I’ve never been particularly comfortable around crowds. Especially as a teenager, at dances or house parties, I was overwhelmingly self-conscious, often ready to gnaw my own arm off if it would mean I could be home in my pajamas curled up with a book.
But there are a handful of instances – a house party when I was 17, my first time at a club in years, traveling alone to a place I’d never been – the entire time I was filled with a feeling like a big brother’s hand on my shoulder. I was nervous, way out of my comfort zone, but then I breathed deeply. And a glow swelled in my chest. Inexplicably, I knew I was fine. Everything would be okay. In the untraceable beat between inhale and exhale, I aligned with a sense of strength and guidance. For a moment I aligned with everything.
Underneath the stress about money, not having enough friends or ambition or success, not being pretty or smart or brave enough, hidden in my breath and sometimes the silence of 6 am, I know I’m okay. Someone has my back, and is guarding the most sacred part of me. I am loved beyond imagining.
The lights come down,
illuminating the faces of a thousand strangers.
The walls, the bar, are dyed a slippery midnight blue
like a panther’s fur.
Bodies surround and undulate to a rhythm
I don’t know.
With practiced sensuality,
assurance bought at the mall for $24.99.
I shiver without the sweater thrown
over my couch at home,
stood in the centre of the room,
leaning from foot to foot
and praying they don’t notice me.
Broad shoulders appear
between me and the masses
where before there was no escape.
I don’t need to see his face
to know I am protected.
I don’t need to hear his name
to know I am sheltered
in the middle of a crowded room.
He is my very heart,
the pulse in the tips of my thumbs,
and he will never abandon me.