| Arts & Culture
Queer Life Coming Out, as Told by Florida Wildlife
Can you still hear us? We’re drowning the state in our chirps tonight if you’d care to sing along.
Careful, girl. Her molasses ringlets may not be what they seem. Framing plump cheeks and eyes golden, like mine. Hips limber. Paws painted black and glossy. She’s sixteen, three years your senior. Liar. But I won’t tell. Stroke my crooked tail and wait for her reply. Your father asks you why you’re online. I offer my roar. Shoo him with four bloodied canines. You say you’re playing dress-up games, which works just fine, I suppose. She wants to caress your thighs. Google what caress means. She’s on her knees, waist wagging, slinking forward, claws snagging carpet fibers. Lap my white muzzle while her purr pulses in the noisy millimeters between your teeth. Settle down, child. Nobody will tell, through your screen, if you come.
My feathered needles convulse, like you. Like the long, silver strands you clutch from her imagined scalp. Thunder claps. You rouse in a storm and finger the clammy lining of your panties. While your heart rate softens, wind rakes through my branchlets. Lightning singes my crown. You want her again. Fictional skin contoured to your palm. Cheeks rosy. My textured shade has buried you and boy lovers who couldn’t achieve the pleasure you manifested alone. Were you alone? I sip from showers that batter me, and you sponge the damp stain left in your mother’s bed. Grown near water, my roots develop “knees” that bloom out of the earth and climax in peaks of you.
Don’t expect too much from her. Even less from the man on your left. Assume nothing from me and my eighty teeth that snap at over two thousand pounds per square inch. Tell him you love him and dream of nibbling his best friend’s bottom lip. Zigzag from one edge to the other until we converge. If you ask, will she tell? Him? My heart holds four chambers too. Yours are sealed with acrid brown liquor as you rotate her glass to place your tongue on her cherry-red stains. Both laugh when you choke. Sink into the bog water with me, below saw grass and mangroves. We will only resurface when the sun burns hot enough for the both of us. She asks you to look after her cat over winter break. Don’t let me get to it first.
We both claim Florida, though it is where neither of us originated. Me, from orange trees in Southeast Asia. You, a brew of Western European descendants. You had me inked on your forearm, and now my strokes and pigments migrate west with you. We watch as you hold her in the snow. Not a fantasy or risk behind a screen. Knitted knuckles gripping her leathered waist. She asks before she leans, unlike so many men. Pretend to forget your lips in crimson wax now greased onto her. When you’re sick, you stir my honey into tea and gulp my steam. When you’re anxious, you trace my leaves with a nail. Pinch my petals until they leak. You want to do this now, instead choosing to keep me alive and flushed inside your sleeve.
As a child you believed we were boisterous plants, vibrating at the seed of our compulsory tune. Even now you can’t help but picture buzzy weeds and hissing cacti as you listen to our strain outside the window of this seaside dive. Can your mother hear us, or are we spare white noise? We may require seventeen years to come out, but you took twenty-three. You’re unrehearsed. We don’t see you as often, and neither does she. Don’t breed more distance than necessary. Our gauzy wings are waiting to stifle you if needed. You say that you still like boys, but sometimes you like girls too, and would it be okay if you brought her home for Christmas? Your voice whirs to our pitch, forbidding tears. Her face is steady as she tells you she will love whoever you choose to love. Can you still hear us? We’re drowning the state in our chirps tonight if you’d care to sing along.