In Emily’s bedroom, Paige stares out at the window and wonders how come a city with only one street and every house in every other house’s backyard can feel so lonely. Emily asks her if she’s afraid of being lonely and Paige goes, “No, but I’m afraid being a lesbian in WWII-era America means I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. And frankly in present-day America, I’m a little worried you’re about to get into one of your moods where you breakup with me for, like, setting up a meeting with an Olympic swim team coach to help you achieve your dreams.”
Emily hops off of the bed and is practically shivering when she says she won’t let that happen. They agree that the whole world should be jealous of them, and to prove it they smash their mouths into each other’s mouths and the music swells up even bigger than your heart and the curtains blow in the wind and it is the most romantic thing I have ever seen in my life.
They take it to the bed and there’s caressing and gazing and fingers in bra straps and the music is like, “Have you ever seen such a sexy thing?” And I’m like, “No, music! No, I have not!”
I can say with 100 percent confidence that I have seen every gay lady love scene that has ever been shown on any TV series in any country at any time period ever. Partly because that’s my actual job and partly because when I first found out that girls kiss each other, I could not stop watching girls kiss each other. The first time it happened, the first time I saw one girl lean in and kiss another girl right on the lips, I jumped up from the floor where I was sitting and bolted outside like a contraband firecracker, walked around in circles in my backyard for I don’t even know how long. Hours. A lifetime. My fists were clenched and I don’t think I blinked the whole time and I was either breathing as hard as a person who’d run a hundred miles or not breathing at all.
And I was goddamn furious. Furious no one ever told me that’s a thing some girls do, just kiss each other like a normal Wednesday. Furious because I knew without even asking that just looking at something like that was likely to get me cast straight into the pits of (Baptist) hell. But furious mostly because all those half-formed desires I’d been trying to keep from taking shape in my heart and in my body and in my mind had snapped into place. A picture. A moving picture. And gods, how I craved what I had seen.
Recognizing that you’re gay, accepting that you’re gay, acting on the fact that you’re gay, announcing that you’re gay: It comes so easily to some people. Like saying you’ve decided you don’t like pecans in your brownies or that you like caramel syrup instead of chocolate on ice cream sundaes. But that was not my experience, not even a little bit.
Sometimes people get real mad at me because they say I project too much of myself onto Paige McCullers, which is always hilarious in its irony because if you’re that angry that someone else is interpreting a story a different way than you, it’s because you also are projecting some enormous soul-deep something somewhere into the narrative. And obviously there’s no shame in that, right? We are, all of us, as made up of stories as we are of blood and bone. Only blood and bone are here for a moment and stories are immortal. So we: Look up at the stars and instinctively understand that we are connected to those things; we share the same atoms. We line them up with our eyes and our minds and our imaginations. We call them constellations. A zillion unrelated points of light become our anchors, our stories, the way we map out where we’re going and find our way back home again.
Maya Angelou said there’s no greater agony than having untold stories inside of us, and mostly she was talking about writing, but also I think she was talking about the torture of being unable to identify the stars that make up the constellations that make sense of the story of you.
I have watched and written about so much TV over the years that I very rarely lose myself in it anymore. And, like I said, I have legitimately seen every televisual instance of girls kissing other girls in the history of the lands. But this scene, it moved me in a way that kind of shocked me. It made me feel so flushed, I had to shed the hoodie I was wearing. And it made me feel so deeply, overwhelmingly hopeful that I had to pause it to give myself a minute to breathe.