As promised, here is Part 1 of Better Than Pride, which is a short story with Aaron and Matt from Better Than Good. Please keep in mind this was written without the benefit of professional editing, so it may not be as polished as usual. It’s just a little something to tide you over till next week! 7 Days and counting till Better Than Friends…
Better Than Pride
As summer neared, Aaron broached the topic of us taking a vacation.
“A short one, Matty. I know you’re busy at work, so am I, but wouldn’t be fabulous to get away? Out of the city and away from the daily grind. Maybe the beach… or even the mountains or—”
It was a Sunday morning and we’d just come back from a run. I was sitting at the kitchen island sucking down water and waiting for my pulse to slow down while he was busy making us a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit. My stomach wasn’t quite ready for food yet but Aaron insisted. Running ten miles with him ended up feeling like twenty sometimes. He was an avid runner while I was… not. He was faster than me and set a grueling pace. I wasn’t a novice by any stretch. In the year or so we’d been together, my stamina had improved considerably. But I was still no match for my man. Not only could he go for miles with barely breaking a sweat. He could talk non-stop the entire time.
So yeah…after a couple miles it was clear he was on a crusade.
I took a deep drink from my water bottle as I studied his small lithe body. He moved gracefully from the refrigerator to the island setting out ingredients as he chatted away. I loved the way his dark hair fell in his eyes as he looked down to concentrate on chopping peppers to “spice up the eggs”. He was so damn beautiful. I could lose myself staring at him sometimes. I tuned back in when I heard a subtle shift in conversation from a getaway to something about Pride.
“What does that mean exactly?”
He stopped to eye me carefully with one hand on his hips. “You weren’t listening, were you?”
“Uh…well, there were mountains and then it went a little fuzzy,” I admitted. I stood and walked around the island feeling a sudden need to be closer to him. “But then you said Pride. How does that fit in and… what does it mean? I know it’s parades and stuff. But is it a day to get your rainbow gear out or—”
He chuckled and squirmed slightly when I bit his neck and wrapped him in a tight hold around his stomach. “Cool it Matty. You’re distracting the chef. And the answer is…yes. It’s a day, a weekend or whatever works for us to celebrate being fabulous.”
“You didn’t go with me last year because you were studying for the bar exam, but this year you can. Right?”
“Um. I don’t know if that’s really my thing, Aar.”
He went still in my arms. Obviously I’d put my foot in my mouth. But I was only telling the truth. I wasn’t into parades and the truth was… I really wasn’t sure I was comfortable going to an all day rainbow infused one. Aaron nudged me aside and gave me a piercing look before lowering his head to resume chopping peppers.
“Babe, I’m not saying I don’t support the community. I’m just…” I let my words float in the air and turned to grab a carton of orange juice from the refrigerator. I had to shut up. I was going to ruin the morning if I tried to defend my reasons because I had nothing better than “it’s not my scene”.
“You support “the” community? Really? Are you or are you not part of “the” community, Matt? And don’t even think about drinking out of that carton. Get a glass!”
He turned just as I’d tilted the carton to my lips catching me in the act. Oops.
“My bad. Don’t be mad. I’m—ow?” I glanced sideways to see steam practically billowing out of his ears. He’d set down his knife and had swiped me with a kitchen towel. Now I was being blasted in Spanish, which gave me a slight reprieve since I didn’t know what the hell he was saying. It wouldn’t last, though. He was pissed.
“Aar? Hey.” I held up both hands in surrender and stared into his fiery hazel eyes. “I’m part of the community. I’m gay. I’m head over heels in love with a bad tempered Puerto Rican boy with lots of rules about cleanliness an—”
“Drinking from a carton is gross. Germs, Matty!” He glared at me with his arms crossed.
“We share lots of germs, baby. But, let’s stay on topic. Look…” I yanked him into my arms and squeezed him tightly chuckling when he tried to wiggle away. “I’ve never been so I don’t know. I’m not saying I’m opposed to going exactly, but if I’m honest, I’d be going for you, not because it’s meaningful to me.”
I could feel the tension radiating from him so I had a feeling I’d dug my hole a little deeper. I kissed the top of his head and tugged at his hair so he’d look up at me.
“You don’t get it, do you?” His tone wasn’t angry anymore. It was sad and fuck… that was worse.
“Aaron, I’m… okay. Explain. What am I not understanding?” I released him and leaned against the granite counter.
He sighed before turning back to pick up his knife. “Pride isn’t only a party or a parade. It’s a show of support for the strength and spirit in the LGBT community. It isn’t for gay people only. Parents, friends…anyone who cares to celebrate is welcome.”
“But what exactly is being celebrated? I guess that’s where I get lost. I’m gay and I’m in a relationship with a man I love. Everyone who knows me or you knows it. So why—”
“It’s not a requirement, Matty. I go every year because I believe I have a right to publicly acknowledge my sexuality in a dignified manner. Well mostly dignified…sometimes it can get a little raunchy. What I love is that this isn’t about politics. It’s a celebration. Holding your boyfriend’s hand walking down the street in a part of town you usually wouldn’t dare. Fear is still a factor for lots of people. Of all ages. Not just teenagers. It’s important to show up, to let everyone know we’re here and we lead amazing lives doing the same amazing things our heterosexual friends and family do. We have good jobs, we have families, lovers, co-workers. We’re just people but we’re proud people. We aren’t going to hide.”
We stared at each other for a long moment. Aaron’s impassioned speech moved me. I understood his argument and yes, I felt a little ashamed. He was thinking of others. I was thinking of myself. I nodded and reached for a glass to give my hands something to do. He’d moved back to the eggs, expertly cracking them into a large blue bowl. I’d learned a lot about how Aaron communicated since we’d become a couple. We’d lived together for a few months too so I was getting even better at reading him. Thank God. He was giving me an out if I wanted to take it. Letting me off the hook. He wouldn’t be angry if I didn’t want to go but he’d laid everything on the proverbial table.
“How does Pride fit in with us taking a small vacation?”
“Huh? Oh.” He lifted his right hand to brush his hair away from his eyes distractedly. I moved toward him and took over. I pushed the stray strands aside and kissed his temple. He gave me that beautiful smile. The one that made my heart skip a beat every fucking time. “Let’s get out of town for Memorial weekend. We can both probably swing taking one extra day off. I was thinking a gay friendly zone, like Rehobeth or P Town would be fun and would get us in the mood for Pride next month. That’s all.”
“Really?” Aaron cocked his head to the side and eyed me warily. “Matty, it’s fine if—”
“Shh. I want to go. Getting out of town for a few days sounds great. Beach, mountains, you decide. As long as I’m with you, it’s good.”
Aaron launched himself into my arms. I held him breathing in his scent. Who was I kidding? I’d probably waltz down Pennsylvania Avenue wearing a rainbow tutu and not much else if Aaron asked me. I was head over heels and really fucking proud to be with someone so amazing. A small vacation with him sounded great. I’d worry about the Pride part later.