The electric tea kettle gave off its sharp whistle in the quiet apartment as a sharp omen, unnoticed by the sole present human tenant of the place, who merely stepped over the two meowing cats and poured out the vessel. The stairs leading to this serene place shook and trembled, the sounds and vibrations drawing ever close to the thin, almost fragile door frame, unbeknownst to J, who merely sipped their tea and scrolled through the news online. Finally, the door burst open, sent swinging practically through the wall and the absent other made their presence known. J barely reacted and remained a picturesque, pajama-clad and sleepy-eyed figure munching on toast and sipping tea.
“You know what J? I am sick of your elitist hobnobbery!” screeched a bearded girl named Laura for probably the third time that month. J put out a hand to steady the tea a moment before Laura slammed her bag down on the table. Angrily, Laura sat down with her store bought coffee and huffed, partially to show pointedly her annoyance and partially because storming and stomping up a six floor walkup at 5:30 a.m. was quite the exercise. “We need to actually talk about this- and do not do that thing you do with the evading and the bullshit.”
“Ok,” replied J calmly.
“You know that’s exactly what I mean!”
“Yup,” they smiled, although Laura seemed to take less as a friendly gesture and more as an aggressive baring of teeth.
“No. Look, I didn’t say anything yesterday, but you were incredibly rude at Pride.” Laura stated confidently, referring to the Gay Pride Parade the couple attended a day prior while somehow managing to angrily drink her coffee. “Why do you always have to go around and ‘debate’ when it’s supposed to be just a day of, well, pride?”
“Well, first of all, it isn’t ‘just a day of’ anything. It’s about pride, it’s about presence, it’s about rights.”
“All of which necessitates absolute inclusion,” interjected Laura.
“Let me finish,” countered J through their gritted, gender-neutral teeth, leaning ever so slightly forward in sincere outrage. “Besides, are you going to include people who make exclusion part of their social justice views? I mean, come on, it isn’t as if- well, that’s not the point. The point is, we should all be making progress together and instead, the movement’s fracturing because gay, white, cisgender men and women realized they could jump ahead if they left the rest of us in the dust. They aren’t even calling it ‘LGBT Pride’ anymore, just ‘Gay Pride.’ And if that bitch we met on the pineapple float thinks that any part of your appearance doesn’t make you what you are-”
“I can defend myself, thanks very much, J. And you fucking know I’m not talking about some 15 year old punk with whom it was entirely unnecessary to fight, by the way-”
“It wasn’t a fight, per se.”
“Not the point! I’m talking about ‘The New Normal’ banner. How necessary, exactly, was it to start one of your tirades about the difference between acceptance and tolerance, rights and submission on a float full of happy, unworried people?”
“Are you implying that we should all do just what is strictly necessary and nothing above and beyond?”
“It’s an expression.”
“An expression you used twice,” they pressed on.
“Not. The. Point,” she sighed.
“Fine. Look, you know it’s just my nature to engage in healthy debate with people. I don’t like keeping shit in, it comes from a WASPy upbringing where nobody acknowledged any ‘problems’ except in low voices at dinner parties after too much champagne or fancy wine and all the bottled up emotion and bitter hate was taken to the grave, wasted on worms and maggots,” J lifted their chin as if decidedly over the entire conversation and continued to scan the news website.
“J, that was not a ‘debate,’ I don’t care what you say. That was a fucking fight, and you know it. In fact, it could be likened to the drunken ‘heated discussions’ of the parents you try to distance yourself from so much.” J’s glance snapped up.
“That’s a low blow.”
“I thought this wasn’t a fight.”
“It’s not, it’s a discussion.”
“Then there aren’t any blows, low or not. Just words weaved into meanings.”
“Ok, if that’s the way you want to play it, then-”
“Play what? This. Is. A. Discussion. Remember?” Laura smiled tepidly through her curled mustache.
“Look, they were wrong!”
“Not the point!
“How is it not the point!? All that ‘A New Normal’ bullshit is just pandering to the idea that there has to be a ‘normal’ in the first place.”
“It’s an easy word used to communicate acceptance!”
“But its existence hinges on active ostracization! For there to be a normal, there must be a ‘weird’ or it means nothing! And if there’s a ‘weird,’ someone’s getting left out and shit on and more than likely, at least in this situation, it’s us! It’s the alternative genders, it’s the crossdressers, the drag queens, everyone beyond just gay.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot, you want to fight for the perfect social utopia.”
“Not if you take into account other people’s abstract utopia.”
“But you said ‘the.’”
“Everything matters!” J liked to pick on the words. They claimed it ensured everyone was on the same page with every term used, but really they liked the little victories that were born and borne of their petty nitpicking.
“If everything matters, then you should take into account that nothing’s going to change overnight! That, for a long time, even if things go as best they could, there will be exclusion and oppression until we gray and wither and age and die.”
“I’m not saying my way is the best or the fastest.”
“You’re not saying your way is the best?! Really, J!”
“I’m not. I’m saying it’s the only way-”
“Well, that’s bullshit.”
“The only way! We can use! Without making anyone else’s life shittier! The only way we could fight for everyone!”
“Here we go again.” Laura had just reached the bottom of her coffee cup and the end of her rope.
“What are you saying, Laura, we should take a fucking ticket and wait in line for our rights?”
“Never heard that analogy before.”
“That we should make sure all the pampered, privileged gays are comfy and safe in their marriage rights before we even pick up the weapons to fend for ourselves?”
“Ooh, when did we get weapons?”
“DON’T DO THAT.”
“I’m sorry.” She genuinely was sorry. Unlike J, Laura was not a morning person.
J sighed and let their shoulders drop, noticing for the first time that they had crept clandestinely up their back in an attempt to approach the ears.
“I love our discussions.”
“Me too,” Laura let one of her rare genuine smiles slip, two dimples arising, hidden by the thick foliage.
“Look, can we just leave the debating for sober periods and/or textual communication? Some people don’t know you as, well, as well as I do.” Laura blushed, also conveniently hidden.
J smiled and almost chuckled. “Yeah, okay, maybe drunkenly staggering about on a float in the middle of Pride isn’t the best way to actually convince people of my opinions.”
“Hmm, maybe. I really do think it should be a day for including everyone.”
“Even the people who want to exclude?”
“Yup. Then we drag them over to our side. Preferably not kicking and screaming, though.”
“You and your logic,” J beamed with quiet pride of their lovely partner and felt their cheeks redden.
The happy couple ate the remaining bits of breakfast and as J typed up a new blog post they had forged late last night, Laura bent over to feed the cats. Both finished their morning ritual in time to head to their respective jobs, both happy in the glow of their recent marriage, made legal, almost ironically, by the fact that the government refused to recognize either of their genders. And so they were legally a happy Mr. & Mrs. with 2.5 children (well, 2 cats) and a white picket fence (well, entwined metal fence).
Both thought the same thing and not for the first time as they made their way happily through Everytown, USA (New York City, of course): “What is normal, anyway?” The thoughts that followed this little platitude diverged widely, either proverbial train taking mad turns and twisting in on itself; proving perfect fodder for a new conversation tomorrow, of which there are always plenty (both conversations and tomorrows).
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