On Passover we ask a question of centuries past: why is this night different from all other nights?
On Passover, it is the way we recline in our chairs, salt water on our parsley, bitter herbs and my nephew’s grimace at the taste. It is a glass stained with wine, holy laughter, history relived.
Tonight, I can’t help but ask a silly question: why is this night different from all other nights? Tonight, I think it is the way she looks at me.
In this soft gaze, I can tell she is seeing me and nothing else. Her fingertips brush my open palm and I think of the way that girls love each other; it is wholly different from any other kind of affection.
It is strange. There is an inexplicable tenderness; a slow molasses slips from the jar. It grows in secrets whispered in the early morning hours, last ones awake at the sleepover; the smile caught in the hallway; schoolyard glances, the ones that linger. I remember pinky promises in the backyard, stargazing, the moon a vigilant eye knowing something I did not. Loving a girl is looking, but not seeing.
For months I catalogued each place I saw her, drunk on catching the curve of her shoulder and the curl of her hair in the corner of my eye. To me, she was all the beauty of Vermeer, all the softness of Titian, the first muse of my love poetry. I kissed her for the first time on a honeyed May afternoon. It is that tenderness between two girls, held hands hidden in plain sight, that creates celestial bodies in empty space. Like a galaxy born in darkness—that is how it feels to wonder. That is how it feels to lock eyes, each asking Who am I to you?
Connection is elusive.
Weaving around two kindred gazes, it is there and gone all at once. The minutes stretch their hindlegs like a cat in the sun; to wonder is to wait. That is the experience of queerness in girlhood: analysis. Even as she inches her hand closer to mine, I am not sure how she feels.
Every glance is a cloudy-headed interrogation, every brush of the hand is an inquiry – do you like girls? Would you love me, am I stupid? Forgive me, it’s wishful thinking. Shame is a vice I cannot shake. Love between girls is a million nuances, listening in the night for the moon’s quiet hum as if it carries a truth I haven’t discovered. Despite my vigilance, I couldn’t recognize what she held so blatantly before me—that is the experience of queerness in girlhood: the second I spend, eyes closed, waiting for softness on my lips in her bedroom while her mom is at the store. It is her sweet nature and holy laughter. It is the way that she stared, and still I remained unsure of exactly how she loved me.
The energy in close proximity is elusive. When you love another girl, it flickers in and out of existence—she loves me, she loves me not. Without the tenderness of her hand in mine, I second guess. But the connection always remains, past and present, history relived again and again. It is an electric current in a closed-circuit—circling like an eddy. That connection dates to before this day a thousand years ago, before Sappho wrote, Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time. It is the wanting. My chest is blooming, my cheeks are flushing, and I am yearning, but I am left to want because of my perpetual indecision. Where is the moon tonight? —the connection there and gone, again, all at once.
Time has led me to certainty. The only way to know truth is to live it, and I knew love long before the first time it was whispered into the phone, the second night of June. I swore to myself I will not say it, I will not say it, I will not say it, but these are the things that fill me up and spill over. Surrounded by the sound of sleep-heavy voices and the first heartache from missing a lover, my tongue carries the words before I can stop it. This is queerness in girlhood: playing the long game in search of a moment away from prying eyes; the first kiss on prom night; the heady sunset on New Year’s Eve; her breath across my cheek.
This is queerness in girlhood: nervous pride at her neighborhood Passover seder, the first time she introduces me as her girlfriend. It is holy laughter, a glass stained with wine, our histories relived. It is the streetlamps’ glow as we walk in the evening, her hand held under the table and in the car and on the sidewalk. I do not need to rummage through stars to find the moon, I do not need to search for nuances; I can see her now in the silver light, and I know what this gaze means.