As they reached the doorway, Avi leaned in for a kiss. Sam faced the other way, the last thing he needed was to touch him, let alone kiss him. The fight couldn’t end in a kiss, it couldn’t end in a hug either. A silent nod? A storm out? There was no possible “good ending” to what had just happened.
As Sam turned his kiss away, Avi stayed close to his face for what seemed like minutes, but in reality, just a few seconds, milliseconds even. He lifted his right hand and held Sam’s chin tightly, forcing him to look at him. The resistance seemed to feed the emotion. The hold got tighter. His neatly trimmed thumbnail found a way to pierce Sam’s right cheek. That’s going to leave a mark.
Sam moved backward, trying to pull away, until the back of his head hit the wall. Again, the resistance fed the emotion. Avi's hand found its way to Sam’s neck from his chin. He leaned in, making sure Sam couldn't turn away, he kissed his lips, breathing him in.
Sam’s hands trying to untangle the chokehold only made it tighter. His veins popping, his feet trembling, he couldn’t breathe. The thought that began with ‘What kind of a man am I if I don’t fight back’ turned into the most basic thought of survival: ‘If I submit, it’ll be over and he’ll be gone in a few seconds’, until the strength of the chokehold and the lack of oxygen triggered his body into taking control over his mind and fighting back. His hands pushed, his legs kicked.
When the primal need to survive became stronger than a moment of uncontrollable anger, Avi pulled away. Sam was trying to catch his breath, coughing, sweating. His coughs mumbled.
Avi just stood there, the anger seemed to have taken over by regret.
‘I don’t like it when you turn me down ok? Please don’t make me do this again. You know how much I love you.’, he said.
Sam was still coughing, trying to breathe in-between.
‘Look what you are making me do! And today of all days.’
Sam finally could catch a long breath that could fill his lungs, but his throat was in pain.
‘It’s just... I feel like you don’t love me as much as I love you, sometimes.’
Sam could breathe normally now, he just needed to do something about his throat.
‘How about we start over? We’ll go out to dinner tomorrow after the march, or maybe a movie? Like our first date.’
Sam thought about what he could do to hide the scar on his cheek and the marks on his neck, left by the chokehold.
‘Come on, love. We have to make this work. I love you. It’s us against the world, remember? Our first pride... Walking it together, your hand in mine..?’
Sam could come up with some funny story about the scar on the cheek, he had a cat after all, but the neck had to be hidden. A scarf? He’s not a scarf guy. Turtleneck? Hoodie? It’s summer.
‘We have to show them. Our parents, our friends, every single one of them who called us disgusting. Everyone who cut us out of their lives because we chose to love each other.’
A couple of days off from work, Sam thought. That’s the only solution. Once the marks on the neck go away, he could go back. He should probably call in sick. It’s the dengue season, anyway.
‘It’s bigger than us, love. All these little things, these little fights... We can’t afford it. We need to stand strong. We need to hold onto each other and tell them we aren’t afraid. No matter who is in power or what the supreme court says. We can’t let them hurt us. We need to stand together.’
There were no leaves left, though and Sam’s boss had been on his back about missing deadlines.
‘It’s about the pride, love. I am proud of who I am. I just want you to be proud of who you are, proud of who we are to each other.’
His mind rushing back to the moment, Sam finally looked at Avi. The face was the same. It was the same sparkle he thought was something he could look at forever. It was the same smile he thought he could defend against anything. It was those same warm fingers that were then entwined around his fingers, and now his neck.
The regret in Avi's eyes was painful to look at. He ran his fingers through Sam’s hair, brushing the back of his hand against the cut on his cheek. Sam stifled an urge to flinch.
With all the strength he could gather, he smiled.
‘Alright, let me go help them with some placards, you take the night for yourself.. binge on some TV shows?’
‘I’ll pick you up at 9. We’ll go to the march from here. And hey, don’t forget, rainbow socks!’
He nodded again with a smile. Avi kissed him softly before he walked out the door.
Sam closed the door pressing his hand against his right shoulder, the stitches from the last fight broke and so did what’s left of his pride.