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Prom photo

I remember reading in Artforum that what made Stonewall so special wasn’t the fucking—people have done that since the stone ages—but the dancing —little moments of masculine respite, minutes of fleeting tenderness between two people both of whom experienced the shared trauma of male puberty.

At senior prom I wasn’t thinking about Artforum or Stonewall; I was thinking about forearms, body hair. I was dancing with my date—Lara, a girl from a town over I’d been fucking that summer. I still remember how witty she was—how quick her snark was. But she’d sand it down with alcohol, dull it until it was flat. It was a double whammy she inherited from an Irish Catholic family who were tight-lipped about love but loose when it came to Jameson and insults. Anyway, we’d pre-gamed prom in the church parking lot where we took turns swigging Maker’s Mark, and at this point I was drunk enough that as we swayed together it was hard to parse out whether it was due to the booze or the song (Drops of Jupiter by Train, of course). Next to me, my friend Jarrett was dancing with his date, a Greek girl named Angelina. She was tan and beautiful, and I can still remember how white her teeth were. I looked at them swaying—from him to her, and from her to him—and it struck me that I didn’t wish I was dancing with her at all. I wished to be her. I imagined it was me whose hips he was holding, hairy fingers clenched tight enough on me that my silk dress dug into my skin. I imagined it was me whose forehead touched his, hearing whatever sweet nothings 17-year-olds were capable of whispering and clinging to it like only 17-year-olds could. And I imagined it was me who could bat my lashes, feel them brush just beneath my eyes, knowing he was mine, mine, mine. And then I looked down and saw my navy suit, and I looked at Jarrett and he looked at me, and I told Lara I had to piss, and I ran off to cry.

It was ten years on the dot later that I partied (really partied) in New York for the first time. I took the train up from home at 7 p.m. and got there at 9, and I knew that the last train was at midnight. So I figured I’d either have a shitty night and take the midnight train back, or I’d have a good night and I’d catch the 5 a.m. train the next morning. The venue wasn’t hard to find—once I was within ten blocks, groups of girls adorned in pink ribbons and glitter and black fishnets and not much else all instinctively moved in the same direction. Doll Mania.  When I got there, it looked like something out of East Berlin. Deindustrialized, decaying, greys on top of greys, impossible to make out where one section stopped and the next started. Back then, I didn’t yet grasp that distinctly Brooklyn flavor of detached queer irony, so I didn’t understand why girls who looked so pretty would want to party somewhere so ugly. I didn’t know anyone there, so naturally I headed to the smokers’ hangout to pretend I didn’t have a lighter. Midnight train, two more hours. One girl was standing by herself, which felt less intimidating so I walked to her. “Got a light?” She was beautiful—a few inches taller than me, a jawline that most dolls went broke trying to buy, and Black with silver sequin dress that hugged her waist tight and bent into a choker around her neck. Snatched. She was fucking snatched. “I got you,” she smiled, and when she said it, she almost made me forget that my own lighter was sitting conspicuously at the bottom of my purse. She asked me where I was from, and I told her I was from “out of town” (New Jersey felt wrong, felt like it would shatter the vibe) but that I came in for the night just to party. Another girl behind me must have overheard, because she turned around and said, “That’s so fucking cunt.” The girl in front of me (I never learned her name) nodded in agreement. I can’t remember how we ended up inside, but we did. What I do remember is that the room was packed with beautiful faggots, the music was loud and her sequin dress felt softer than it looked, and that when she’d move her hips on me they somehow still managed to shimmer even though the room was nearly pitch black, as if they were creating their own light to reflect. I remember having a moment of panic when she leaned in to kiss me that she’d feel stubble crusted beneath my foundation, that she’d recoil. I remember that she didn’t, that she told me I felt so soft (Oh my God…Is it the spiro, baby?”), that she wanted to do this since she saw my lips when I sucked down my Camel Crush outside. And I remember her apartment in Bed Stuy. 5 a.m. train.

I was sobbing too loud for the men’s room and I was in no shape to explain myself so I settled on the supply closet next to it. After a couple minutes of moping I got a BBM (we had to have Blackberries then, for whatever reason) from Jarrett. “Were fuck are you bro?” I got the gist, so I typed back. I’m good just chillin. Evidently he didn’t believe me, because soon I heard footsteps outside the door and someone calling out my name. Sheepishly, I opened the door and for the first time in his life, he didn’t say anything. He stepped in and as he closed the door my hand brushed against his suit flap. And we could hear the music from outside ever so faintly (Halo, Beyonce) as we locked eyes and rocked back and forth. I put my head on his shoulders and started crying again, and he ran his hand through my hair. His skin was coarse but he was tender to the touch. “Shhhh,” he whispered. “It’s okay, baby. It’s all okay.”