We were all we had.
We had nothing to do. We had everything to do. Our days were shorter & longer—time was as pliable as jelly bracelets.
Our phones were corded or cordless & we laid on carpets, flat as corpses, listening, ear to ear.
We wore sweaters two sizes too big, we wore glitter, we wore denim on denim, we wore Dr. Martens & headbands & flannel. So much flannel. Even our sheets were flannel, not that we slept much.
We took acid in cemeteries & talked to the trees. We ate pizza for breakfast & cereal for dinner & fries in between. On Discmans we watched CDs spin like crystalline moons.
We fell in love with straight girls & straight boys. We loved best friends in ways they would never reciprocate. We hated ourselves for being so startlingly dumb.
We looked things up in heavy books or the sepia dream of microfiche. Most questions had no answers—they simmered quietly, out of sight, like a new lifeform hatching in a deep-sea vent. We wept at how broken & wrong we felt.
We had sex in parks, in cars, in bathrooms, in cheap motels with walls so thin you could hear people’s thoughts in adjacent rooms.
We stocked shelves in the supermarket, we washed dishes at the nursing home, we worked checkout at drug store, flipped burgers at McDonald’s. We worked wherever & for whomever was hiring in Scranton.
We said smile! & took photographs of each other & developed the photographs in darkrooms & the photographs had backs on which we wrote names, dates, places, clues.
We loved sunstorms & thundersnow. The most beautiful sight we ever saw was the early fog covering the lake like a tight blanket. We knew the names of the copper-dusted hawks. We wept at how alive & right we felt.
We used maps made of paper, we wrote letters on paper. We found each other at the corner of X & Y, or where A met B. We found one another in parking lots, in cafes, in Prufrocks, in gas stations, in the Steamtown Mall. We went to New York, we went to Philly, sitting shoulder to shoulder in busses.
We walked to the video store & walked home with Paris is Burning on VHS. We watch Twin Peaks on kitchen TVs. We studied Laura Palmer in the plastic. We were Laura Palmer.
There was nothing to log onto or log into; a log was found in the forest & used as furniture for making out or smoking. We smoked cloves & Parliament Lights & Marlboro Lights & dope stolen from older brothers. We loved ourselves for being so startlingly dumb.
We drove one another to work & school. We drove with one hand on the wheel & one hand up high—a blade of shade against the raging raging sun.
We were raped, we were punched, we were chased. We were called dyke, faggot, queer. Bottles were thrown at our faces, grazing our foreheads like the whisper of Father Ken’s hand as he blessed us after communion.
We drank coffee at 3AM. We knew diners. We knew every diner waitress by name. We went to places that never closed. We were the places that never closed. We swam in stranger’s pools, we slept outside, we made fires. We sat on porches for hours & waited for The BFT (big fucking truck).
We accepted each other, as a whole, as humans, as werewolves, as she-wolves, as witches, as wizards. We played Tori & Nina & Ani & Kate & Bjork & The Cure & we scream-sang At last.
We ran away, we hid away, we died together, we broke out together. We loved each other hard, we held each other, we fell for each other & fought for each other. We fell out of touch then back into each other’s lives when the crownvirus stopped the world.
We stared into mirrors. We stared at each other—beautiful long-lashed boys with soft eyes & gorgeous tough girls with hellfire eyes & delicious lips. We asked each other if it hurt. We asked each other where & how & does this feel okay & can I kiss you?
We were sent to psychiatrists, to psychologists, to meteorologists. Men in white coats with bleached souls told us we were giving our parents heart attacks. We watched men in white hats implode downtown to clear the way for the mall. We lit each other’s cigarettes, we burned each other.
We were scared of ourselves, of our feelings, of AIDS, of STDs. We hated our bodies, we loved our bodies, we painted our bodies, we fainted in sync like grand thespians.
We walked on sidewalks. We were tourists in our own town. We would never ever go back. We desperately wish we could go back.
All we had was each other.
We found the sun.
***Editor’s Note: Queer GenX artist Marc Bardon contributed to this poem***
Margot Douaihy, Ph.D., is the author of Scranton Lace and the Lambda finalist Girls Like You (Clemson University Press). Her work has been featured in PBS NewsHour, North American Review, Colorado Review, The Florida Review, The South Carolina Review, The Wisconsin Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a member of the Radius of Arab-American Writers and Creative Writing Studies Organization. Twitter: @MargotDouaihy Web: www.margotdouaihy.com