We were in the chapel in the next town. It was quiet, so quiet. All I could hear was Nath’s low humming, and he was sitting right beside me with his eyes closed. What was he doing? Was he praying? Meditating? I let my focus rest on the cross at the center stage up front. Yes, I haven’t really seen crosses with a crucified Jesus on them, few denominations used it.
The church was a large one with fancy stained-glass paintings. We’ve been sitting here for the past hour, and how grand the place looked still fazed me.
Nath had brought me here because I asked, but I didn’t fail to see that he needed it too. I found myself bending over and holding my clasped hands to myself as I tried to reach into that part of me that believed in prayer. We sat in the chapel until people started to file in and fill the pews. Nath nudged me, whispering in my ear that people were coming in for evening mass, and we should probably leave.
I followed him out into the parking lot, and when we got into the car Nath turned the radio station to a talk show before driving out of the clearing and into the main road.
“Did it help?” he asked after we had been quiet for a while. I looked over at him before muttering a small ‘yes.’ A smile formed on his face as he made a turn.
“I’m glad,” he said, and I smiled too, resting my back on the car seat as I looked out the window to watch the passing scenery. It was six in the evening now, and Nath was taking us to the bar we came to the last time. I still wasn’t going to drink alcohol, but I was sure I’d be more willing to loosen up and have fun.
When we got to the clearing Nath packed in it was already past seven in the evening, the sun had gone down, and the evening was dimly lit with the street lamps, and lights coming from the bar itself. I could hear the music when Nath wound down the window glasses before winding them up again and opening the door so that we could get down.
“Come on,” he said in a calm voice, startling me. I hadn’t noticed that I had just been standing still and not doing anything. “Come on, you’ll have fun, I promise,” he said with a smile as he reached out to take my hand in his, squeezing it lightly before dragging me to the bar with him.
When Nath pushed the door open and dragged me inside with him, I was hit with hot air, loud music, and the moving dance lights. I wasn’t given much time to process everything since Nath pulled me through the crowd of men as quickly as he could until we made it to the front of the bar.
He smiled at me as he helped me get on top of a bar stool before sitting across from me. “It’ll be fine,” he said before looking over the bar to the bartender. “Hey, can you get me a shot?” he asked the man behind the bar. He was a skinny man with a wide smile, and long hair he styled into a ponytail.
“Anyone,” Nath answered, making the man hum before he looked over at me.
“He’ll have a glass of juice,” Nath said, answering my question for me. The man behind the bar laughed as he nodded with a hum, fixing up Nath’s drink before getting me a glass of juice.
I held the glass in my hand, watching as Nathaniel drank from the small glass he was given.
“What?” he said, making me blink. I muttered a string of apologies when I noticed I had been staring, and he laughed, smiling at me as he held on to his glass of alcohol. “You stare at me a lot,” he said, and I felt my face warm up. “It’s okay, I like it. I guess I just wonder what’s so interesting,” he hummed, making me cock my head to the side. His hair was in a low puff today, and his skin looked glowing today. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the lightning, or maybe it was one of the many face creams he carried around with him.
“Won’t you drink your juice?” he asked, making me look down at the glass I was holding with an awkwardly tight grip. I lifted the glass of juice to my lips, taking a sip of the juice — grape.
We sat by the counter, taking a sip as the music changed and people moved around together, dancing, kissing, chatting, and singing along to the loud music. I wasn’t sure what I was listening to. It was not the type of music Nath enjoyed, which was more of rap, alternative, and jazz. The songs the bar played were ‘bubbly’ if that was one way to describe them. It seemed like something people would jump around to with their hands in the air.
“We’re happy to have Rachel Tension here with us today. Give her a round of applause, people!” someone said, as the little stage at the far end got flooded with lights, people crowded around, and there was clapping as a woman with big hair walked up on stage and started addressing the crowd.
“A woman?” I said in a partial statement and partial question. Nath laughed, shaking his head as he got off from his stool.
“That’s a drag queen,” he said before looking over at me. “Are you coming?”
With the nod of my head, I got down from my stool too before following him through the crowds until we were standing close to the stage. I knew what drag queens were, but this one really looked like a woman, she even had breasts and hips, and it was interesting to watch as she sashayed through the stage while lip-syncing to the song that was playing.
“Breast and thigh plates,” Nath said, placing his hands on my shoulders before giving them a small squeeze. “She has breasts and tights because of them,” he said, answering the question that had been floating in my mind. I wasn’t sure how he knew I was curious. Maybe I had been staring at her for too long. My mind seemed to move to the fact that Nath was now pressed up against me and giving my shoulders a massage. The drag queen was still moving about the stage, touching the hands of men and screaming something along the lines of “serving fish!” I couldn’t really concentrate on her anymore, and my full attention was now on Nath’s hands as I felt them move down to my waist as leaned in and rested his head on my shoulder.
“Relax,” he whispered, and I nodded, hoping he couldn’t hear how loud my heart was beating because I could hear it in my ears. I closed my eyes. I knew no one was looking, and if they were they didn’t really care. I just needed my mine to believe that too.
“I love you.” Nath’s words made my heart beat even faster. I reached for his hands, pulling them away from my waist before turning in his grip.
“You do?” I asked, looking up at him. He looked a bit startled by my reaction, but he soon smiled, nodding before he pulled me to himself.
“A lot. I love you a lot.” My heart felt like it was about to burst, and I was so stunned that I couldn’t get words out of my mouth, so I just reached out to hold his face in my hands before pulling him down slightly so that our lips could meet. It was a small quick kiss, but it made my face burn. The smirk on Nath’s face when I pulled away told me that he was happy with the outcome, so I tried not to beat myself up over the sloppy kiss.
“I love you too,” I said in one breath like I was afraid I wouldn’t get to say it in the future if I didn’t act fast. Nath just hummed, cupping my cheek in his hand as he smiled at me.
There was a round of applause which meant the drag queen was probably done with her performance. Nath squeezed my arm, making me look up at him with a raised brow.
“Do you want to go somewhere private?” he asked, and my cheeks grew warm. He laughed, but I found the will to nod anyway. He pulled me out of the crowd, and we soon got to the main exit. He led me back to the car, opening the doors before hopping into the car. I assumed we were leaving and started to make my way to the other end until Nath reached out to hold my hand and pull me back.
“Come on,” he said, tapping his lap like it was the most obvious thing in the world. I stop there with my mouth a bit open for a while. Nath rolled his eye, reaching out and pulling me closer before I got the hint to climb into the car. Somehow, I managed to fit in there with him, facing him as I sat on his lap.
“There,” Nath said, as he slammed the door close. He turned to me with a grin before reaching out for my face. It was dark, and I could only make out the outlines of his face, and the twinkle in his eye. The light from the streetlights and the bar that was close by helped a bit. I understood why Nath hadn’t turned on the car lights. It would be awkward is someone spotted us out here.
Nath was feeling my face, tracing my lips with his thumb finger as he hummed. My eyes were drooping a bit, he leaned in, giving my lips a ref peck as his hands found their way under my shirt, feeling my chest as he continued to pepper my face with kisses. I was letting out little hums and sighs as I adjusted my position on his lap. I began fiddling with his shirt too, letting my hands roam — palming, and gripping as he moved to kiss me full on the lips.
With red faces and swollen lips, we eventually pulled away from each other. Nath grinned, then he chuckled as he made to brush my now long hair back.
“You’re getting better.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he answered with a firm voice as he helped me into the passenger seat.
I was smiling, a wide almost painful smile was spread across my face as Nath started the car and drove out from the clearing and into the main road. He was smiling too, and it made me even happier. The man I was in love with was in love with me, and I wouldn’t opt to have it any other way.
The buzzing of my phone in my pocket made me blink. I reached out to get it and looked through my messages before a small sob escaped me.
“What happened?” Nath asked in a concerned voice, but I just shook my head as I held on to my mouth.
Message from: Eomeoni.
You’re my son before anything, Mathew.
Your mother loves you.
SAT, 9:48 PM.
My mother’s text only made this night better. I calmed down, wiping the happy tears from my eyes before putting my phone away. I looked up to find Nath stealing a glance at me. He looked worried, but his demeanor seemed to change when I smiled.
“My mother texted me,” I said, and he let out a small ‘oh.’
“She said ‘you’re my son before anything.’ I could cry. What am I saying? I’ve already cried,” I said with a small cheerful laugh. Nath’s grin widened, and when he reached out his free hand for mine I gripped it and let him squeeze it. As he drove the rest of the way back to his place, I made a mental note to call my mother later.
I was so happy.