren. 'I'm so ignorant.' And she also had issues with the fact that she felt that she was gawking at the mob that was so vigilantly trying to bring their issues to the public's eye. And she also had a moral battle with the fact that she was so judgmental instantly when she knew almost nothing about this social group, this world, and this lifestyle.
The signs of people marching in the street asked for recognition to get married, to be accepted as a part of the community, and just recognize that there are not just mainstream gay but a whole smorgasbord of people with their identities and preferences. And equally loud, were groups advocating for AIDS support and hospice care partner rights.
Certainly, many people had mannerisms that were indicative of every tired stereotype. And then there were their parents who supported their children they carried signs such as "It takes a heterosexual couple to make one gay child." That caused a bit of a smirk from Lauren. Lauren scanned the complex of people that milled about all with a purpose of trying to get their message heard on behalf of the gay community.
Lauren stood gaping on the sidewalk with people walking around her. She had no clue where she belonged, if she belonged, and why she was here in the first place.
Julia reached for Lauren again. "It's okay Lauren; we'll do one experience at a time. You'll find your questions." She reassured her friend. "I'll help you find the answers."
The reassurance was calming to Lauren after a few minutes of watching the crowds walk back and forth and she smiled gratefully at Julia. "Thank you." Lauren steeled herself and decided it was better to try and experience this event as Julia had intended. It would after all, be more than an eye opening surprise to all she could learn. And as Lauren gazed from couple to couple, from political topic to political topic, Lauren realized that she had more to learn than what she could glean from this afternoon alone. To simplify all the groups or all their issues into one or two sentences would deny the progress that had been made in simply recognizing their existence.
Lauren tried to figure out where Julia belonged in this world. She certainly was very vocal for someone in the town they lived in. But here next to her, Lauren tried to put Julia on the spectrum.
'It would be like her not to fit into any predetermined box.' She mused reluctantly.
Lauren considered herself definitely a tomboy. It had always been a part of her. And now here she was experiencing being defined as a tomboy, not only as something she kept private and had not even shared with Julia yet. Lauren had factored her general inexperience into her identity. Certainly a grown woman who identified as a tomboy was quite different from the little girl on the playground who could throw a spiral football as well as she could catch one. And simply that summed Lauren up.
In some respects, she imagined that 'tomboy' was not what the mainstream gay community wanted to see. She had made repeated trips to the library in the past few months, secreting away back issues of the gay magazines in a dark corner where she was certain no one would imagine finding her.
'Why does it matter if I'm not a part of mainstream culture?' Lauren wondered.
Her eyes fell on Julia. 'Because Julia wants to be a part of it.' And of course, at this very instant, anything Julia wanted that Lauren could at least attempt, Lauren wanted to do.
'It will help me find my answers more directly.' Lauren reassured herself.
But Lauren's introspection was cut short hearing a squeal from the other side of the street.
"Oh my God! It's Julia!" Julia who was meandering with Lauren at her side, froze, and slowly looked over.
"It's one of my ex-lovers." She whispered scandalously to Lauren.
"It is you!" Julia was swept up into a tight two-armed hug of a rather large woman. Lauren felt some sympathy for Julia wishing she could just grab Julia out of the other woman's arms. She didn't know if she should, but that feeling of jealousy, wanting Julia only for herself flashed like a giant warning signal.
Julia carefully extracted herself and stood back from the other woman's flowing robes and multiple body piercing that seemed to trail wherever there was a bit of cartilage.
Lauren looked at the two women dubiously trying to imagine that Julia dated her and could not have seen it working out for any real reason; glad that Julia was not with this woman any longer.
"Hi Madison, how are you?" Julia coughed to cover her discomfort.
"Fabulous, as always. You don't look too bad yourself. I didn't think you'd come on down here. Now you're going to have to tell me everything you've been up to!" Madison gushed deviously without a breath and then linked her arm in Julia's and began to lead her away from Lauren when Lauren reached over and gently grabbed Julia's free hand, spinning her back towards her.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you had come with someone Julia." Madison shot daggers in Lauren's direction. Lauren only offered a complacent smirk. Julia looked up at Lauren with thanks in her eyes.
"Yes, this is Lauren's first time to this pride rally." Lauren felt a little out of place but was grateful that Julia masked Lauren's newness to being 'out.'
'First time to any pride rally.' Lauren's smug look was based on the amusement of watching Madison squirm assuming that Lauren was now Julia's lover, something she clearly did not want to have happen. Madison could not help but notice Lauren's youthfulness and how 'hidden' Lauren appeared. Nothing stood out about Lauren except her age.
Madison began slowly. "I didn't think you had gotten over your last break up just yet Julia. I'm glad to see you no longer linger over your son's needs." Madison looked Lauren up and down. "You're..." She was going to mention Lauren's age and try to bring her down a few notches.
"Just lucky to have found some time with Julia." Lauren interrupted sensing a growing distaste for Madison.
"Well, if you're interested, some of us are getting together at the club on fourth. I'm sure you and Lauren will be quite welcome." And with a little 'harrumph', Madison disappeared into the teams of people milling about.
"Thank you." Lauren released Julia, but immediately wished she could have clung onto her for just a fraction of a second more. It felt good. She admitted to herself. Lauren was hardly a heavily muscled person. But in comparison Julia was so soft. Lauren knew she could loose herself forever in Julia's arms.
Julia took a shallow breath, trying to still her thundering heart. Being swept up protectively in Lauren's arms was completely unexpected, but it was exactly what the situation required. She looked at Lauren curiously wondering what was transpiring in her mind.
'How quickly she abandoned her fear.' Julia felt her heart calm, grateful for Lauren's intervention.
"Nothing about it, I was just saving my ride home." Lauren felt sheepish for a moment and then moved as if she were interested in the wares created for the AIDS Hospice.
Julia paused in the middle of the crowds and watched Lauren try to remove herself from her embarrassment. She suddenly felt more alone than she had in Madison's arms and was surprised to brush her hands against her skin where Lauren had taken her protectively against her own body. Julia had never had a girlfriend who was protective over her. And it was a strange sensation.
'And she's not even my girlfriend.'
Undoubtedly Julia was thankful. Nothing could be more awkward than running into an old lover, especially one as mercurial as Madison. Julia had not missed the tension that Lauren incited by saving her. Lauren had not missed one beat, staying calm through the entire exchange and said nothing more than necessary to send Madison on her way. That had been something that Julia had not expected ever from Lauren the child.
'She is most definitely an intriguing adult.' Julia admitted to herself.
"Come on Lauren, there's more in the pavilion ahead." Julia reached over and pulled Lauren in the direction of the pavilion. They were going to see as much today as possible.