The room is too small for the people filling it. One wall, made of glass bricks, lets in a speck of natural light against the glow of fluorescent overheads. We can hear the people in the next room, but we scream louder. Our butts hurt from hours of sitting on the floor, but there’s no real discomfort here. In fact, it is perfect. Heads lean into shoulders, arms curl around waists, backs press against bent knees. Elbows touch. The room quiets as a man stands in the small open space in the center. He has an aura about him: calm, collected, confident, serene, all knowing, loving. The silver ankhs on his chest shine, mimicking the shine of his bald head and the flash of his glasses. His feet are bare. Rings join in the glow, and add to the atmosphere. This is Important.
The man stands in the center, surrounded by a room full of teenagers, and a few who seem older. The oldies (they’re barely in their twenties, by the looks of most of them), hold colored cards in their hands, reverentially. Rodney, the man in the center, speaks.
“Each card has a purpose. You wrote that card for a reason, and the person receiving it will receive it for a reason. It will be exactly what you need. You channeled your thoughts into that card, sent it on its way. Now, it will find its purpose.” He pauses. “Channel. Think about what you wrote, why you wrote it. Think about who it is going to. You may not know who will receive it, but know that it is for them. You will get exactly what you need.” Rodney pauses again, deliberately. “Each of the facilitators around me will pick a card out of the basket, and then let the card guide them to who needs it most. After you get your card, take one out of the basket and find who it belongs to, who needs it. Each card has a purpose.” Another pause. Rodney steps forward, bends down. He takes the stack of cards from Paula, kisses her on the forehead, and drops them into the basket. He moves on to Kelsey P., and then Jasmine. Each stack of cards hits the bottom of the basket with a muffled “thwap”. And then we wait.
Music plays, softly. Soulful and sweet, it fills the silence that soon fills even more, with the sound of movement and then, slowly, ever so slowly, the sound of crying. The facilitators move among us, gently presenting each card, and then hugging the recipient tightly. Some cry. Most cry. Emotion swirls. Slowly, ever so slowly, kids start to stand. They dry their eyes and pick their way towards the basket. They reach in, select an anonymous card, and turn, searching. They wander, looking for the purpose, following the thread. When they find the end, both dissolve. Two girls hold each other, sobbing. The walls are crumbling.
I watch, and I wait. I watch. And I wait. And then, a tap on my head, a ruffle of my hair. It’s Matt. Sweet, adorable, goofy Matt, who stood up in this room yesterday and, knees shaking, squeezing the hand of the girl next to him, admitted for the first time that he’s bisexual. For him, the room exploded, as it did for all the others who came out for the first time, who felt safe enough to stand up and say, “This is who I am.” I’m so proud of them, and I’m so proud of him. As I’m remembering, he hands me a piece of soft red construction paper. I look down. Simple, upper case letters, a girl’s handwriting, look back.
YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE, I’LL ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOU
And just like that, I break. A bottle spills, tips over, shatters. Everything overflows. I cry, like I haven’t cried in a long time. Everything inside me comes down. I can physically feel the waves pushing my walls away. I wrap my arms around Matt, bury my head in his shoulder. I shake. All the doubts, all the unrealized fears, every time I had to think about what I was saying or watch myself in case I gave myself away, disappear. Their absence feels new, strange, as if I am now unweighted from something I didn’t realize I was carrying. I didn’t know how alone I felt, until I didn’t feel alone anymore. The lightness shocks me, and I feel my back move up and down with the rhythm of my sobs.
When I look up, I see I’ve left tears on Matt’s grey shirt. He smiles down at me, teary himself.
I whisper, “Thank you.” He smiles.
“You know the saying “you came into my life for a reason”? Well, you came into my life for a reason.” His statement is low, clear. “I feel like I was just waiting to meet you. I love you.” I’ve never heard words spoken with that much intensity, sincerity. This isn’t romantic love he’s expressing. And it’s not romantic love I’m expressing back. I focus my swollen eyes on his face.
“I love you too.” I’m still wrapped in his embrace, still crying, still watching my walls float away. I’m entirely sincere. Here, I feel safe. Here, I feel love, flowing in from every direction. It’s real.
So, remember this. Remember what it felt like. Remember feeling safe, here in this room full of queer kids. Remember. Remember the love. Remember how it spread, first like honey, then like a river. Remember the feeling of your doubts shattering, your fears washing away. Remember realizing that it’s ok. Remember standing up, introducing yourself. “Hi, I’m Amanda, I go by she/her pronouns, and I’m bisexual, but questioning? It’s nebulous.” Remember how you feel, right now, in this moment. You are no longer questioning. Here, you feel safe knowing that you like the term queer, that it fits you, for now. Remember acknowledging that it may change. Remember feeling safe. Remember. Fill up that broken bottle. Fill it with all the love in this room, sparkling purple and free floating. Remember it, and store it away in your chest, locked in tight, where no one can take it from you. Know that here, in this room, you are loved. You are safe. You are you. Remember.