Anger comes easy. Anger is something that I’ve always known. It is a hard, bristling carapace that keep out things that hurt me. A scab that has been ripped off and reformed so many times, I no longer feel it. But even still, I don’t mind it. It has its uses. It keeps me safe. I thought that I was impenetrable. Until I met him.
The day was hot. The kind of hot that gets into your lungs and brain. Sluggish heat that makes it hard to breathe and even harder to find motivation to do anything but lay on the floor like a salamander. Stretching one’s limbs so that one can find some whisper of coolness. And yet, the cafe still managed to be filled with regulars. Yuppies and hippes rubbing shoulders in a house turned coffee shop. The wooden floors worn from years of domestic and buisness related traffic. Art of varying degrees of skill adorned the forest green walls. I had just finished cleaning the counter for a second time and I stared at the clock, willing it go faster. It was with relief, than, that he was here. Finally something to do.
“What can I get you, sir?”
He stood with his arms crossed as he studied the menu. “What’s good here?”
I rake my eyes across his body, up and down once, smirking “Well, I really like a tall cup of hot black coffee. Drink you- I mean, it, all day”
He gives me a look that says, you-are-either-trying-really-hard-or-are-you-this-corny-all-the-time.
“I also make a mean Americano. Two shots poured over ice, with a cool breath of chocolate.”
He smiles, “Sounds refreshing. But does it taste as good as it sounds?”
I lean over the counter, trying to emphasize my clevage, “You’ll just have to taste it to find out.”
He licks his lips, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I’ll take one, then.”
I smile wickedly and set about making his drink. I steal covert glances at him over the espresso machine as I grind the coffee and pour the shot, hot and fresh. I noticed the way he carried himself, how he interacted with his surroundings. Gentle, yet I could tell that he did not suffer fools. He seemed cuddly but I knew he could cut me just as easily. It hit me, he was trans*.
The ice melts slightly as I pour the hot shots over it and drizzle the chocolate. I can say without ego that it was probably the best drink I had ever made.
“Here you go, sir.” I say, as I pass him the coffee. Our hands brush past each other, his rough with shared history, mine soft with hidden experiences. He grabs my wrist tightly, turning my hand so that he could examine my palm. He looks up and our eyes meet. A shiver runs down my spine.
“Any-Anything else I can grab you?” It’s my turn to be slightly uncomfortable. And yet, I was strangely aroused. Who was this man?
“No, thank you. How much is it?”
“It’s uh… On the house.”
He smiles, “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it. Hey, what’s your name?”
“Säyn…” I repeated, feeling the way his name sounded on my tongue. “I’ll be seeing you.”
We saw each other a few more times, that summer in 2010. I was working at this queer coffeeshop and he would come in every once and a while, always when I was working. He would get the same thing and I would always give it to him for free. We would flirt a little, chat about small things. We even exchanged numbers at one point. But for some reason, we never got around to getting together outside of the shop. Sometimes he would come in with his partner, sometimes he wouldn’t. But every time he came in, he smiled and my chest got a little tight.
And then I left, went back to Boston. I reenrolled in school and got several part time jobs. It was a cold winter and I knew with even more certainty that Boston was not the city for me. I was going through the motions but I was never fully present there. I kept looking for a way out, for something different. I knew I need to return to Austin. And I didn’t see him for almost a year.
Its September 2011 and I’m back in Austin working at a queer youth community center. But my time there as an organizer is a story for another time.
At the time, I was leading an effort to restructure the organization and so we need a space to hold our meeting. One of my co-workers offered her home, which she had recently moved into. We, of course, agreed. It was a cool, clear night and the place was packed with young people, adults and queer organizers. I was in the middle of facilitating a discussion about strategies and tactics when the front door opens and who walks in but Säyn.
I stand there dumbfounded, mouth agape. Here was someone who I never thought I would see again, walking into a meeting that I never expected to have.
Once the meeting ended, I moved quickly.
He smiled, eyes brightening with recognition. “Hi, Morgan. Its good to see you again.”
“Its good to see you too. What have you been up too?”
“This and that,” He replied vaguely “You?”
“Oh you know, saving the world, one queer youth at a time.” I returned slyly. I knew that I would have to chase a little harder if I wanted to get anywhere with him.
He laughed, “Step up from slinging coffee, then.”
“Several. We should kick it sometime soon.”
“No doubt. No doubt. I’m having a music video release party this Saturday. You should come.”
I smiled, “Wouldn’t miss it.”
The next 4 weeks were a blur of late night coffee, chain smoking and iPod make out sessions. We would always find some sort of pretense to see each other. The second night we saw each other, he stole my lighter. He said it wasn’t intentional, but I knew better. He would pick me up after work and we would be up until 4 or 5 o clock in the morning, talking about everything from radical politics to the way we liked our Brussels sprouts cooked.
I remember being in his car on those first few nights. He said to me, “I’m in an open relationship. But we can’t have anything serious. This is just casual.”
Famous last words.
For those first weeks, we didn’t kiss. We barely had any physical contact at all. The first night I slept over at his house, I made sure to sleep stark naked. But we didn’t fuck. We didn’t even cuddle! At first I was worried that he was only interested in a platonic relationship but then I would look into his eyes and feel how his body reacted to mine. I knew he wanted me, could feel the intensity of his ardor for me. But it was one of the few times that anyone wanted my whole self, not just my body and what it could do for them.
It was a strange and not unpleasant sensation, feeling that want for me that was deeper than the skin.
I, of course, was throughly in love. Or at the very least, in very, very, very deep like. But one thing was certain; there was nothing casual between us.
He quickly and insidiously worked his way beneath the prickly steel that I encased myself in. He eased his way gently into the soft chinks of my armor, pried them loose and tranquilized the raw, chafed skin underneath. By the time I noticed that he had gotten past my defenses, it was already to late. He had me.
And I had him.
We had each other and our passion for one another opened my eyes to knew ways of being. Suddenly, I was thinking about babies and houses and what particular dish I wanted to cook for dinner and would you mind if we used the purple tablecloth tonight? I, the jaded radical who laughed at the thought of anything so soft as love, was in love. But the open scorn I had for love was merely a facade that masked my desire to be soft with someone. I would wake up some nights cold with the longing to have someone near me. Anyone to press their tender flesh against mine and share those intimate parts of myself. Something different than the raw, animal fetishization that I was used to.
I longed to be seen. Wholly and holistically seen.
And so I was. Seen with a clarity that still scares me, excites me, makes me smile. Sweet, secret smiles that arise unbidden, tugging the side of my lips up in spite of myself.
Anger still comes easily. But the contours of my anger are angled differently, today. Sharpened in some places, tempered in others. Encased in suppleness.
Being loved in spite of my fear has allowed me to breathe.