Quietly, I shut the door behind me, the light disappearing as it closed. Silently, I slipped up the steps, hoping this was okay. I had ignored the “authorized personnel only” sign on the door. No one saw me enter and once I was in the balcony, no one below had reason to turn around. I was safe.
One empty chair was there. I grabbed it and began to roll it closer to his, which drew his attention for the first time. Surprise lit his face as he said hello. In typical fashion, he reached for my hand and shook it, doing some handshake I had never been able to catch on to. Then he pulled me closer for a hug and told me it was good to see me. It was good to see him too.
“We’ve missed you.”
I just smiled.
If he had said, “I’ve missed you,” I would have been able to respond that I missed him too. That I wish I could see him more. But he said “we” and I didn’t know who “we” was and I couldn’t say anything polite back while still being truthful. So I just smiled.
If I missed the “we” I assume he was talking about, I wouldn’t have had to sneak up to this vantage point. I could have walked in like a normal person and sat on the ground level in the chairs with all the normal people. But I knew they would be among the normal people, and so I couldn’t.
He was the only one of them I felt comfortable around. The one who had treated me kindly. More than that. He treated me like I had value. He saw beyond what he could get from me and saw into who I was. And not only did he see that, but he accepted that. He accepted me for who I was. He still does. And I can smile and laugh and talk with him without faking everything. He saw me in a world where I had been glanced over. A world in which, if I was seen, it was only to look briefly down on me, as if I was some annoyance to remove. Not worth the time they were forced to devote to me.
Before the show had ended, I felt the need to get out before anyone saw me. I leaned over and whispered that I had to go and he hugged me again. I told him it was good to see him and he told me it was good to see me too. He said, “Come back again” and without thinking, I replied with a simple, “I will.”
And maybe I will. But only when it’s safe. And when there are a couple of people wondering around him that are not safe, I can’t make any guarantees.
I slipped back down the stairs and out the door. Through the lobby, quickly, without even a glance around and made my way outside. As I made it through the double doors unseen, the fresh air hit me and I took a few steps before my air threatened to leave me. I stood still, trying to breathe, a relief at being out running through me and pulling tears to my eyes. I stood for a good moment like that, trying to not let sadness and hurt and disappointment and death and sweet relief overwhelm me.
They sure did do a number on me, didn’t they?
Remember the entry where I wrote about having to leave good things behind when you left bad things? He’s one of the good things. And it sucks having to leave those good things behind.
But I can’t face the bad things.