Name: __Elijah Smyth__
Age: __17 years of age__
Date: ___ June 29, 1970___
I am defying the world. I am defying my mother, who thinks I am starved for attention. My father, who cannot stand to look at me. I am defying America, who hates me enough to throw me in prison for my love.
I got this journal for my sister’s birthday. I bought her a pretty amethyst bauble and necklace instead of giving this leather-bound, ripe-paged beauty away.
Mother says that women should write in diaries, that men should be strong. That men should write in bank accounts, tax papers, marriage registration papers. Never diaries. Never journals.
But what Mother doesn’t know is that a love for words rises in me every time I see a story unfold. Stories flit by in my life, words tumbling after them like little creatures that need to be caught. It is a fun chase.
Mother saw me writing and gave me a long talk. I hid the journal under my bed. And doodled in it at night.
This isn’t my first act of open defiance. But that’s a story for another time.
Date: ___ June 30, 1970___
I am capturing the moment of two nights ago because otherwise, it will slip away. Eddy away with the rest of my lovesick memories with him. Cedric Marshall has my heart.
It was right after the parade. Right after my first rebellion with him. Everyone saw, and we could have cared less.
Cedric kissed me outside my house, in plain sight of my family and his. He kisses passionately, desperately. As if he’ll never let go. He devours me, whole and entire, and I unravel in his hands. He’s good with his hands.
He’s been with a girl before. He knows the art of love well. And he knows that I cannot resist his charms.
At first, I blamed him. His sparkling emerald-cerulean eyes, beckoning, teasing, wanting me. His devilish red smirk. His calloused, experienced hands.
But when he kissed me, I was his accomplice. For a moment, I had hesitated. And then I threw all promise to the wind and pulled the boy to me by his collar.
So if anyone is to blame, it is the both of us.
Date: ___ July 1, 1970___
I remember the anticipation bubbling, boiling, spitting out of me that night—the 27th of June. Not a soul was awake. I was waiting for Cedric’s signal. The candle on my bedside table flickered dimly, almost sputtering out with the honey-scented winds of night.
I checked my pocket watch and frowned. Cedric was late. Twenty minutes had passed since I had been waiting for him. And just when all hope seemed to disappear, a pebble struck my window.
I leaped up, almost tripping over my footstool.
The joy, the utter adrenaline that speared through me was lifting me up, through the window, down the tree.
I climbed the branches like a little lizard—fast, dexterous, and sneakily.
But the branch was wet from an earlier summer shower, and I slipped.
I remember fearing for my life. Thinking my skull was about to get cracked open.
But Cedric Marshall was down there, waiting for me. And he caught me like the prince would the damsel. Though it was past midnight and the air was black with mystery, his eyes were shining like the stars.
And at that moment, I knew I loved him.
“Are you ready?” He asked, voice deep and husky. “First damn gay pride in America. We’re making history, sweetheart.”
“Wish history could be a little closer. Greenwich Village is quite far.”
He nipped my ear. “You’ll survive with me.”
I could feel a hot blush creeping up my neck. “Move it, you love-addled idiot. We’re going to get caught if you keep on dawdling.”
His eyebrows rose an inch. “Me? How am I to blame when my boyfriend,” he paused, savoring the word, “is so goddamn tempting?”
And we left, giggling like schoolgirls, the pack on Cedric’s shoulders making enough noise to almost wake the entire neighborhood.
The journey was shorter than I thought it would be. When the sun rose, we were ready with our rainbow banners. Fear and courage combined thrummed in my veins.
The people around us were smiling. Confident. Unafraid.
I took their bravery and tried to produce an ounce of it. Cedric squeezed my hand. He didn’t let go for the entire March.
A chant rose up in our small crowd: “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.”
The chant echoed through the streets. People were looking from their windows, some with angry stares.
My voice was wavering. “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.”
And then something cracked in me.
All the years of staying hidden, hoping my family would never discover the real me.
Hearing the taunts against Thomas McCallister, who’d eloped with our neighbor. Hearing that “people like him” were unfit to live. Said by my own father.
Feeling ashamed. Like I was diseased, as Mother put it. And one day, I painted my nails gold. And pink. Mother threw a fit. Father could not bear to look at me. My sister was simply upset that I had gone into her room and stolen her beauty products without asking.
But my nails looked beautiful. I looked beautiful. I felt beautiful.
And I didn’t understand why only girls could experiment with beauty.
It was freeing, in a sense. And Cedric was so proud that he climbed to the rooftop of my house, and shouted words so beautiful and poignant, “My love is not a disease, and my boyfriend is living proof that sexuality is something to be proud of! I’m gay. And I’m fucking proud.”
When Mother and Father asked, I told them Cedric was not my boyfriend. I pretended to not know him, and the shame that tainted his eyes made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of him. That night, I promised my boyfriend I would move out with him next year. Away from my parents and their toxicity.
When I was eighteen.
And finally free.
I smiled, bringing myself back to the parade. And I chanted damn loud. Hundreds, thousands of people were joining our ranks. They were fighting alongside us, even though some of them hadn’t experienced the same hardships as us. They believed in us. And that made me chant louder. Louder. LOUDER.
We marched further. Uptown Manhattan never looked so beautiful. The streets cleared for us in Central Park, and I knew in that moment that this would not be my last pride parade.
So when we passed my house, saw my family standing outside, we chose to rebel. And Cedric and I lit up the world.