Outside the bar. We're smoking hir Marlboro Reds. I'm filling hir in on what's been up with me the last few weeks. Why ze hasn't seen me.
"I feel so free," I said. "I wish you could feel how free it is."
"I want to," ze said, "but I've never done that before. I've always belonged ... to someone - or something."
"You don't have to belong. You can just be a person. A free agent. There's gonna be apocalypse and zombies and shit, I just wanna be me and make out with people and have fun and not worry about it."
Hir eyes grew wide. Ze laughed and threw hir arms around me. "I love you so much," ze said.
Later. Inside the bar. In the bathroom. This is our game: See who gets scared first. We have played it many times; we have played it for two years. I always win, because ze is not out, because ze is financially beholden to hir "it's complicated" beardy half-open relationship, and because this feels so strong it's frightening. But still we play it. Ze tells me to be careful of hir right side. Ze was wounded in a bar fight, at a different bar the night before. Hir eyes are on fire. I never want to stop kissing.
Ze looks at me. Says, "I feel like a man inside."
"Is that how you feel?" ze asks.
I shrug. "I'm just me. I can't compare it to anyone else, I don't know how they feel inside."
I have told hir this many times. I can tell it pulls at hir every time ze hears it.
The sound of an opening door cuts the silence of the bar bathroom and ze jumps and tenses, ready to flee like a prey animal. I am leaning against the wall. I don't care. I'm not nervous like ze is. Not anymore.
It was nothing. Ze kisses my cheek.
"But I'm attracted to men. I'm not attracted to women. I mean.. you.. I've never thought of you as a woman."
I nod. "They're different things," I say, "who you're into and who you are - it's separate. Not tied together."
"But it must be so uncommon to be a transgendered gay man. I mean, do people do that?"
I smile. "Yeah. But anyway it doesn't matter, you can do whatever you want. Fuck what people do. You have to be yourself."
I'm not used to giving advice. Not about this. I feel like I should be explaining it better, but I'm three beers in and not really feeling that talkative. I'm surprised at how much ze said about it tonight.
Now I am on hir neck and we are devouring each other. But soon the nerves have overtaken hir and the game is over. Save for one last kiss. "I will kill you," ze tells me. I understand that the unspoken part of the sentence is "if you ever tell anyone."
"I love you too," I reply. Ze laughs.
Back out to the table where our friends are seated. Back in, for her. Now I see her face change. I see the fire in her eyes still, when she looks at me. But I see her unwilling to be himself, playing this
elaborate character in the world's longest play and I'm about ready to sneak out the back of the theatre. I hope it doesn't take long before he'll join me out there for a smoke.